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Pedro says he's having no problem

Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez said manager Grady Little's decision to reduce his pitch count in his next spring training start is not an indication of any health problems.

"That's not precautionary whatsoever," Martinez said. "In spring training you normally go slow, then higher, higher, higher until you reach a peak. The peak would be five to six innings, which is what I got the last time out."

Martinez, who is coming back from a shoulder injury, threw 79 pitches in five innings Thursday and said after the game that he felt good and hoped to throw more pitches in his next start.

But Little said Martinez will throw 55 to 60 pitches on Wednesday against Cincinnati.

"Once he's clear in his mind that he has no more pain in that shoulder, it won't be long before he's up near to 100 (pitches)," Little said.

Texas to evaluate Rivera

Ruben Rivera is getting another chance, this time with Texas.

General manager John Hart said the team will evaluate Rivera for 10 days before determining whether to offer the outfielder a minor-league contract.

Rivera, 28, was released by the Yankees on March 11 after being accused of stealing a bat and glove from Derek Jeter's locker and selling the items to a memorabilia dealer. Rivera was in Texas' minor-league camp Sunday.

"Leave it to John Hart," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said. "If there's a guy who would do it, it's going to be him. You would expect John Hart to do that, which is okay."

Also, manager Jerry Narron made it official: Rookie third baseman Hank Blalock won the starting job.

"He'll be on the field April 1," Narron said. "I believe Hank came in here from the first day and believed that he was going to be the opening-day third baseman. He has done a great job."

Blalock, who has never played above Double A, unseated incumbent Mike Lamb, who likely is in for a position change and a return to the minor leagues.

ANGELS: Right-hander Kevin Appier is coming off an outing in which he threw more than 100 pitches Saturday against Arizona.

"Appier likes to push it the two starts before his first (regular-season) start," manager Mike Scioscia said. "His next start will be a little bit softer."

INDIANS: Right-hander Jaret Wright is scheduled for another MRI exam on his sore right shoulder this week in Los Angeles. Wright, who has had shoulder surgery in each of the past two years, left camp last week with stiffness and will start the year on the disabled list.

ROYALS: Outfielder Chuck Knoblauch returned to camp after missing a week because of the death of his father.

Knoblauch did not play against the Rays. Manager Tony Muser said he will be back in the lineup today against Atlanta.

"I expect him to be a little rusty," Muser said. "When you lose a father, it's an emotional time."

TIGERS: Both of the team's first baseman left a 9-1 loss to the Astros with injuries. Dmitri Young bruised his buttocks in the fourth after banging into a wall catching a pop foul. Randall Simon injured his right hamstring on a single in the eighth. Young's injury is not serious, but Simon's could be. He'll be re-examined today.

_ TIMES WIRES

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