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Matsui will get a taste of game action today

By Times wires and staff reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2003

TAMPA -- Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui will start in leftfield when the Yankees play the first of two intrasquad games today.

It will be the first game action this spring for Matsui, who signed a free-agent contract during the offseason.

"It's something new for him to play leftfield," manager Joe Torre said. "He's done it, but a long time ago. We just want to get him comfortable."

Torre said centerfielder Bernie Williams is working to build strength in his shoulders, a problem that slowed him last season.

"His one shoulder, hitting right-handed, it's more work for him right now until it builds back up," Torre said. "From last year to this year, it's not even a contest. He did a lot of work in the offseason. He's 100 percent better than last year."

Williams expects to play today.

TALKING EPHEDRA: Torre is more comfortable about David Wells' use of ephedra after talking with him. Wells occasionally uses an over-the-counter supplement containing the substance, which a medical examiner linked to Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler's death. "He seems to have a grip on it as far as what he knows he can do," Torre said. "That's all you ask for. Just as long as you know what you're doing."

LIEBER RECOVERING: Pitcher Jon Lieber, coming off elbow surgery, is expected to start throwing off a mound this week.


Saberhagen pitching in

CLEARWATER -- Bret Saberhagen will join the Phillies today as a guest pitching instructor. His primary work will be teaching the changeup, a pitch that helped him win two American League Cy Youngs.

Saberhagen will remain in camp through Sunday.

The invitation was extended by Phillies pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who formed a relationship with Saberhagen when they were with the Red Sox.

"Joe had a good relationship with Bret, and I think it will help our guys to hear the philosophy of throwing the changeup from someone like him," manager Larry Bowa said.

Kerrigan, in his first season with the Phillies, has impressed the pitching staff. One drill he is using this spring is a routine where the pitchers warm up before throwing batting practice, then throw 22 pitches from the windup before taking a break. The pitchers then throw 22 pitches from the stretch with Kerrigan simulating game situations and asking them to induce ground balls or popups.

"It's awesome," left-hander Randy Wolf said. "It gets you in a game mode. It speeds up the process of being ready for a game. Instead of just throwing for 10 to 12 minutes, you're throwing with a purpose."


Jays' early rotation set

DUNEDIN -- The first spring game is a week away, but the Blue Jays have decided on a preliminary rotation, according to the team's Web site.

Right-hander Roy Halladay will pitch a few innings in the first game Saturday at the Devil Rays. Right-hander Cory Lidle will pitch against Philadelphia in Dunedin, with left-hander Mark Hendrickson and right-hander Tanyon Sturtze starting the two games after that. Hendrickson's start will be against the Yankees in Tampa, the only AL East team he has not pitched against. Sturtze will pitch against Pittsburgh at home.


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