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Ledee launches three home runs

Ricky Ledee never had a day like this.

"Not even a week," the Phillies reserve outfielder said Thursday after hitting three home runs and driving in nine during his team's 13-12 win over the Blue Jays at Dunedin Stadium.

Ledee, batting leadoff, homered off former Devil Ray Tanyon Sturtze to start the game, then helped the Phillies cut a five-run deficit to one with a grand slam off reliever Jeff Tam. His final homer, a two-run shot off Gary Majewski, came in the eighth.

He had a chance to hit a fourth in the ninth and admitted he was thinking about it.

"The first three times, I wasn't even thinking about hitting a home run," Ledee said. "I just was seeing it and hitting it. The fourth time I thought about it, but when I got two strikes on me I just wanted to put the ball in play."

He settled for a two-run single to trigger the Phillies' four-run rally. McKay Christensen's two-run double completed the comeback.

"That was a great day for Ricky," manager Larry Bowa said. "He's been swinging the bat exceptionally well."

McGRAW HOSPITALIZED: Former Phillies and Mets reliever Tug McGraw, in camp as a special pitching instructor, was taken to Morton Plant Hospital on Wednesday with a serious illness. The Phillies did not reveal the nature of the illness, but Bowa expressed his concern for his former teammate: "I'm very much concerned. We have to pray for him."

Country music star Tim McGraw canceled a scheduled appearance in batting practice before today's game at Jack Russell Stadium because of his father's illness.

MESA'S STATEMENT: Reliever Jose Mesa issued a written statement apologizing to the Phillies and their fans for his controversial statements about Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel. Mesa said he wanted to "kill" Vizquel because of a statement his former teammate made in his book.

"I am sorry that my comments have caused a disruption," said in the statement. "I was hurt by remarks by a former teammate. I would never hurt anyone."

_ BOB BROOKOVER

Pettitte pitches well

TAMPA _ Andy Pettitte pitched four shutout innings, allowing two hits and no walks in a 6-2 win against the Red Sox at Legend Field.

His pitch count (40) was substantially lower than his last time out (61 against the Pirates on Sunday), when he tired in the third.

"After that last one, I was glad to cut back a little," he said.

Pettitte said he threw cutters for the first time in the bullpen, but he is glad he still has three starts left in the spring to work out some of his mechanics.

"Just like always, I'm still aggravated a little with my changeup," he said. "I'm still not throwing it like I want to."

FIGHTING FOR SPOT: Former Rays catcher John Flaherty continues to battle for a spot on the roster. He was 2-for-3 with a run scored in a 10-5 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday and was 0-for-1 with a sacrifice fly Thursday.

"I'm starting to get some at-bats and more confidence at the plate," he said. "But I knew coming in I'd need to be strong defensively. I'm getting to know the pitchers now."

CONTRERAS TO START: Today at Legends Field, right-handed rookie Jose Contreras will take the mound in a split-squad game against the Devil Rays.

Contreras received good news when he learned that his father, Florentino Contreras, 80, was released from the hospital and is doing better after a stroke Saturday. Manager Joe Torre said Contreras would be on the opening-day roster despite a shaky showing this spring.

SIGNING DAY: Pitcher David Wells no longer is allowed to talk about his controversial book, Perfect I'm Not, but he can sign it. Wells will do just that at noon Wednesday at Waldenbooks in Tampa's International Plaza.

_ JEREMY RASMUSSEN, MARC TOPKIN

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