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Williams returns to OF after appendectomy

Times Staff and Wire Reports
Published March 30, 2004

TAMPA - Yankees All-Star Bernie Williams caught two fly balls in five innings Monday during his first appearance in the outfield since having his appendix removed last month.

Williams made a running knee-high catch on Tampa Bay minor-leaguer Brooks Badeaux's liner in the fifth. He also caught a routine fly on his only other chance in the third.

"I did a lot of good running out there," Williams said. "If I'm not very stiff (today), that will be a good thing."

Williams, who skipped the team's trip to Japan for season-opening games against the Devil Rays, was the designated hitter in four minor-league games last week. He batted in each of the first six innings of Monday's Triple-A game between Columbus and Durham, going 0-for-6.

New York won't decide until next week whether to put Williams, who had the appendectomy Feb.26, on the disabled list. If placed on the DL, Williams could return for the home opener April 8 against the White Sox.

Fifth starter Jon Lieber, out with an injured right groin, could resume throwing off a bullpen mound this weekend. He has been playing catch. "So far, so good," Lieber said.

Barring additional problems, Lieber might be ready to pitch in extended spring games by the middle of April.

NOTES: No.3 starter Javier Vazquez said he should make his final spring start Friday in a minor-league game. It has not been decided if he will pitch during a two-game series April 6-7 at Tampa Bay or at home April 8. ... With LHP Donovan Osborne, RHP Jorge DePaula and OF Bubba Crosby making the opening-day roster, RHP Scott Proctor was optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Lieber, RHP Orlando Hernandez and 1B Travis Lee were placed on the 15-day disabled list, and the team purchased Osborne's contract from Columbus. INFs Homer Bush and Felix Escalona, OF Darren Bragg and C Joe Girardi were assigned to Columbus. Girardi will be a broadcaster for the YES Network but will be in uniform and available for the two spring games this weekend after the club returns from Japan.

- TIMES WIRES

Hentgen sharp, then falters

DUNEDIN - Pat Hentgen, in his second-to-last start of the spring, no-hit the Twins for two innings, then gave up six runs on eight hits in the final three.

The Jays' 13-2 loss was discouraging for the 35-year-old right-hander who had bounced back from two poor outings in his last start against the Phillies.

"Unfortunately, it didn't finish like it started," Hentgen said. "Then the command just wasn't there for whatever reason. The command just came and went. It was real inconsistent today. I'd fall behind 2-0, 3-0 a lot, just doing all the things you shouldn't do as a pitcher. I just didn't pitch well. I'd love to have better results. They're just not there right now."

KNEE PROBLEM: Carlos Delgado has not been able to play the past two games after a tendon in his left knee - the one he has had minor surgery on - flared up when he attempted to score from first in Saturday's game.

"It's happened in the past, last year was exactly the same thing," Delgado said, attempting to downplay the problem. "It's not fun because you want to break camp healthy, good to go, but it's not any different than what it was last year.

"The one good thing about spring training is you can take a little longer (more days off), pace yourself and make sure you're ready to go when the bell rings."

ANOTHER SETBACK: Bob File, the hard-luck right-hander who had been rounding into form after shoulder surgery after the 2002 season, is out indefinitely after a tear, a slap lesion, in the same right shoulder.

"It's past the point of frustration," File said. "It's rough right now."

Doctors have suggested File be inactive for 2-3 weeks then come back slowly.

ROSTER MOVE: INF Howie Clark was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse. The Jays have 28 players, including File, in camp.

- MIKE RUTSEY

Bowa happy with Padilla's progress

CLEARWATER - Manager Larry Bowa believes pitcher Vicente Padilla has had a higher concentration level in the spring after a trying offseason that began with the Nicaraguan right-hander in the passenger seat when a childhood friend died in an October car accident.

"I do know (Padilla) is more focused," Bowa said before the Phillies lost 5-1 to the Tigers at Bright House Networks Field. "Sometimes when something real close to you happens on a negative note, you realize how lucky you are and you maybe take life more serious."

Padilla was working on a three-hit shutout until the fifth inning, when the Tigers wiped out a 1-0 lead on a three-run triple by Carlos Guillen.

Padilla, 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in five starts, won 14 games in each of the past two seasons and is penciled in as the No.3 starter. "Padilla has some of the best stuff in baseball," Bowa said.

PHILLERS: INF Tomas Perez played the final four innings at second after being unavailable for three days with a sore toe. ... LHP Eric Milton (1-2, 6.35) is scheduled to pitch when the Phillies play Pittsburgh at 1 p.m. today in Bradenton. ... Jim Thome started at first for the second straight game since returning after breaking the tip of his middle finger on his right hand March 5.

- RANDY MILLER, TIMES WIRES

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