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Schmidt keeping an eye on opportunities to manage

Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who interviewed for Devil Rays manager in October, likely would be interested if another team came calling.

"I seem to really get the juices flowing in the fall every year when I'm watching a lot of my buddies run ballclubs, and they're in the middle of pennant races," said Schmidt, who joined the Phillies on Monday for his annual spring training stint as a special hitting instructor. "If a job opportunity presents itself at that time of the year, I really focus on it as being something I want to do."

Schmidt, 56, was disappointed when passed over for the Rays' job.

"I had a tremendous interview and walked out of there thinking about where the hell I wanted to live in Tampa Bay, because I was pretty sure I had a good shot at that job," said Schmidt, whose only managing experience came in 2004, when he guided the Clearwater Threshers to a 55-81 record in the Florida State League.

Meantime, Schmidt is plugging his new book, Clearing the Bases, which will be released next month. In the book, Schmidt addresses steroids. If he had a vote, Schmidt says Mark McGwire would be on his Hall ballot, but he'd "take a one-year pass" on Rafael Palmeiro.

"It's not a Jose Canseco tell-all book, but I go right up to the line a little bit," Schmidt said.

BANGED UP: Outfielders Aaron Rowand (bruised left shin) and Pat Burrell (sore left foot) were sidelined, joining third baseman David Bell (tight left forearm) and first baseman Ryan Howard (dehydration and fever). All are day to day.

Reliever Chris Booker, recovering from offseason knee surgery, had his first scheduled throwing session off the mound canceled because he hadn't received medical clearance.

- RANDY MILLER,

Bucks County (Pa.) Courier Times

YANKEES

Torre cautious with Sheffield

TAMPA - Yankees rightfielder Gary Sheffield returned to the field after missing a day of workouts with back spasms.

"I knew I would come around," Sheffield said.

Even so, manager Joe Torre said he does not plan to play Sheffield in today's intrasquad game.

"I don't think he's going to miss a whole lot by missing that game," Torre said.

Sheffield made only one throw, to second base, as the team worked on cutoffs and relays. He swung gingerly in his first two rounds of batting practice before taking fuller cuts. Sheffield passed on shagging flies, then hit in the indoor cages and ran the bases.

ALSO AILING: Leftfielder Hideki Matsui skipped the running drills because of swelling in his left knee. "It happens during the season, it's happened before, so it's no big deal," Matsui said through interpreter Roger Kahlon.

- ED PRICE, Newark Star-Ledger

BLUE JAYS

Rios makes statement

DUNEDIN - Alex Rios arrived in camp wanting to send a message, and he didn't waste any time.

In the Blue Jays' first intrasquad game, the rightfielder had a three-run homer off Gustavo Chacin and a run-scoring single in his next at-bat in leading his team to a 9-6 win.

The performance got manager John Gibbons' attention.

"He has changed his stance a little bit," Gibbons noted. "He's a little more square, a little more crouched and in a stronger hitting position and now has a shorter path to the ball."

Rios, who has had batting practice power but has 11 homers in two seasons, has plenty of motivation: The team wants him to platoon in right with Eric Hinske.

BACK IN FORM: Roy Halladay, on the mound in a game situation for the first time since July, needed seven pitches to retire the side in one inning. The right-hander took a comebacker off his left shin and broke his tibia July 8, costing him the rest of the season.

The newcomers didn't fare as well. A.J. Burnett gave up a run on two hits in one inning, and closer B.J. Ryan gave up two runs on three hits while striking out two.

REED OUT: Outfielder Reed Johnson has a right elbow strain, an MRI exam showed. Gibbons said he'll need a week of inactivity.

- SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

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