Garciaparra ready after missing 57 games

BOSTON -- Nomar Garciaparra returned to the Boston lineup
with a flourish, answering a standing ovation with a base hit in
his first at-bat of the season on Wednesday night.

The All-Star shortstop, who missed the first 57 games with
Achilles tendinitis, twice touched the bill of his cap and waved to
the cheering crowd when he took his position in the first inning.
In the second, he fielded a one-hopper to start a double play.

He came to bat to a standing ovation in the bottom of the second
and swung at the first pitch, fouling it down the third-base line.
He swatted the next pitch from Brian Lawrence through the left side
for a base hit, giving the two-time AL batting champ a temporary
batting average of 1.000.

He took third on Kevin Millar's double and was stranded there.

Pokey Reese, who had been impressive filling in for Garciaparra,
was not in the lineup, with Mark Bellhorn at second and Kevin
Youkilis at third.

"We're going to play a few games and mix in a few days off,"
Garciaparra said before the game. "I don't know when those will be
just yet."

Garciaparra was 0-for-8 in spring training before he was hit in
the right heel by a ball in March. Although the team originally
hoped he would be back for opening day, he was placed on the
disabled list and did not resume playing until he went on a rehab
assignment last week.

Garciaparra went 5-for-18 with one homer on a rehabilitation
assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket and returned to Boston over the
weekend. But after testing his heel before the Red Sox game on
Tuesday, he decided to play one more game in Pawtucket; he went

"The way I felt Saturday, I felt pretty good, They said let's
have one more day," Garciaparra said Wednesday. Asked if he was
100 percent, he said: "I don't think I'll be 100 percent for a
long time."

First baseman Brian Daubach was sent outright to Triple-A
Pawtucket to make room on the roster for Garciaparra. The Red Sox
also optioned right-hander Jamie Brown to Pawtucket and recalled
left-hander Mark Malaska from there.

Daubach batted .227 with two homers and eight RBIs in 30 games
for Boston this season. Brown had a 5.87 ERA in four relief
appearances for the Red Sox.

Malaska was 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 13 relief appearances for
Boston earlier in the season. He was optioned to Pawtucket on May
15 and went 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA in nine relief appearances there.

Red Sox outfielder Trot Nixon was expected to play for Pawtucket
on Thursday, a spokesman for the minor league team said. Nixon
suffered a back injury during spring training, then injured his
left thigh muscle while recovering. He has yet to make his 2004
major league debut.

Asked for a timetable on his return, Nixon said, "Five days,
six days, or something like that."

Nixon played five innings in the first game of a doubleheader
for Single-A Sarasota on a rehab assignment Tuesday night. He went
two-for-three with a double, an RBI and a run scored.

"There probably won't be too many triples out there unless a
guy falls down in the outfield," he said. "But I think the most
important thing is to see how it feels defensively."