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Monday, February 28, 2005; Page D11

Oliver Perez is recovering from what may be one of the strangest baseball injuries since Marty Cordova fell asleep in that tanning bed. The Pittsburgh Pirates' pitcher threw off the mound yesterday for the first time since injuring his left shoulder by sleeping awkwardly on it earlier this month. Perez threw 23 pitches, all fastballs, in a five-minute session held indoors because of heavy rain.

"Everything feels normal now," Perez said.

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Perez slept awkwardly on his shoulder the night before the first workout for pitchers and catchers. He began a moderate throwing program a few days later. "The biggest concern was to make sure there were no problems with how his shoulder felt, and he said it felt great," pitching coach Spin Williams said.

Barring any setbacks, Perez likely will be the Pirates' Opening Day starter. In 2004, his first full season in the majors, he was 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 239 strikeouts in 196 innings. He led all major league starters in strikeouts per nine innings. . . .

Yankees 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 Yankees GM Brian Cashman started negotiations Saturday.

Matsui is due $8 million in 2005, the final season of a three-year, $21 million 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.

-- From News Services

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