Williams to play first game Wednesday
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams was expected to play Wednesday for the first time this spring.
Williams' appendix was removed Feb. 26, and he was slated to make his debut in a minor league exhibition game. He will miss the Yankees' regular season opening two-game series in Tokyo on March 30 and 31 against Tampa Bay.
The Yankees have not determined whether Williams will start the season on the disabled list -- if he does, he would be eligible to play in the home opener April 8 against the Chicago White Sox.
"We'll see how the first few days go and get a feel," Yankees manager Joe Torre said before Monday's game against Detroit.
Right-hander Jon Lieber, who will start the season on the DL with an injured right groin, might not be ready to pitch until May. The Yankees will need a fifth starter only a couple of times in April.
"I don't think we need to push it," Torre said. "We need to make sure that it's right."
The Yankees opted to keep Lieber out of most on-field drills Monday. He has been throwing on flat ground.
New York is taking five extra pitchers to Japan -- Scott Proctor, Sam Marsonek, Jimmy Mann, Jorge De Paula and Alex Graman. De Paula could challenge to Donovan Osborne for the fifth spot in the rotation. Osborne and De Paula also are in contention with Proctor for the final spot in the bullpen.
Jose Contreras is expected to start the exhibition game in Tokyo against the Yomiuri Giants. Osborne is the probable starter against Hanshin Tigers.
Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown will start the regular season games in Japan against the Devil Rays.
Mussina will pitch in a minor league game Wednesday. His catcher will be Jorge Posada. ... Osborne is the scheduled starter for Wednesday night's game against Boston. ... 2B Enrique Wilson (right ankle) and INF/OF Miguel Cairo (right hamstring) could play in the next couple days. "Right now they are not concerns," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. Wilson is the front-runner to start at second.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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