-- The accolades continue for Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro. Only days after receiving a phone call from President Bush, Palmeiro found an interesting message in his e-mail inbox on Monday. Hank Aaron sent Palmeiro a note to congratulate him for his 3,000th hit, which put the first baseman in an elite class. He joined Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray as the only players in baseball history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.

"Welcome to the club," the e-mail read.

Palmeiro proudly showed a printout of the message to reporters prior to Monday's game with the Minnesota Twins.

"I was surprised and very honored," he said. "It was very nice for him to do that."

Palmeiro said he has met Aaron a few times. "I don't know him very well, but I know who he is very well," he joked. "If there's a baseball god, he's it."

Palmeiro was also thankful for Commissioner Bud Selig's full-page ad in USA Today, which congratulated the first baseman for his accomplishments.

"I got a chance to talk to Bud today," Palmeiro said. "I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated what he did."

J. Lopez Improving

Catcher Javy Lopez continues to make progress and might be sent out for a rehabilitation assignment this weekend. On Monday, Lopez participated in catching drills and also hit on the field before the team took batting practice. Lopez will again hit on the field on Tuesday. . . .

Sammy Sosa returned to his customary fifth spot in the lineup after he hit in the two spot for three of the four games in Seattle.

"It wasn't written in stone," Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "That's part of managing, you try to get guys going."