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Red Sox 9, Mets 5

FORT MYERS, Fla. --Chan Ho Park started a game for the New York Mets after solving his physical and visa problems. He could start many more if he keeps pitching the way he did Wednesday.

"What I take away from the outing is the way he finished up. That's what I like to see," Mets manager Willie Randolph said.

Signed as a free agent on Feb. 9, Park rebounded from a one-run first inning and allowed just a single in his other two as the Boston Red Sox beat the Mets 9-5. He is competing with at least five others for three spots in the Mets rotation.

"The first inning I feel like I overpitched," he said, "and then (to) come back in the second inning and third inning, that's what I feel good about."

Last season, Park was 7-7 with a 4.81 ERA with San Diego. He was sidelined by intestinal bleeding during the second half and had surgery on Aug. 23 before being activated a month later.

He was supposed to start Friday against St. Louis but didn't have a work visa since the Mets had signed the native of South Korea to a one-year contract less than a month earlier. So he threw 35 pitches that day in a simulated game against minor leaguers.

He had won at least 13 games in five straight seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers but struggled after signing a five-year contract with the Texas Rangers before the 2002 season.

"I felt very good this past offseason, especially physical-wise after surgery," Park said. "It's a new team. I'm trying to get a job."

Boston's Jonathan Papelbon wants to keep his new one as a starter after being a dominant closer as a rookie last season. But that depends on whether one of several candidates for his old job pitches well enough.

"There's no reason why any one of those guys down there shouldn't win the job," Papelbon said. "I think that once somebody does, it'll take a little bit of pressure off me because that thought will be out of my mind."

The Red Sox have said returning Papelbon to the closer's role is a longshot, and Papelbon is excited about being in the rotation.

On Wednesday, he pitched three scoreless innings with four strikeouts while allowing one run and one hit. He followed Tim Wakefield, who pitched the first three innings, and could make his first exhibition start in his next outing.

"When I come to the park, my whole focus is starting and I think that's where I can help this ballclub out the most," Papelbon said.

Wakefield, though, doesn't like losing a closer with 35 saves and an 0.92 ERA last year.

"I'd like to see him back there saving games for us again this year," Wakefield said. "I think he's going to do great in whatever role he's given."

After being so dominant, Papelbon knows it will take time for fans and teammates to feel comfortable with his new role.

"Right now it's just really hard for them seeing me doing something different," he said, "until I get out there and prove to my teammates and coaches and the staff that, hey, I mean business in this role that I'm in."

After Papelbon left, the Mets tied the game 5-5 with five runs in the seventh -- three scoring on Damion Easley's three-run homer off Hideki Okajima. Boston won the game in the ninth on a grand slam by non-roster infielder Ed Rogers off Ambiorix Burgos.

Notes:@ David Wright and Mike Carp were the only Mets with two hits. ... Manny Ramirez got his first hit of spring training for Boston, a leadoff single in the two-run fourth. ... New York agreed to a minor league contract with infielder Wil Cordero. He didn't play last season after hitting .273 from 1992 to 2005 with seven teams, including Boston.

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