Torre decides on starting center fielder Monday

Updated: April 4, 2004, 6:44 PM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton are both expected to be in the lineup when the New York Yankees resume their regular season Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

With Williams recovered from an appendectomy that caused him to miss most of the spring-training schedule, manager Joe Torre has to decide which one will play center field and which one will be the designated hitter.

Torre planned to announce his decision Monday.

"The only thing that you hope is the players will understand that they're all qualified and they all have been big players," Torre said. "But there's only so much room for so many people. I'm going to do the best I can to keep as many of the guys as sharp as I can."

Williams played seven innings in center and went 1-for-2 with two walks in Sunday's 3-3 tie between the Yankees and their top minor league prospects. He has played in 10 exhibition games, eight of them in the minors, since his appendix was removed Feb. 26.

"He's ready to go," Torre said.

Jason Giambi, the DH against Tampa Bay in Japan last Wednesday, will be back at first base. The artificial turf in the Tokyo Dome had aggravated his left knee, which was operated on during the offseason.

New York's Mike Mussina faces Victor Zambrano in a rematch of the opener, won by the Devil Rays 8-3. Mussina allowed five runs and 10 hits over five innings.

"It's not a bad taste," he said. "I just want to get back out there and pitch."

The Yankees and Devil Rays, who spilt the two-game series in Tokyo Dome, will have had five days off before resuming the season.

"We're as ready to restart as we could be," Torre said.

Kevin Brown, who allowed one run and six hits in Wednesday's 12-1 over Tampa Bay, will start Wednesday against Paul Abbott.

Notes: Third base coach Luis Sojo left the team following the death of his mother in Miami. He is expected to return at the end of the week. ... RHP Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez reported no problems one day after throwing batting practice for the first time since shoulder surgery last May. ... No. 5 starter Jon Lieber (right groin) is scheduled to resume throwing off a mound Friday. He hopes to start pitching in minor league games in about two weeks. ... 1B Travis Lee played catch for the first time since hurting his left shoulder March 16. He could rejoin the Yankees in about 10 days. ... John Rodriguez hit a two-run homer for the Yankees' minor leaguers. Derek Jeter had an RBI single. Darren Bragg homered and Jeff Deardorff tied it for the Yankees with a run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth. New York relievers Paul Quantrill, Felix Heredia, Gabe White and Tom Gordon each worked a perfect inning.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press