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Slugging Matsui's singles impress

By Times staff writers, Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 4, 2003

TAMPA -- Yankees leftfielder Hideki Matsui continued to impress Monday, hitting a three-run homer and two singles in a 9-8 loss to Toronto.

Matsui is 5-for-9 in the spring with two homers and five RBIs. His homer inside the rightfield foul pole was part of a four-run fifth inning that included Alfonso Soriano's home run.

"Not only the home run, but on the other at-bat, when he had two strikes he fought off a tough pitch for a hit," manager Joe Torre said of Matsui. "That's a good sign, that he has good bat control. For a power hitter he has a short swing."

PITCHING IN: Left-hander Andy Pettitte pitched two hitless innings in his spring debut. "His velocity isn't where he wants it, but he threw some decent changeups, good breaking balls and he threw strikes," said former Devil Rays catcher John Flaherty, who started and went 0-for-2. ... Right-hander Chien-Ming Wang gave up seven runs on four hits with three walks in 11/3 innings. ... Right-hander Steve Karsay surrendered an unearned run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning. ... Nonroster pitchers Corey Lee and Juan Acevedo each pitched two scoreless innings.


Lefty strong in debut

TAMPA -- Left-hander Mark Hendrickson allowed one hit in two scoreless innings in his first spring start. Hendrickson, who went 3-0 in 16 games last season, is bidding for the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation.

"He pitched well. He kept the ball down and threw with confidence against a potent lineup," manager Carlos Tosca said.

Tosca didn't attach added significance to starting the 6-foot-9 Hendrickson against the Yankees. But he noted the importance of having a left-handed starter.

"It's a proven fact teams don't do as well against left-handed pitching," Tosca said. "So having one going into Yankee Stadium would be a big plus for us."

ALL'S WELLS: Centerfielder Vernon Wells keyed a five-run third with a three-run triple to the wall in left-center against Wang as the Jays improved to 3-0. He singled in a run in a three-run fourth.

"Vernon's picked up where he left off," Tosca said. "He worked hard to improve in the offseason. He's interesting to watch."

ETC.: Former Rays left-hander Doug Creek gave up one hit in two-thirds of an inning. Nonroster right-hander Evan Thomas gave up four runs on five hits in one inning, including the homers by Matsui and Soriano. ... Former Jays outfielder George Bell has joined the staff as a guest hitting instructor for the next two weeks.


Rollins thinking long term

SARASOTA -- Ultimately, Jimmy Rollins decided to invest in his own future. Rather than sign a multiyear deal, the two-time All-Star opted to let the team sign him to a one-year deal worth $450,000.

The pact represents a $95,000 raise but leaves the shortstop without the security that accompanies the extra years. The sides discussed a possible pact but couldn't reach an agreement.

"If they were throwing some big dollars out there, it would be very tough (to turn down)," Rollins said. "But I'm young right now and my true value really hasn't been established. It's a little bit of a guessing game right now."

Rollins will try to build on a sophomore season that saw his production dip. After batting .274 as a rookie, he hit .245 and stole 15 fewer bases.

PHYSICAL FITNESS: Mike Lieberthal missed his second day with tightness in both legs. He was scheduled to have the day off anyway, and manager Larry Bowa said he probably will rest at least another few days as a precaution. ... Right-hander Turk Wendell will have his next throwing session Wednesday, and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan said he has been able to throw sliders for the first time. He threw 35 pitches Sunday, five more than in his previous session.


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