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Knoblauch clicks in left

Chuck Knoblauch got good marks after his first full workout in leftfield Tuesday.

"It's better than I anticipated," Yankees outfield coach Lee Mazzilli said. "I don't have a worry. I think we'll get this done."

Knoblauch, who made five throwing errors this spring at second base, likely will make his outfield debut by the weekend. "He said it was time to turn the page," Mazzilli said. "He's anxious to get going. He's going into this full-boat."

Knoblauch worked on positioning, then played live batting practice for 30 minutes.

MAKING HIS PITCH: Christian Parker allowed one run over four innings in the Yankees' 3-0 loss to a Houston split squad, and he impressed manager Joe Torre enough to become the front-runner for the fifth starter spot. "There's no question we're looking forward to his next start," Torre said. "You have a kid who has made a case for himself."

DREW'S BACK: Cincinnati tentatively agreed to trade third baseman and Michigan quarterback Drew Henson back to the Yankees. New York also would get Michael Coleman in return for minor-league outfielder Wily Mo Pena. For the deal to be completed, all three must pass physicals. Cincinnati acquired Henson in July as part of the deal that sent pitcher Denny Neagle to New York. The Yankees drafted Henson out of high school in 1998 but dealt him after he refused to commit to one sport. They would like to sign Henson to a multiyear contract that would have him give up football.

ETC.: Right-hander Mike Mussina (left knee bruise) reported no problems one day after a bullpen session and is scheduled to start tonight against the Rays. Shortstop Derek Jeter (right quadriceps) took batting practice and might return Thursday or Friday. Three players, including first base prospect Nick Johnson, were sent to Triple-A Columbus.

_ MARK DIDTLER, TIMES WIRES

Chen unfazed by A-Rod

CLEARWATER _ Bruce Chen's first encounter with Rangers superstar Alex Rodriguez went well: a swinging strikeout at a first-inning curveball. The young left-hander said he wasn't intimidated by baseball's $252-million man.

"He's a hitter. I'm a pitcher. We're both in the big leagues," said Chen, who pitched six solid innings and held Texas to three hits in an 8-7 win. "I don't think he's going to hit .500 or .600 against me. The odds are still in my favor."

Chen went in with a 13.50 ERA. He gave up home runs to Ruben Mateo and Randy Velarde but would have earned the victory had Jose Mesa not blown a two-run lead in the seventh.

FREE PLUG: Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu tied the score in the ninth with a two-run home run off the Times sign in rightfield, his second home run of the game. Abreu hit a two-run shot to give the Phillies a 2-1 lead in the third.

"Abreu is a super player and he's got superstar credentials," manager Larry Bowa said. "He's been unbelievable this spring."

WHO IS THAT?: Surprise survivor has been 24-year-old Jason Michaels, a teammate of Pat Burrell's at Miami who was a fourth-round pick in 1998. Michaels sparked the ninth-inning rally with a single and a stolen base, and Bowa is giving him a look at third base to back up All-Star Scott Rolen. Before this week, Michaels hadn't fielded grounders since his sophomore year in high school.

TODAY: Left-hander Randy Wolf (0-0, 8.64 ERA) gets his fourth spring start against Boston's Frank Castillo. Wolf, who has allowed four home runs in 8 innings, is scheduled to start the home opener.

_ GREG AUMAN

White Sox make concession

DUNEDIN _ The White Sox took back one of the injured pitchers they sent to the Blue Jays in January. The Jays sent Mike Williams, out with a right shoulder injury, to Chicago for Matt DeWitt. Chicago traded pitchers Williams, Mike Sirotka and Kevin Beirne and outfielder Brian Simmons to Toronto on Jan. 14 for David Wells and DeWitt. Sirotka and Williams have been unable to pitch because of shoulder injuries.

_ TIMES WIRES

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