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Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2001

BOSTON -- Hall of Famer Ted Williams is making progress in his recovery from open-heart surgery and his chances of surviving are improving, doctors say.

The 82-year-old Williams has taken "a real step forward," Jeffrey Borer, his New York cardiologist, told the Boston Globe.

"In terms of the current phase of his recovery, he's already made it," Borer said late Thursday. "His heart is doing what it has to do.

"This is the period when we could expect non-cardiac problems to become important difficulties, and they haven't been yet. That doesn't mean they won't become so."

Williams, the former Red Sox great and last major leaguer to hit .400, had surgery Jan. 16 in New York to repair a valve in his heart.

"We're on the road to success here," said Williams' son, John Henry. "It's another challenge, and he's great at overcoming challenges."

The next critical step is for Williams to begin talking, which Borer said "is just a matter of time; he attempts to speak now."

BRAVES: Left-hander Steve Avery, who spent last season in Atlanta's farm system, agreed to a minor-league deal.

DODGERS: The agent for a pitcher found to have been illegally signed plans to appeal MLB's decision to not grant the player free agency. "We're hoping we can meet with baseball officials sometime during spring training," said Gus Dominguez, who represents Venezuelan left-hander Felix Arellan, who turns 20 next month. The Los Angeles Times said the Dodgers were fined $100,000.

REDS: The commissioner's office blocked Deion Sanders' contract, but the team expects to have him in its minor-league camp in March. Sanders had filed for free agency after the World Series and agreed to the deal after the Dec. 7 deadline for re-signing.

AGEE FUNERAL: Several hundred people, including teammates from the 1969 "Miracle Mets," remembered Tommie Agee at a memorial service in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Agee died of a heart attack Monday at 58.

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