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Boston ace pooh-poohs wrist brace

Pedro Martinez had a brace on his left wrist Sunday, a day after being hit on the base of the thumb by a line drive.

He said the area where he was hit is sore and swollen, but the injury to his glove hand does not affect the right-hander's ability to pitch. The brace is designed to immobilize the wrist and he expected to wear it only for another day. He also has been icing the area.

"The hand is sore, but I will be ready for my next start," Martinez said.

He said the ball just missed his throwing hand.

Martinez was hit in the fifth inning Saturday against the Reds. X-rays were negative.

Wilton Guerrero's line drive struck Martinez in the hand, then glanced up and hit his left shoulder. Martinez picked the ball off the ground and threw Guerrero out.

He took off his glove and shook the wrist a few times, then completed the inning after being looked at by manager Jimy Williams and Red Sox trainers.

Martinez struck out seven and gave up five hits in five scoreless innings.

Meanwhile, Williams said knuckleballer Tim Wakefield would start the season as a reliever because of Hipolito Pichardo's injured right elbow. With former Ray Rolando Arrojo struggling, that would seem to indicate that Tomo Ohka and Paxton Crawford will be in the rotation with Martinez, Frank Castillo and Hideo Nomo.

INDIANS: After two shaky starts, right-hander Steve Karsay got back on track in the 4-2 win over the Royals. Using 50 pitches in five innings, Karsay held Kansas City to two runs on four hits, one an infield single, and no walks. One hit was a laser blast off the bat of Dee Brown for a leadoff home run in the fourth. "Brown hit that ball on a pitch that was about 6 inches off the ground," manager Charlie Manuel said. "But I liked the way Karsay pitched today. He cut loose and threw strikes."

MARINERS: Manager Lou Piniella named right-hander Freddy Garcia as his opening-day starter April 2 against Oakland at Safeco Field. Piniella said he would name the order of the rest of the rotation later. It will be made up of Aaron Sele, Jamie Moyer, John Halama and Paul Abbott or Brett Tomko.

RANGERS: Shortstop Alex Rodriguez, a Miami native playing his first professional game near his hometown, doubled in three at-bats against the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale. "It's my first chance since I've been playing that I've had the chance to come back and play in front of my home fans," Rodriguez said. "It's very exciting."

TIGERS: Tony Clark is batting .588 (10-for-17) with two home runs and eight RBI in his past six games. The first baseman played in 60 games last season because of a lower back strain. "I'm a lot more relaxed," he said. "Consequently, it's carrying over into the games because of where my focus actually is." Manager Phil Garner said he's not ready to name his opening-day starter, although it's expected to be Brian Moehler. Garner should officially announce it this week.

WHITE SOX: David Wells insists he will retire after this season if Chicago doesn't exercise his $9-million option for 2002. "This is my last stop," the left-hander said. "If they pick it up, they pick it up. If not, I will retire." Wells, acquired in January from Toronto, will make $8.25-million this year. Chicago would have to pay a $1.25-million buyout if it declines the option.

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