Doctors upgraded the condition of Hall of Fame pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter to serious from critical yesterday and said he continued to make slow progress from a head injury.

"Every time I visit him, he is a little more alert," said his wife, Helen Hunter, in a statement released by the Hunters' minister.

Hunter began physical rehabilitation on Tuesday at the Greenville, N.C., hospital.

The 53-year-old Hunter fell and hit his head Aug. 8 on concrete steps at his home in Hertford. He was unconscious for several days, but awoke and began responding to commands. Hunter has Lou Gehrig's disease.

LANGSTON TO DL: Mark Langston was placed on the 15-day disabled list as the Indians made roster moves involving four pitchers.

Langston was put on the DL for the second time this season after pulling his left quadriceps on the last pitch of a rough first inning Tuesday, when he gave up six runs and six hits.

AILING: Boston RHP Bret Saberhagen will miss at least one start because of a weak shoulder, and current closer Tim Wakefield will move back into the rotation Sunday in Texas.

Saberhagen, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, was chased after two innings -- his shortest outing in four years -- in Tuesday's 12-1 loss to Oakland. Saberhagen is 9-5 with a 3.36 ERA in 18 starts.

TRADED: The Brewers traded OF Rich Becker to the Athletics for a player to be named later. Becker, 27, hit .252 with five home runs and 16 runs batted this season for Milwaukee, which he joined as a free agent in January.