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Bonds Gets Into Cage for Swings

From Associated Press

Less than four weeks after arthroscopic surgery, Barry Bonds surprised his teammates and coaches by jumping into the batting cage Sunday. He faced nine pitches from new closer Armando Benitez at the club’s spring training facility at Scottsdale, Ariz.

Bonds took only a couple of swings, sending hard grounders to the right side of the infield, but just being at home plate is significant progress for the 40-year-old most valuable player of the National League.

He also played catch in the outfield before heading to an afternoon rehabilitation session in a pool.

“Just to stand in the cage and track balls was enough for me, just to show that to my teammates,” Bonds said.

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So why is Bonds’ recovery moving so quickly?

“Itch,” he said with a laugh. “The itch to be part of the group. The itch to be part of your team.”

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Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher Oliver Perez threw off the mound for the first time since injuring his left shoulder by sleeping awkwardly on it this month.

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Perez threw 23 pitches, all fastballs, in a five-minute session held indoors because of heavy rain. “I feel so happy and good,” Perez said. “Everything feels normal now.”

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New York Yankee left fielder Hideki Matsui doesn’t expect talks on his possible contract extension to be completed during spring training. Arn Tellem, Matsui’s agent, and Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman started negotiations Saturday.

Matsui is due $8 million in 2005, the final season of a $21-million, three-year deal. He has a clause in his contract that requires the Yankees to put him on waivers unless a new contract is agreed to by Nov. 15.

“Probably not going to happen prior to the beginning of the season,” Matsui said through an interpreter. “My original plan was to play through my three years and then decide where to go from there. That was my original plan when I came here, and that still is.”


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