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YANKEES NOTEBOOK

Rivera relatives killed in Panama

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was headed back to Panama yesterday, a day after two of his wife's relatives were electrocuted while cleaning the pool at his home.

Victor Dario Avila, a cousin of Rivera's wife, Clara, and his 14-year-old son were killed Saturday, Rivera's cousin, Irma Rivera, told the Associated Press.

The teenager, also named Victor Dario Avila, apparently touched an electrical wire while cleaning the pool in Puerto Caimito, 40 miles east of Panama City. His father died trying to save him, Irma Rivera said.

It was not immediately clear when Rivera would return to New York, where the Yankees open the American League Championship Series tomorrow night against the Red Sox.

Yankees manager Joe Torre was expected to address the matter during today's workout at Yankee Stadium.

Avila was a fisherman who also cleaned and maintained Rivera's home. Clara Rivera was traveling to Panama following the accident, family members said.

"Everyone is sad," Irma Rivera said. "Victor was a good man."

Sore subject
As tired as Orlando Hernandez is about answering questions regarding his inflamed right shoulder, the fact remains he's questionable to pitch at all in the postseason.

"I still don't feel 100 percent. I still don't feel I can help this team on the mound," El Duque said Saturday.

Hernandez, who was unavailable in the Division Series against the Twins, may throw in the bullpen today in New York. Whether he'll be available to start or relieve in the ALCS is up in the air.

"I don't know yet," Hernandez said. "We'll see."

Torre believes Hernandez's short answers and quick temper are solely a reflection of "his frustration with not feeling as good as he'd like to."

But even with Hernandez's questionable status, Torre sounded as if he would include the righthander on his ALCS roster.

"He's too good in postseason to write him off, as long as he's walking around," Torre said.

Giambi likely out
More and more it appears Jason Giambi will be a permanent spectator in these playoffs. Giambi was not activated for the Division Series because of his slow comeback from a benign tumor.

He's reportedly scheduled to see a doctor today, having complained of dizziness.

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