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A pinch-hitting exhibition

Francona goes deep into 'bench'

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Dale Sveum, the third base coach, grabbed a bat and lined a base hit. Bill Haselman, the bullpen coach, lined to right. Ino Guerrero, assistant coach and FOM (friend of Manny), went 0 for 2 but nearly dumped a single into right field that would have given the Sox an eighth-inning lead. Bullpen coach Jason LaRocque grounded into a double play.

But on a day when Johnny Damon and Trot Nixon coached third base, and Damon warmed up for his brief appearance in the game by playing catch with the fans in the center-field bleachers, the surest sign that Red Sox manager Terry Francona treated yesterday's Hall of Fame game against the Detroit Tigers as something less than Armageddon was the appearance of a batter with no name or number on his jersey.

That would be Peter Chase, the team's 26-year-old media coordinator, who struck out on four pitches in a 6-4 Tiger win, the game decided on a two-run, two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth by Single A outfielder Derek Nicholson. Single A Sox pitcher Barry Hertzler gave up the deciding blow.

Chase, a 2001 graduate in journalism from Boston University, confirmed after the game that the 7,000-plus in attendance had witnessed his professional debut.

''I hadn't played since the eighth grade, Babe Ruth League in Falls Church, Va.," Chase said. ''I don't recall my last at-bat there, but I'm sure it was more successful than this one."

Chase's appearance in a game in which the Sox started their regulars but quickly inserted mostly minor leaguers -- including a 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic, Willy E. Mota, who put on a show with a home run and two terrific throws -- was mostly a spontaneous act.

''We'd been joking about it the last couple of days during Terry's sessions with the media," Chase said. ''I was kind of blowing it off until Tito said, 'Are you going to cheese out?' So I showed up in top of the third inning, ready to go.

''I'm glad I went down on four pitches as opposed to three. I didn't check out the video enough. I should have spent more time with Billy Broadbent [the video coordinator] and Papa Jack [hitting coach Ron Jackson]."

Chase said he was congratulated by Francona in the dugout.

''He said, 'Great job,' " Chase said. ''I think he was surprised I took him up on the offer."

The levity was welcome on an unusually trying travel day for the Sox, who left Fenway Park at 7:30 a.m., flew to Albany, then bused 90 minutes to the heart of the Leatherstocking region for the game, their first appearance in this annual exhibition since 1989, when the game wasn't played because the scheduled opponents, the Cincinnati Reds, were forced to scratch because of plane problems.

''I think you'll see some sleepy, grumpy guys," Kevin Millar said.

But the Sox did a nice job of hiding their discomfort, especially Damon with his crowd-pleasing antics, and David Ortiz, who peppered home runs off the houses beyond the short outfield fences. Damon also gave away his game jersey to a child who asked for an autograph.

The last time the Sox actually played here was in 1985, when 22-year-old Roger Clemens held his future team, the Houston Astros, to a run on three hits in five innings.

Absentee list

Curt Schilling (Senate business), John Halama (personal matter), Manny Ramirez (filming a TV commercial), Alan Embree (dentist), and Keith Foulke (excused no-show) were not here for yesterday's exhibition. ''If he's done talking, I think there's a chance we'll see Schill this weekend," Francona joked . . . Millar was still hobbling enough that he withdrew from the home run hitting contest (won by Ortiz), but the first baseman was confident that his left foot is recovering from the ball he fouled off his instep. ''We had X-rays [Sunday]. It's just a deep bone bruise," said Millar, who asserted that with a proper tape job, he should be able to play tonight in Toronto. Asked if he'd been able to induce some bleeding, Millar didn't miss a beat. ''I put red Sharpie all over my sock," he said. ''I said, 'See this Schilling, anybody can do it.' " Francona hesitated to say whether Millar, who plans to wear a protective pad, would be in the lineup tonight. ''I'm not sure about anything right now," he said . . . David Wells, scheduled to start against the Blue Jays tonight, and Bronson Arroyo didn't miss the chance to make a little side money, both drawing long lines at a Main Street autograph shop. Wells was charging $80 for his signature, Arroyo $35. ''I remember when I came up here with the Marlins," Millar said, ''and me and Ryan Dempster were signing with Pete Rose and Tony Perez, and I'm thinking, 'What are we doing here?' But we were signing for 30 bucks, too. I think the store got half. And Bronson's done a lot more than I had back then."

Moving up

John Olerud took a major step back toward the big leagues, joining the Pawtucket Red Sox for their game in Norfolk, Va., last night. Olerud, who signed with the Sox earlier this month, had been in extended spring training. Also due to join the PawSox is Rule 5 center fielder Adam Stern, who had been on the 60-day disabled list with a fractured right thumb. Stern is scheduled to join the PawSox tomorrow, according to Francona . . . Former Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden sang, ''Take Me Out to the Ballgame," at the Hall of Fame game . . . Schilling, who has been talking only to WEEI radio since he went on the disabled list, made a call yesterday to the Big Show to give an update on his recovery. He said he will need a special shoe to correct a problem with his balance. ''We're working our butts off to find somebody to build me a shoe that I can actually pitch in," he said. ''There are issues, and have been since spring training, with some of the fine points of my mechanics. One of them is balance. This is a different situation from last fall. Last October was about stabilizing the joint and it didn't work because of the stitches we put in the ankle."

Bill Griffith of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


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