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Torre says Wells must be careful

By Times wires and staff reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2003


TAMPA -- Yankees manager Joe Torre will talk with David Wells about the pitcher's use of ephedra, the nutritional supplement that might have contributed to the death of Baltimore pitcher Steve Bechler.

Wells occasionally uses an over-the-counter supplement containing the substance.

"I'm just going to tell him, like we tell all the players, make sure you take care of your body," Torre said Saturday. "That's basically what it's going to be about. He's a grown-up. Especially now with the attention that this has gotten, I think everybody should check their labels."

Bechler died Monday, a day after collapsing at spring training with heatstroke. A Florida medical examiner said the death may have been linked to an ephedra-based diet pill, Xenadrine RFA-1.

"I'm not a daily user at all," Wells said. "I just do if I feel sluggish."

Wells was hospitalized in Fort Lauderdale for an irregular heartbeat during spring training 1996 while with the Orioles. Treatment included stopping his heart and restarting it with a defibrillator.

At the time Wells said he was using a product called Ripped Fuel, which has ephedra.

"I took too much," Wells said. "I was dieting, doing a lot of cardiovascular and taking that stuff. Those three don't mix."

Wells does not believe ephedra should be banned.

"It's not illegal," Wells said. "It's the individual who takes it. If he doesn't have a sense to read the label and know his condition, go through with a fine tooth comb and read the warning signs. If you don't understand it, don't take it."

ONE OF THE GUYS: New slugger Hideki Matsui will be treated like the rest of the starters and not be required to make all of the team's spring road trips.

"I try to even out all the road trips," Torre said. "I'll just put him in that same boat. It's not going to be anything special."

Thome is not worried

CLEARWATER -- One of the great fears in Philadelphia is that newly acquired first baseman Jim Thome will get off to a slow start and be booed by the city's demanding fans.

Thome hit a combined .199 with four home runs and 17 RBIs during his final two Aprils with Cleveland, but research before the 2001 season indicates that Thome is quite capable of getting off to a good start. The slugging first baseman's average was a combined .299 in April during his first seven full seasons in the big leagues. He hit over .300 in April for three straight seasons from 1997-99, and he hit six home runs in April of 2000.

Thome said he is not concerned about the first month.

"The one thing about April is you don't usually get 100 at-bats and your average can go up and down in a hurry," he said. "I like to build a base of 100 to 150 at-bats. I want to be respectable at that point and go from there. My dad always used to tell me that it's not what you do walking in the door, it's what you do walking out."

MADSON HURTING: Rookie right-hander Ryan Madson has been shut down for an indefinite period because of tenderness in his arm.

"It's not a big deal," manager Larry Bowa said. "He's just a top prospect and we're not going to let him go out there with any stiffness or soreness."

Madson, 22, went 16-4 with a 3.20 ERA at Double-A Reading and received the Paul Owens Award as the Phillies' best minor-league pitcher.

-- BOB BROOKOVER

Relief spot up in air

DUNEDIN -- A battle for a second left-handed reliever spot is shaping up among Scott Wiggins, Jason Kershner, Trever Miller and Tim Young, according to a report on sportingnews.com.

Former Devil Ray Doug Creek will be the situational left-hander, coming in for one or two hitters, and the second left-hander should be capable of two innings.

Wiggins helped his chances with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League.

Kershner has a changeup that is effective against right-handers. Miller was 9-5 at Triple-A last season. And Young has opened eyes with his early side work in camp.

-- Times wires

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