The Boston Red Sox will ring in the home portion of their schedule by getting their World Series rings at their home opener April 11 before a full house of 35,000 fans and the New York Yankees.
''I'm sure I'm not going to help them hand them out,'' Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said to laughter at New York's camp in Tampa. ''But they deserve it. I'm sure they've been looking forward to this for a long time. So let them do it.''
Boston became the first major league team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series, doing it against their biggest rival in the AL championship series last October. The Red Sox then swept St. Louis in the World Series.
''This is the kind of quality problem I hope we're going to be able to have with some frequency,'' Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said, ''sit around at spring training and decide just when, oh when, do we give out the World Series championship rings.''
Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had no complaints about the ceremony being held while New York is at Fenway Park.
''The Red Sox won their rings. They earned them,'' he said in a statement. ''They have the right to pick the date at which they present them, and it's not a personal affront to our players.''
To accommodate fans who didn't get tickets to opening day, the rings will be displayed at a welcome-home dinner attended by players that same night and at a display on the Fenway Park field along with the World Series trophy and the ball Doug Mientkiewicz caught for the last out of the Series.
''Even though the fans are not getting it, they have to feel like they're receiving one because they all deserve it,'' David Ortiz said. ''They supported us a lot through the years.''
In Fort Lauderdale, Fla., as a way of introducing himself to his new teammates, Sammy Sosa slammed about two dozen baseballs far over the center-field wall during his first workout with the Baltimore Orioles. Before he was done, nearly half the squad interrupted their drills to watch the show.
''Sammy, we're going to run out of balls!'' joked outfielder Larry Bigbie, who watched in awe as one shot after another soared onto an airfield behind the practice field.
''They'll be parking the planes in the hangars from now on,'' Bigbie said later.
The Chicago Cubs were relieved to get rid of Sosa after his troubled 2004 season, and the Orioles are delighted to have him. During his stay in Chicago, Sosa battled with Mark McGwire in a memorable home run duel in 1998, went to the All-Star game seven times and was the 1998 NL MVP. But he contends that the corked bat and his early departure from the ballpark ruined an otherwise wonderful relationship.
''For the 13 years I was in Chicago, I only made two mistakes. That's pretty good,'' he said. ''If I had known that leaving early last year would have caused such a controversy, I would have never done it. My manager told me I had a day off. But what can I say?''
In Lakeland, Fla., Ugueth Urbina said he planned to report to spring training, even if his kidnapped mother still was being held. He didn't want to show her captors that he was weak. Now that Maura Villarreal is safe following a rescue operation Friday, Urbina said an indescribable weight has been lifted from his shoulders.
''I feel like I'm 18 years old,'' the Detroit Tigers reliever said, speaking publicly about the ordeal for the first time.
Villarreal, 54, was rescued by Venezuelan police during an 8-hour raid that left two of her abductors dead, two captured and seven others as fugitives. Police described the kidnappers as Venezuelan and Colombian drug smugglers.
She was held for 5 months, 18 days in a camp that police called a drug-traffickers' hideout in Venezuela's southern mountains.
Urbina and his two brothers, Ulmer and Ulises, were at a loss.
''There wasn't much we could do. We'd never been in this situation, and we didn't know where she was,'' Urbina said. ''Where can you go to try to find her? She could be anywhere. It's hard.
''It's not like the movies. It's real life.''
In Winter Haven, Fla., Cleveland's Juan Gonzalez became the latest player to deny Jose Canseco's accusation of using steroids.
''It's not true. ... I never saw needles. I never saw pills. I never saw anything. ... The only guys who have put needles in my body are doctors,'' Gonzalez said.
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