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Duckworth, Lieberthal go home for checkups

The Phillies sent right-hander Brandon Duckworth and catcher Mike Lieberthal back to Philadelphia on Monday where they will be examined by team physician Michael Ciccotti today.

Duckworth, the team's projected fourth starter, reported he felt better after taking himself out of his start Sunday against Cincinnati because his elbow and forearm felt tight. He said he had some muscle soreness but no swelling in his forearm. He was scheduled for an MRI exam.

Lieberthal has not played since the Phillies' Feb. 27 exhibition opener but said he hopes to return to the lineup either Thursday or Friday. He has been sidelined by an abdominal injury. He told a team official he was "much improved."

"I'm not a doctor, so I'll just hope for the best," manager Larry Bowa said. "I'm happy that they're going to do this for their frame of mind. Obviously when you know something is 100 percent and there's no tear or anything, you feel like you can push a little harder. They'll find out one way or another."

Even while hoping for the best-case scenario, Bowa is prepared if Duckworth is unable to make his next start this weekend. Right-hander Joe Roa, who was 4-4 with a 4.04 ERA last season, will step into Duckworth's spot.

Roa made his third appearance of the spring Monday in relief of right-hander Kevin Millwood and allowed four runs on four hits in two innings during the Phillies' 5-3 loss to the Astros.

Jim Thome contributed a run-scoring triple in the loss. The Phillies have scored two runs in 34 innings in the spring against opposing starting pitchers.

"That doesn't bother me right now," Bowa said. "You look at the back of these guys' bubble gum cards and they don't lie."

_ BOB BROOKOVER

Torre: no fifth-starter rush

WINTER HAVEN _ Jeff Weaver has been impressive, but Yankees manager Joe Torre still is taking a wait-and-see approach before making him the team's fifth starter.

Weaver has allowed two runs over nine innings in three appearances. He allowed one run in four innings Sunday against the Devil Rays.

"I was real pleased with Weaver," Torre said. "He's got some energy. He's a young kid with a great deal of ability. He understands you have to work to get there."

Solely on numbers, Weaver appears to have the three-way competition locked up. Jose Contreras has given up 15 runs in eight innings, and Sterling Hitchcock has allowed eight runs in eight innings.

"It's not fair to think about a decision now when I don't have to make one," Torre said. "I told them early on it wasn't a competition. It's all the information and then make a decision."

Hitchcock, mentioned in trade speculation for months, pitched Monday against Cleveland in front of approximately 20 scouts. The left-hander allowed five runs and four hits in three-plus innings of the Yankees' 11-1 loss to the Indians.

"He struggled," Torre said, "looked early on like he was feeling his way, but didn't seem to fall into it."

ET CETERA: LHP Chris Hammond is experiencing a tired arm. He allowed five runs and four hits, including two homers, without recording an out in the fourth inning Monday. The team optioned LHPs Alex Graman and Danny Borrell and RHP Jorge DePaula to Triple-A Columbus. RHP Chien-Ming Wang was sent to Double-A Trenton. LHP Brandon Claussen and C Omar Fuentes were assigned to the minor-league camp. Shane Spencer, facing his former team for the first time since signing with Cleveland, homered and doubled off David Wells.

_ TIMES WIRES

Calling his shot, almost

FORT MYERS _ You won't see it often, but Ken Huckaby called his shot Monday. Better known for his glove than his stick, Huckaby was having a little fun with former junior college teammate and roommate Eddie Guardado on the mound.

As Huckaby stepped in against the Twins closer in the fifth inning of the Jays' 4-0 win, he pointed his bat toward the fence in left and then gave it a wiggle.

"I'm not even sure he saw it," Huckaby said.

Huckaby didn't make good on the homer call but he did slice a single to rightfield earning him bragging rights until the next time the two friends meet.

"Honestly, I owe everything I have in baseball right now to him," Huckaby said of Guardado. The two attended San Joaquin Delta Junior College. "I was a backup my freshman year and didn't play much. My sophomore year I played every day. Every time he toed the rubber there were 30 scouts in the stands. I had a good year my sophomore year. He got me my scholarship to the University of Texas. All the scouts were coming in to watch him and somebody had to catch him. A pro scout saw me and I ended up getting drafted in the 22nd round."

ET CETERA: With the exception of RF Frank Catalanotto, manager Carlos Tosca brought his starting lineup to face the Twins. Catalanotto has a little tightness in his back and Tosca did not want to subject him to the four-plus hours he would have spent on the bus.

_ MIKE GANTER

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