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BASEBALL NOTEBOOK

Young steps up to plate

He, not Soriano, will be Texas SS

Michael Young wanted to get the issue settled. He's ready to be the Texas Rangers' shortstop.

Young told manager Buck Showalter yesterday, the day before the team's first full-squad workout, that he would move from second base to fill the void created by the trade of American League MVP and Gold Glove winner Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees.

That means two-time All-Star Alfonso Soriano, the player Texas got from New York in the A-Rod deal, will remain at second base.

"Rather than just dragging it all out, I wanted to get it over with and consider myself a shortstop and get mentally prepared to do it," Young said. "Now I can get focused on playing shortstop during spring training."

Young figured if he might end up playing shortstop anyway, he wanted as much work as possible there during the six weeks before the season opener.

"I'm happy that he said he wants to play shortstop," Soriano said. "I have too many changes in my mind now, change of city, change of teammates."

Yankees active It was a busy day in Yankees camp.

Free agent Travis Lee and the team reached agreement on a $2.25 million, one-year contract, giving New York another option at first base in case Jason Giambi's surgically repaired knee is still shaky.

The deal is pending the results of a physical.

Lee, 28 hit a career-high .275 with 19 home runs and 70 RBIs last year for Tampa Bay in his lone AL season. He had a .998 fielding percentage last season, making only three errors. The Yankees already had signed Tony Clark as a possible backup.

Also, general manager Brian Cashman and Mariano Rivera's agent met yesterday, talking about a possible deal that would keep the closer with New York through 2007.

Rivera is heading into the final season of a $39.99 million, four-year contract. He's eligible for free agency after this season and would like a three-year extension.

The Yankees said righthander Jon Lieber will not throw off a mound for at least 5-7 days because of an injured right groin.

And on the more bizarre side of Yankeeland, manager Joe Torre left in the middle of the Yankees' workout after his father-in-law fell and broke his wrist. "He'll be here tomorrow," Cashman said.

And Yankees owner George Steinbrenner reportedly more playfully continued his war of words with Red Sox owner John W. Henry. A fan of "The Wizard of Oz," Steinbrenner now has taken to calling Henry "the Scarecrow" and "the strawman." Just joking, of course.

Canseco to try

Jose Canseco plans to try out for the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2 1/2 years after his last appearance in the major leagues.

The six-time All-Star will attend the Dodgers' open tryout Monday in Vero Beach, Fla.

"Canseco's people called us," Matt Slater, the Dodgers' director of professional scouting, said yesterday. "He's welcome to come."

Canseco last played in the majors in 2001, when he hit .258 with 16 homers for the Chicago White Sox.

Reliever takes a seat

Seattle Mariners reliever Rafael Soriano will be sidelined 3-4 weeks after an MRI revealed a strained interior oblique muscle on his left side. The 24-year-old righthander was throwing off the mound Monday when he felt a pinch in his left abdomen . . . Phillies closer Billy Wagner will be sidelined for a week with an inflamed finger that caused pain during a workout yesterday . . . Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker thinks suspicions over which baseball players are using steroids smacks of a McCarthy witch hunt. "I hate steroids. I knew Lyle Alzado," Baker said, referring to the NFL star who died of cancer after admitting to several years of steroid use. While Baker said, "I've got my own ideas about guys around the league," he said all players are being tainted. "It's like McCarthyism or something. They're looking to see who looks like a Communist." . . . Pete Rose will be the subject of an ESPN movie beginning production this spring. "Hustle," will premiere Sept. 25. The two-hour movie will focus on events in Rose's life and baseball career in the mid to late 1980s, including the lifetime ban he agreed to following an investigation of gambling -- a suspension that has kept the career hits leader off the Hall of Fame ballot.

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