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In-law's death pushes Mussina's start back

Times Staff and Wire Reports
Published March 2, 2004

TAMPA - New York right-hander Mike Mussina was scratched from his first spring training start after the death of his father-in-law.

Mussina was scheduled to pitch the opener Thursday against Philadelphia in Clearwater. He is the probable starter for the regular-season opener March 30 in Tokyo against the Devil Rays.

"I just told him to do whatever he needs to do," manager Joe Torre said Monday.

Mussina should make his first spring start March 9 against Atlanta.

Rookie Jorge De Paula, who could make the rotation if one of the projected starters is not ready, will replace Mussina on Thursday.

Jose Contreras will not pitch in today's intrasquad game because of lower back stiffness. The team expects the right-hander to make his scheduled spring debut Sunday.

Kevin Brown will start the spring home opener Friday against the Phillies. That puts him in line to possibly start the second of two games against the Rays in Tokyo on March 31. Javier Vazquez, who will go to the mound Saturday against Toronto, could also start the second game of the Japan trip.

Jon Lieber, slowed by an injured right groin, took part in some drills on the field and remains on target to throw off a mound Wednesday.

The team has five pitchers for five spots in the rotation: Mussina, Brown, Vazquez, Contreras and Lieber.

"That's a concern coming in, no question," Torre said. "But I just don't think that (the current injuries) seem serious enough to make me any more concerned than I was coming in."

EXTRA BASES: Bernie Williams was back, one day after being released from the hospital. He had his appendix removed Thursday. "He's fine," Torre said. "Said he was a little sore. That's understandable." ... Closer Mariano Rivera said there were no developments regarding talks on a contract extension. ... Alex Rodriguez continues taking extra grounders at third starting around 8 a.m., two hours before the regular workout.

- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Phillies: Three on mend

CLEARWATER - The Phillies are scheduled to play an intrasquad game today at Bright House Networks Field minus two starters and their closer.

Third baseman David Bell, after missing much of last season with hip and back problems, is recovering from a slight right knee injury and won't play. Rightfielder Bobby Abreu was scheduled to start, but he'll take the day off, too, because of a sore back. Closer Billy Wagner, meanwhile, remains day to day with a sore left middle finger that has prevented him from throwing for a week.

Manager Larry Bowa made it clear that none of the injuries is serious. Bowa, in fact, refused to acknowledge Abreu and Bell are hurt.

"If there's an injury, I'll tell you," he said. "There's no injury."

Bell, however, said he felt a sharp pain in his right knee while fielding grounders Saturday and was worried enough to have it checked out. An MRI exam revealed no structural damage.

"I wanted to be sure after what I went through last year," Bell said. "I'm glad I did."

As for his back and hip, Bell said both are holding up well.

"I feel great," he said. "I think I'm 100 percent."

Today's 10-inning intersquad game is scheduled to start at 12:30 and is free to the public. Gates open at 11 a.m.

First-base coach Milt Thompson and bullpen coach Ramon Henderson will manage the teams.

Right-hander Ryan Madson, one of the organization's top prospects, will start for Team Thompson, and All-Star left-hander Randy Wolf will take the ball for Team Henderson. Eighteen others, including starters Kevin Millwood and Brett Myers, are scheduled to pitch one inning each.

EXTRA BASES: The remaining unsigned players on the 40-man roster agreed to split contracts, bringing team payroll to about $90-million, highest in the NL East. Outfielder Jason Michaels will earn $335,000 in the majors and $244,000 in the minors, second baseman Chase Utley $305,000 and $110,000, and Myers $362,500 and $240,000. ... Vicente Padilla is scheduled to start the first spring game Thursday in Clearwater. ... Catcher Todd Pratt is nursing a sore ankle.

- RANDY MILLER

Jays: Halladay pushed back

DUNEDIN - It will be Jason Arnold, not Roy Halladay, who will be on the mound when the Jays begin their spring games Friday against the Reds in Sarasota.

No, the Jays' AL Cy Young winner has not lost his ace status to the up-and-coming prospect.

Halladay is scheduled to pitch Sunday in Dunedin against the Phillies in order to keep him on schedule for the season opener April 5 at SkyDome against Detroit.

Arnold was 7-9 with a 3.69 ERA last season in combined stints with Double-A New Haven and Triple-A Syracuse. He is scheduled to be followed by Pat Hentgen on Saturday against the Yankees.

CANADIAN CONTENT: Outfielder/corner infielder Jeff Guiel was signed to a minor-league contract. Guiel, brother of Royals outfielder Aaron Guiel and a native of Langley, British Columbia, will begin the year at Triple-A Syracuse or Double-A New Haven. In the Angels' system the past three yars, Guiel hit .266 with 35 home runs in 350 games at Triple-A Salt Lake City.

LOOKING AHEAD TO INTERLEAGUE PLAY: The Jays will host the Dodgers and Diamondbacks while traveling to San Francisco and San Diego in addition to the annual home-and-away series with the Expos. It is the San Francisco stop and the opportunity to face the Giants' Barry Bonds that has starter Josh Towers excited. "I've already told the guys, if I get a chance to face Barry, I'm going to go inside (with a fastball). I just want to see if he really is that good."

- MIKE GANTER

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