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PIRATES Wilson on time despite surgery



Published: Tue, February 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Pittsburgh's All-Star last summer had an appendectomy in December.

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) -- Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson habitually reports early to spring training so he can get a head start on the season. This year, he didn't have a choice.

The Pirates' 2004 All-Star representative was asked to come to camp last week so the team's medical staff could monitor his health. He underwent an emergency appendectomy shortly before Christmas and was hospitalized for five days.

Wilson arrived in camp Feb. 13 and worked out on his own before joining pitchers and catchers Friday in formal practice sessions.

Almost two months since his surgery, Wilson has regained almost all the 15 pounds he lost because of the appendectomy. Regaining his strength might take a little more time, and Wilson understands that.

"I don't look at it as a long road because I feel good in a lot of ways," Wilson said. "But I know I have a ways to go."

Disputed return

The Pirates medical staff has told Wilson that he won't play in the first week of spring training games next month. Wilson, though, hasn't ruled out being on the field March 3 when the Pirates open spring training play against the New York Yankees.

"Who knows where I'm going to be in two-and-a-half to three weeks? I don't like to sit out, but you don't want to rush back just to play in a spring training game. We're going to take our time," he said.

Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said the team will take a cautious approach before putting Wilson into exhibition games.

"You can't go right from A to D," Littlefield said. "You have to go A-B-C. Everything is subject to changed based upon how he feels and progresses."

Wilson said he is behind in his running and weight lifting. He started hitting in a batting cage last month and has taken ground balls during the first four spring workouts. He expects to be cleared to start a throwing program today.

"It should take a month to get where I need to be," Wilson said.

Breakout season

This wasn't the way Wilson envisioned beginning the new year after his breakout season in 2004.

He batted a career-high .308 with 11 homers and 59 RBIs. He tied for the league lead with 12 triples and became the first Pirates player to surpass 200 hits in a season since Dave Parker in 1977. Wilson also turned a major-league leading 129 double plays, establishing a franchise record.

The Pirates rewarded Wilson by signing him to a two-year, $8 million contract in January.

"Usually when I come down here, I'm just trying to keep tone," he said. "It's like the old days when guys came into spring training trying to get into shape. It's not a bad thing, but it's not what I'm used to doing."

Notes

Left-hander Oliver Perez was kept off the mound for the fourth consecutive day because of stiffness in his throwing shoulder. He continues to play catch and won't pitch for a few more days.

The group of 16 pitchers that threw off the mound Monday will pitch batting practice Wednesday during the first full-squad workout.

"Hitters are stepping off a plane and seeing guys throwing 92-99 mph," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "It's not one of the most pleasant days for them."

Nearly all the team's position players have reported to camp. Infielder Bobby Hill was the latest to arrive in camp Monday.




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