Rafael Palmeiro's right knee stiffened a bit in today's 50-degree weather, prompting Texas Rangers Manager Johnny Oates to use him as a designated hitter in tonight's opening game of a first-round series with the New York Yankees.

Lee Stevens, who was originally scheduled to be the Texas DH, was shifted to first base. Oates has made similar moves several times this season when Palmeiro has been bothered by the knee that has been surgically repaired twice. . . .

Yankees legend Yogi Berra visited the home clubhouse before tonight's game. His appearance is his first in the clubhouse in years, after he once vowed never to return to Yankee Stadium until owner George Steinbrenner, who dismissed him as manager, sold the team. Berra threw out the first pitch of the game.

Large-Market Success

Even with his team on the verge of making the playoffs last week, Cincinnati Reds General Manager Jim Bowden warned reporters not to read too much into the success of one small-market team.

"We're an aberration," he said. "It doesn't take a genius to know the teams with the highest payrolls--with maybe one exception--are going to be the ones in the playoffs."

That statement turned out to be more accurate than Bowden would have liked. When the New York Mets won the National League's wild-card berth by defeating the Reds, 5-0, in a one-game playoff Monday night, it once more pointed out the game's dramatic economic disparities.

None of the teams with the 18 lowest payrolls made the playoffs. While teams such as the Royals and Expos were out of the race by the end of April, the Reds, who had the 22nd-highest payroll at $33 million, at least survived to force a 163rd game.

Meanwhile, seven of the top nine payrolls belong to teams in the playoffs. Only the Orioles and Dodgers spent big money and didn't make the postseason. The closest thing to a middle-market success is the Houston Astros, who won the National League Central with the 12th-highest payroll--$52.4 million.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who said economic disparity between teams is the single biggest problem in baseball, is awaiting a study he commissioned on the economics of the game. That report is likely to suggest one of two solutions: either the owners agree to more revenue sharing or the players accept a hard salary cap.

With owners opposed to revenue sharing and players against a salary cap, some owners have suggested disbanding failing teams such as the Expos and Royals. That idea apparently has little widespread support.

Back in the Rotation

Todd Stottlemyre figures he's lucky to be pitching anywhere, let alone Wednesday night's Game 2 of the divisional playoffs against the New York Mets.

Four months ago, when he tore 70 percent of his rotator cuff, he thought he might never pitch again. For the emotional, sometimes hotheaded right-hander, this playoff run with the Arizona Diamondbacks means more than all the others he's had.

"Even though I've been in the postseason before, each time to me is more exciting and I appreciate it more," Stottlemyre said. "I've been lucky. After going through this summer, not knowing if I was ever going to pitch again, this is extra special.

"There's no guarantees physically for me in the future, and there's no guarantees that the club will jell like this again."

Stottlemyre refused to undergo surgery after the May 17 injury at San Francisco because he knew it meant he'd be through for the season. He sensed the team was headed for a great year, and he wanted to be a part of it. Besides, at age 34, he knew it could be two years or more before he returned to pitching, if he ever returned at all.

Red Sox Include Gordon

Red Sox closer Tom Gordon's sidetracked season took a positive turn when he was put on the postseason roster despite missing 3 1/2 months with an injured elbow.

Red Sox Manager Jimy Williams confirmed it yesterday although the official announcement of rosters for the best-of-five division series against the Cleveland Indians was expected this morning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.