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Yanks' Wright wins first start in nearly four months

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Nearly four months after thinking
his career might be over, Jaret Wright is back -- and pitching well
-- for the New York Yankees.

Wright won his first start since going on the disabled list
because of shoulder pain, and Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield
homered Monday night, helping the Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Devil
Rays 5-2 for their fifth straight victory.

"If I could have envisioned it, this is exactly what I would
have envisioned," Wright said. "Coming in after three months and
being able to compete and getting a win. It's a really good
feeling."

Rodriguez homered for the third straight game, hitting a
two-run, fourth-inning shot off Casey Fossum (6-9) to boost his
American League-leading total to 36. Sheffield hit No. 25, a solo
blast off reliever Travis Harper, for a 5-2 lead in the seventh.

But Wright (3-2) was the story for the Yankees, whose starting
rotation has been in shambles because of injuries.

"He's one of the guys we counted on when spring training
started," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He has basically had a
long, boring road back because there wasn't a whole lot for him to
do other than rest it and rehab it. Right now, he's tickled pink."

Pitching for the first time since April 23, the right-hander
allowed two runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings -- his longest
outing of the season. He struck out two, walked one and hit three
batters, including Jonny Gomes twice.

In between the plunkings, Gomes hit a solo homer off Wright in
the fourth. The Devil Rays also scored on Toby Hall's RBI single in
the fifth.

Tanyon Sturtze replaced Wright with two runners on and one out
in the seventh, and Tom Gordon pitched a perfect eighth for the
Yankees. Mariano Rivera, who also hit Gomes with a pitch, got the
last three outs for his 32nd save, moving ahead of Jeff Reardon for
fifth place on the career list with 368.

Wright had been on the DL since April 24, one day after leaving
a loss against Texas. It was the eighth time he has been on the
disabled list in his nine-year career, and the sixth because of a
shoulder problem.

"Coming out of that game was a definite low point. I didn't
know if I'd be able to throw again -- how it would play out,"
Wright said, crediting pitching specialist Billy Connors and
trainer Mark Littlefield with helping him get back on track.

"The guys worked with me. ... We put in the time to give myself
a chance to come back. It's just super to be back."

Monday's start was his fifth of the season, and second against
Tampa Bay, which roughed up the right-hander for eight runs and 11
hits in 5 1/3 innings in the Yankees' 19-8 victory over the Devil
Rays on April 18.

This time, Wright held the Devil Rays without a hit until Gomes
homered with two outs in the fourth to trim New York's lead to 2-1.

"To be on the DL as long as he has, he came out and pitched
well," Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. "We had a few
chances. We didn't get hits when we needed them."

Rodriguez homered for the sixth time in nine games, hitting a
towering shot to center field that hit one of the catwalks that
support the dome at Tropicana Field, approximately 100 feet above
the playing surface.

As he was circling the bases, Rodriguez was not sure if the ball
-- picked up by centerfielder Joey Gathright -- was in play or had
been ruled a homer. The New York star even slid into third base to
beat Gathright's throw back to the infield before being waved home.

"I almost pulled a hamstring," an embarrassed Rodriguez said.
"I was confused. I hit the ball, and then I saw the outfielder
kind of stop. I said no way he's going to catch this. When I saw
the ball on the field, I thought it was a live ball."

The Yankees added two unearned runs in the fifth. Bernie
Williams doubled and scored when third baseman Alex Gonzalez booted
Derek Jeter's ground ball for an error. Two batters later, Jeter
trotted home on Sheffield's RBI single.

Fossum, who beaten the Yankees twice this season, allowed four
runs and five hits in six innings. The Devil Rays starter struck
out four and walked four before being replaced by Harper, who gave
up the homer to Sheffield with two outs in the seventh.

Game notes
Jeter started at DH for the second time in his career. He
was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer in his only other start at DH,
July 7, 2002, vs. Toronto. ... To make room on the roster for
Wright, the Yankees optioned left-handed reliever Wayne Franklin to
Triple-A Columbus.