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Sunday, March 27, 2005; Page E13

First baseman Jim Thome and outfielders Kenny Lofton and Marlon Byrd are still sidelined as the Philadelphia Phillies enter the final week of spring training.

Thome is day to day with a lower back strain. He will continue therapy, but hasn't been cleared to take batting practice. Thome has missed the last four games, but is likely to be ready for the season opener against Washington on April 4.

_____Griffey Starts_____

Ken Griffey Jr. made his fourth appearance in center field for Cincinnati, which is taking it slow with his surgically repaired hamstring. He had an infield single in four at-bats in the Reds' 9-3 win over Toronto. Griffey has played in 11 games in the outfield and as a designated hitter this spring, batting .333 with no home runs. He will get today off, then play in the field next week to get ready for the season.

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Lofton, out since March 11 with a strained left hamstring, is improving and will continue taking batting practice, but it's unlikely he'll start the season. Byrd hasn't played since dislocating his right ring finger last Sunday. His status for the opener is uncertain. . . .

New York Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams is expected to play in a minor league contest today, his first game action since an upper back strain sidelined him last weekend. . . .

Dave Williams was chosen as the Pittsburgh Pirates' No. 5 starter, largely for lack of options.

The left-handed Williams couldn't hold a four-run lead in his most recent start, yet was chosen over incumbent Ryan Vogelsong and prime prospect Zach Duke. Williams joins left-handers Oliver Perez and Mark Redman and right-handers Kip Wells and Josh Fogg in the rotation. . . .

The Minnesota Twins placed right-hander Grant Balfour (strained right forearm) on the 15-day disabled list and outfielder Jason Kubel (knee surgery) on the 60-day DL.

-- From News Services

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