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Jays' Rios stakes claim to rightfield with another HR

Alex Rios has given the Blue Jays something to ponder while he prepares to head off for the World Baseball Classic.

He hit his second homer in two days of intrasquad games. Rios, who hit a three-run shot off left-hander Gustavo Chacin on Monday, followed with a two-run shot off Dusin McGowan.

Toronto is experimenting with Eric Hinske in the outfield. If he plays well, Hinske would platoon in rightfield with Rios. Rios was the Jays' everyday rightfielder last season while Hinske played first base. The arrival of Lyle Overbay prompted the change.

"As much talent as (Rios) has, when it all comes together, you'd be crazy not to keep him on the field," Jays manager John Gibbons said.

Rios, who leaves for the Puerto Rican camp Thursday, said he was merely playing the games.

"I'm not putting any pressure on myself," Rios said. "I just came here to do what I can do. I won't try to do anything I can't. I'm pretty relaxed."

MORE CLASSIC: After two days of practicing at 100 percent, Vernon Wells expects to join the U.S. team Thursday. His inclusion was in jeopardy when he recently strained his left quad while weightlifting.

- SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

PHILLIES

Starters getting healthy

CLEARWATER - The Phillies weren't fazed when half of their starting eight was lost in a span of two days this week. And sure enough, most are healing quickly.

Third baseman David Bell (tight left forearm) and leftfielder Pat Burrell (sore right foot) are feeling better, and both are available for Thursday's Grapefruit League opener against the Yankees in Tampa. Centerfielder Aaron Rowland, hit in the left shin by a Daniel Haigwood pitch in Monday's intrasquad game, is fine, too.

But first baseman Ryan Howard still is recovering from a high fever. For the third day in a row, Howard showed up for practice only to be sent straight home. Even if Howard is better by today, he won't play until at least Saturday, when the Phillies have split-squad games against Toronto and Venezuela's World Baseball Classic team.

STILL GOOD: Pitcher Cole Hamels, seemingly recovered from a back injury, threw in the bullpen for the second time in three days with no problems.

- RANDY MILLER

Bucks County (Pa.) Courier Times

YANKEES

Chacon to start opener

TAMPA - Shawn Chacon will start Thursday's Grapefruit League opener against Philadelphia with Sean Henn relieving. Jaret Wright and Jorge DePaula are scheduled to go Friday against the Phillies.

Randy Johnson and Scott Proctor are slated for Saturday against the Reds with Mike Mussina and Phil Hughes on Sunday against the Blue Jays and Chien-Ming Wang and Aaron Small on Monday against the Jays.

LOOKING OKAY IN RIGHT: Bernie Williams played rightfield in Tuesday's intrasquad game and did not look out of place.

"I have to think about it a little bit," said Williams, who was 0-for-2 with a walk and a run scored. "The ball just seems different from that angle. Hopefully, I was able to raise some eyes and show a little bit of what I can do in the outfield."

Williams, who last played a position other than centerfield in 1992, made a running catch of Kevin Thompson's third-inning drive to the warning track.

"Bernie did a great job," manager Joe Torre said. "He looked very at home out there."

The "Whitey" team defeated the "Yogi" team 8-7. Kevin Howard hit a three-run homer and had five RBIs. Kevin Reese was 3-for-5 and Felix Escalona 2-for-2 with a triple.

MISCELLANY: Gary Sheffield (back) and Hideki Matsui (left knee swelling) sat out the game. Torre and both outfielders said they could have played. Mariano Rivera faced hitters for the first time this spring, throwing 39 pitches in seven minutes of batting practice. Mussina allowed three hits in two scoreless innings, striking out Jason Giambi. Mussina threw 36 pitches, 26 for strikes. Johnny Damon was 1-for-2, lining a single to right in his first at-bat, and made a sliding catch in center.

- ED PRICE, Newark Star-Ledger

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