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Embree takes his medicine

He won't blame infection for loss

TORONTO -- Alan Embree gave up the game-deciding home run last night a day after missing the Hall of Fame Game with an excused absence to attend to a jaw infection. But Embree refused to blame his performance -- 3 runs on 2 hits and 1 walk in 1/3 of an inning -- on his health.

''It doesn't feel good," he said of his mouth, ''but I can't use that as an excuse. It didn't affect me warming up or anything like that.

''I wound up having an infection back there and the penicillin took care of it. It turned out I had problems with the side of my jaw like TMJ type of stuff." (TMJ is an abbreviation for the joints that attach the lower jaw to the skull.)

''But that's not an excuse," Embree said. ''It was just a [expletive] pitch. You try to stay as consistent as possible and try to eliminate those long bumps in the road, but then when you have those bumps in the road, just try to minimize them."

Mueller OK

Toronto's Miguel Batista hit Bill Mueller in the left foot with a pitch in the ninth inning, and Mueller left the game. He had an X-ray at the stadium that was negative. Mueller was bracing for bad news, given his past. He was hit in the same place -- the bone on the side of the foot -- in 1999. Mueller broke that bone when hit by a Brett Tomko pitch in the season opener in 1999, forcing him to miss more than a month. ''Everything in the X-ray looked great," Mueller said. ''The trauma I've had previously, that's probably why it's so sensitive." Mueller expects to play today, which is good news for Terry Francona and the Sox. Since missing four consecutive games (April 21-24) with the flu, Mueller is hitting .325 (25 for 77) with 2 HRs, 13 RBIs, and a .436 on-base percentage. His 412-foot homer to center in the seventh inning lifted his season average, a cool .239 on the morning of April 25, to .293. His season OBP is up to .405. ''It's been a little while now," Francona said of Mueller's hot hitting. ''He's heating up."

Next step is shoe

Those hoping that Curt Schilling was on a David Wells-like timetable -- remove the plastic boot, long toss for a few days, throw a side session, throw a simulated game, then pitch, all in a span of nine days -- should scale back expectations. How far back is uncertain. Schilling isn't prepared to step straight into his standard-issue Reebok cleats just yet. The righthander, who shed the removable cast last Friday, is working with trainer Jim Rowe to develop a specialized shoe that will provide added support and balance as Schilling works to regain strength in his traumatized right ankle and underused right arm. ''I think some of it is a lack of strength," said Francona, speaking about the need for a special shoe. ''When he came back, he just didn't have the strength. That's a pivotal part of his delivery. Getting his balance point and staying there, he kind of fought it all spring. They're working on a shape that gives him some kind of a flat [bottom] that gives him some balance. I think they have an idea of what they want to do. I don't know that the first shoe that arrives is going to be the [one]. It's sort of a work in progress."

Holiday for Halladay

Roy Halladay was scratched from tomorrow's start and will be replaced by Gustavo Chacin. Halladay has a strained muscle in his left side. He beat the Sox April 19 and had a no-decision in an April 9 Blue Jay win against Boston . . . John Olerud went 2 for 4 with two singles as the designated hitter yesterday in his second game with Triple A Pawtucket. Olerud is alternating daily at first base and DH, as is rehabbing slugger Roberto Petagine (knee surgery). Olerud, who is now 3 for 8 with a home run in two games, was told he'd spend a week to 10 days with the PawSox before being called up. He's unlikely to join the team this weekend when the club visits the Yankees, Olerud's most recent team . . . Kevin Millar returned to the lineup after missing a game with a bruised left instep. ''It's sore," he said. ''It takes a couple days to heal. It's gotten better each day." Millar had the arch of his foot taped. ''That's where it's sore," he said. ''Seeing that I'm not in the best of shape, that weight going down [doesn't help]." It was noted that Millar -- who is hitting .237 with 2 home runs and 22 RBIs -- is just about due for his annual offensive outbreak. ''Just about one more week," Millar joked. A year ago Millar hit .278 with 3 HRs and 15 RBIs through the end of May, then batted .307 with 15 HRs and 59 RBIs the rest of the way . . . Johnny Damon stole second in the first, his fifth theft of the season but first in 23 games . . . Rule 5 outfielder Adam Stern reports to Pawtucket today and will begin his rehab assignment tomorrow. He's allowed up to a 20-day rehab stint before he must be called up. The former Braves prospect has never played above Double A. He must spend the year with the Sox or be offered back to Atlanta.

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