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It's official: Boggs gets the start

With any doubts about his ailing back put to rest by a standout spring performance, Wade Boggs officially was named the starter at third base when the Yankees open the season April 1.

"Once I saw the shape he was in, the way he was swinging the bat and moving around, I felt pretty good about (the decision)," manager Joe Torre said. "I did it strictly on what I thought was best for the club right now."

Torre's decision leaves Charlie Hayes riding the bench.

"Charlie was fine with it. Sure, he wants to play, but he understands the situation. He said (he'd do) anything to help the team," Torre said.

Boggs, who had the day off Saturday, is hitting .421 (16-for-38). Hayes went 0-for-3 against Toronto to drop his average to .226 (12-for-53).

Yankees starter David Cone didn't allow a batter past first until the seventh inning, when he loaded the bases on consecutive two-out singles and a walk. Cone got out of the inning when Tilson Brito lined out to left. 1B Tino Martinez extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a bases-loaded two-run single in the first.

LHP Andy Pettitte (2-0, 0.75) starts today at Legends Field against Pirates LHP Steve Cook (2-1, 2.63). First pitch is 1:05 p.m.

_ JULIE GOODRICH

Oliver hurts thumb while making tag

KISSIMMEE _ C Joe Oliver sprained his left thumb while making a tag during Cincinnati's 6-3 victory over the Houston Astros.

Oliver hit Luis Gonzalez's knee with his glove during a play at the plate. He remained in the game for two more batters, then left because the thumb was swelling.

"They seem to think everything is okay," Oliver said, icing the thumb in the clubhouse during the game. "I think it's going to be all right. It'll take a couple of days of rest."

INF Jeff Branson left the game in the fifth inning because of tightness in his right hamstring. He said it was simply a precaution. 1B Hal Morris went 3-for-4 with an RBI.

_ TIMES WIRES

Still willing to sign Schilling

CLEARWATER _ Less than a week after negotiations on a contract extension seemingly broke down, the Phillies still are trying to sign ace RHP Curt Schilling.

The key is whether an insurance company will fully cover Schilling, who had major right shoulder surgery in August 1995.

Schilling, 30, is scheduled for an MRI on his right shoulder for insurance purposes Monday. If he passes the test _ and he expects to with ease _ the Phillies will seek a carrier to fully insure him.

The Phillies knew things weren't going right even before the ball girl threw a live grounder into the stands and reliever RHP Edgar Ramos was hit by a line drive. The Indians had 18 hits and handed the Phils their second straight loss, 9-7 before a sellout at Jack Russell Stadium.

By the time the ball girl picked up C Einar Diaz's ground-rule double down the third-base line in the seventh inning, the Phils were losing 7-5. Then, after giving up the final Cleveland runs in the eighth, Ramos was struck on his pitching hand by OF Trenidad Hubbard's liner and left the game for X-rays. Results were not available.

OF Tony Longmire was released.

RHP Mark Portugal (0-1, 5.73) starts today at 1:05 p.m. against Rangers RHP Roger Pavlik at Port Charlotte.

_ PHIL GULICK, WIRES

Hentgen stumbles, bullpen shines

TAMPA _ Although RHP Pat Hentgen had a bit of a rough outing in his fifth start _ he gave up three runs in five innings and took the loss against the Yankees _ Toronto's relief corps was nearly unhittable.

LHP Paul Spoljaric, who had off-season shoulder surgery, pitched the sixth and retired the side in order. LHP Huck Flener, coming off arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Feb.

26 in addition to off-season elbow surgery, duplicated Spoljaric's results in the seventh.

RHP Kelvim Escobar had surgery Friday to remove bone chips from his right elbow. IF Tomas Perez had X-rays on his left big toe; results were negative.

OF Lonell Roberts, returned to the Blue Jays on Monday when a trade with Texas fell through, cleared waivers and was assigned outright to Double-A Knoxville.

The Blue Jays return to Dunedin today to face the Chicago White Sox at 1:05 p.m. RHP Erik Hanson (1-3, 5.14) starts against LHP Wilson Alvarez.

_ JULIE GOODRICH

Stottlemyre struggles, but survives

ST. PETERSBURG _ Cardinals RHP Todd Stottlemyre got the job done as he prepared for Opening Day on April 1 at Montreal. Stottlemyre pitched five innings, gave up six hits, one run and struck out seven.

Stottlemyre pitched out of jams in every inning but the second.

RHP Rich Batchelor left the game in the eighth when he was hit on the left wrist by a line drive from Boston's Chris Donnels. X-rays were negative and he is listed as day-to-day.

With two outs in the top of the seventh, play was halted a few minutes when a fan dressed in a Cardinals uniform ran out to shortstop. He wore an Ozzie Smith jersey and had a glove and spikes. The fan stood next to SS Royce Clayton before security guards escorted him off the field.

OF Brian Jordan didn't play because of stiffness in his back. He is day-to-day. OF Andy Van Slyke also is day-to-day after straining his left calf in a game against Triple-A Louisville at Cardinals Complex.

OF Terry Bradshaw and INF Aaron Holbert were optioned to Louisville.

St. Louis plays at the Indians today, with RHP Mark Petkovsek facing RHP Orel Hershiser.

_ RODNEY PAGE

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