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Matsui and Sheffield miss intrasquad game

Posted: Tuesday Feb 28, 2006 4:59 PM
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield were held out of the New York Yankees' intrasquad game Tuesday for precautionary reasons.

Matsui has a sore left knee, while Sheffield has been slowed by back spasms. Both took batting practice and participated in fielding drills.

"During the season they would have played,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said, adding both would "probably'' play in Thursday's spring training opener against Philadelphia.

"The knee isn't really that bad,'' Matsui said through an interpreter. "It's actually improving. It seems like the swelling is going down on a daily basis. This has happened in the past, too. I think being that it's just spring training right now, (it's) just for precautionary measures.''

Sheffield continues improving and said he could played.

Torre announced his spring rotation following the game. Randy Johnson is scheduled to start Saturday, lining him up to start the regular-season opener.

"That was the idea,'' Torre said. "We haven't made anything official because we wait until a little later just to make sure everybody is getting the work in.''

Mike Mussina will pitch Sunday, meaning he could start the second game of the regular season.

Shawn Chacon starts Thursday, followed one day later by Jaret Wright. Chien-Ming Wang's spring debut is set for Monday.

Mussina allowed three hits in two scoreless innings against the regulars Tuesday. He missed three weeks last September with an elbow injury.

"I had pretty good location,'' Mussina said. "I wasn't disappointed. My arm feels good. My elbow is fine.''

Philip Hughes, New York's 2004 first-round draft pick, had two perfect innings, including one strikeout, against minor leaguers.

"He's a no-miss,'' Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said. "He will be in the major leagues soon. I won't be surprised if I see him before the year is over.''

Closer Mariano Rivera had his first batting practice session, throwing 39 pitches over six minutes.

"I'm happy with how it went,'' Rivera said. "I'm right there were I want to be.''

The Yankees have taken a slow approach with Rivera during spring training the past few years.

"I've seen enough, he's ready,'' spring training pitching instructor Mel Stottlemyre said as he ran toward the bullpen while watching Rivera.

New center fielder Johnny Damon went 1-for-2, and made a diving catch in the second on Eric Duncan's liner.

"I think that's just part of my character,'' Damon said. "I just feel like injuries will happen if you don't play hard. That's the least I can do is always go out there and give it my all.''

Former starting center fielder Bernie Williams replaced Sheffield in right and received a standing ovation after making an over-the-shoulder running catch on a deep fly by Kevin Thompson.

"Hopefully I was able to raise some eyes, show a little bit of what I can do out there in the outfield,'' Williams said.

Notes: Hall of Famer and spring training coach Reggie Jackson arrived in camp. ... RHP Tanyon Sturtze (tired shoulder) had his fourth bullpen session. He might have one more before throwing BP. ...Matsui again said he has no regrets about not playing for Japan in the World Baseball Classic. "Once I made my decision, I didn't look back,'' Matsui said. ... Torre said Damon, Williams, SS Derek Jeter and 3B Alex Rodriguez will play Thursday before departing to join their WBC teams.

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