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Bad back slows Texas slugger

Gonzalez misses part of workout

Posted: Tuesday, February 25, 2003

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Texas slugger Juan Gonzalez took part in agility drills Monday, then was held out of the rest of the Rangers' workout because of a continuing problem with his back.

''He was ready to go, and I probably would have played him if there was a game,'' manager Buck Showalter said. ''At this point it's just better to let him rest.''

Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP, hit .282 with eight homers and 35 RBIs in 70 games last year. He was sidelined by an injured right thumb that put him on the disabled list on July 31.

''It's just a little tight right here,'' Gonzalez said, pointing to the left side of his lower back. ''It's a little uncomfortable, but I'll be fine.''

Yankees

TAMPA, Fla. -- Hideki Matsui went 0-for-2 in his first intrasquad game with the New York Yankees.

The three-time MVP of Japan's Central League started in left field and hit fifth for the ''Gators,'' which included the regular starters.

''It's been a while since my last actual game,'' Matsui said through an interpreter. ''I felt pretty good playing the game.''

Matsui left after the fourth inning of the five-inning game so he could do his conditioning work before heading to an appointment with a dentist. Manager Joe Torre said Matsui might need a root canal.

''It was just picked up in routine stuff,'' Torre said. ''It's nothing that has been bothering him.''

Matsui is not expected to play in Tuesday's intrasquad game.

''I don't think it will keep me out of practice,'' Matsui said. ''I have a few cavities. I will continue to practice as I've been doing.''

Matsui's first at-bat, against minor league pitcher Alex Graman, came with runners on first and second and two outs in the first. One fan yelled ''come on Godzilla'' before Matsui took a pitch high for ball one.

On a 2-0 pitch, Matsui grounded out to first baseman Fernando Seguignol, who played in Japan last season and has the adjoining locker in the Legends Field clubhouse.

''I was just trying to get a feel with playing the actual game,'' Matsui said. ''Also, getting a feel of the pitchers.''

Indians

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Third baseman Matt Whitney, a first-round pick by the Cleveland Indians last June, broke a leg while retrieving a basketball and could miss the 2003 season.

Whitney and two minor leaguers were awaiting another player to go to dinner Sunday when they began shooting a basketball, according to John Farrell, the Indians' director of player development.

The ball got away, Whitney jogged to retrieve it and turned his ankle when he stepped on a box that covered a sprinkler head.

Whitney had surgery Monday at Celebration Hospital in Orlando to repair fractures to his left tibia and fibula.

''It came in a situation that we don't condone, having another kind of ball in his hand,'' Farrell said. ''We will have a talk about that.

''It is clearly stated to everybody that basketball is prohibited. Is this a freak accident? Yes, but we believe it should never have happened.''

The 19-year-old from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is regarded as one of the top young position prospects in the Indians' organization. He hit .286 with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in 45 games last year at Class A Burlington.

Astros

HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros will wear the mission patch from the space shuttle Columbia throughout the season to honor the astronauts who died earlier this month.

The Astros received permission from NASA and the families of the astronauts to wear the patch. The team also will conduct a special ceremony on opening day, April 1, at Minute Maid Park.

''The astronauts on this mission are true American heroes, and we are deeply grateful to be afforded the opportunity to pay tribute to these incredible people,'' Astros owner Drayton McLane Jr. said.

When the Colt .45s changed their name to the Astros in 1965, coinciding with the opening of the Astrodome and recognizing the space program, 24 astronauts threw ceremonial pitches at the team's home opener.

In each season since moving to Minute Maid Park in 2000, the Astros have hosted a ''NASA Day'' honoring astronauts and employees of the Johnson Space Center in southeast Houston.



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