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Wang passes on World Baseball

Chien-Ming Wang said he decided Wednesday to skip the World Baseball Classic, even though he is the most high-profile major-leaguer in Taiwan. Had Wang opted to play, he would have had to travel to Tokyo for first-round games and likely would have pitched only once (Korea and Japan are favored in the Asian group). Much like teammate Hideki Matsui, he said, he is taking some heat in his homeland.

Another Yankee, Miguel Cairo, said he is almost certainly out of the WBC. Cairo said he was informed by Venezuelan officials they are going with Marco Scutaro and Tomas Perez as backup infielders, since they played winter ball and Cairo did not.

JOHNSON LIVENS UP BP: Randy Johnsonwas a bit scattershot while throwing batting practice. He buzzed Derek Jeter up-and-in a couple of times, and one pitch grazed Johnny Damon on the left forearm.

"They're my teammates, so they're safe," Johnson said.

"There's nothing quite like it," said Damon, 2-for-17 against Johnson is his career. "It's good to see the best right out of the chute. He's still pretty intimidating. I'm hoping this was my last time (facing him)."

Johnson threw about 50 pitches. "It's hard to kind of evaluate where you're at," he said. "(The hitters are) still kind of early in spring training too. The balls aren't rubbed up; there's a pitching screen in front of me."

Johnson said he is scheduled to pitch in Thursday's Grapefruit League opener or March 3.

- ED PRICE, Newark Star-Ledger

Utley rebuffs Internet rumor

CLEARWATER - Chase Utley joked that he wanted to be paid like Alex Rodriguez when asked Thursday about an Internet report with no attribution, one that has the second baseman negotiating with the Phillies on a multi-year contract.

Then he set the record straight.

"No, we haven't talked about it and to be honest with you, I haven't thought about it," Utley said.

Utley, 26, hit .291 with 28 homers and 105 RBIs in 147 games in 2005, his first full season in the majors. He won't be eligible for salary arbitration for another year and can't become a free agent until after the 2009 season.

New general manager Pat Gillick prefers to see Utley, then make a decision on whether to push for a long-term deal.

"I've met Chase and I like Chase," Gillick said. "I just want to see him play a little bit and get a look at him. We'll see what happens."

At the earliest, the sides would begin talks in October.

"I don't personally like to negotiate during the season," Gillick said.

Utley, who made $345,000 last season, is discussing a 2006 deal with the Phillies. He has no bargaining power, but likely will be bumped to around $450,000.

SAY CHEESE: Practice started late due to an extended picture day. Besides posing for head shots, everyone took turns on a slow-spinning chair for shots that will be used for a 3D computer game.

PHIL-INS: First baseman Ryan Howard and Utley are the only players on the 40-man roster without contracts. Pitchers Ryan Franklin, Gavin Floyd and Rheal Cormier impressed manager Charlie Manuel during Thursday's workout.

- RANDY MILLER, Bucks County (Pa.) Courier Times

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