Sunday, July 11, 2004

Mariners designate Aurilia for assignment

The Associated Press

CHICAGO - The slumping Seattle Mariners designated shortstop Rich Aurilia for assignment Saturday and activated Raul Ibanez from the 15-day disabled list.

Aurilia was hitting .241 for the Mariners with four home runs and 28 RBI in 73 games. He signed a one-year contract with the Mariners in the offseason after eight years with the San Francisco Giants.

The club has 10 days to release, trade or send Aurilia outright to the minors. If he is released, Seattle would be responsible for the remainder of his $3.15 million salary.

"The writing was on the wall for something to happen," Aurilia said. "Of course, no player ever wants to hear the word 'designated' or 'release,' but in a sense as an individual this could be the best thing that happened."

He led the NL in home runs and RBI by a shortstop in three consecutive seasons (1999-2001) and hit .324 in an All-Star season in 2001.

The Mariners entered their game Saturday night against the White Sox having lost a season-high seven straight and they are 20 games under .500 for the first time since Aug. 5, 1994.

Mariners manager Bob Melvin expects to see more of an overhaul as the season progresses.

INDIANS: Right-hander Jake Westbrook was added to the American League All-Star team Saturday, replacing Boston's Curt Schilling.

Westbrook was invited because he was next on the list of voting by players, coaches and managers. Pedro Martinez was first invited to replace Schilling, who wants to rest a deep bone bruise in his right ankle, but declined.

"That really means a lot to me," said Westbrook (6-4), who ranks fourth in the AL with a 3.21 ERA and has two complete games.

"It's definitely an honor, and I am really, really excited."

YANKEES: Orlando Hernandez probably will return sooner than expected.

There is a strong possibility El Duque will start for the Yankees today against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in place of Mike Mussina, a team official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Mussina still felt some soreness Saturday after pitching on three days' rest Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers. It was Mussina's idea to go on short rest so he could make two starts before the All-Star Game and avoid a long layoff before his first start after the break.

But the move might have backfired. Now Mussina (9-6) might not be able to make that second start, ensuring a lengthy layoff.

Hernandez was scratched from his scheduled rehabilitation start Saturday for Triple-A Columbus.

YES, SHE WILL: Michael Munson wanted his late father to be a part of this moment. So he knelt down with the ring right there at Yankee Stadium and proposed to his girlfriend, trembling just in front of his dad's plaque in Monument Park.

Michelle Bruey said yes, one more way to honor former New York Yankees captain Thurman Munson on an already special day.

"I was really nervous," Michael Munson said. "I wanted her to get a sense of all this, too, just so she could understand."

The catcher's widow, Diana, was at Yankee Stadium on Saturday to throw out the first pitch at Old-timers' Day, joined by her three children and five grandkids.

Nearly 25 years ago, on Aug. 2, 1979, Thurman Munson died in a plane crash in his hometown of Canton, Ohio, at age 32, cutting short his All-Star career. His No. 15 was immediately retired by the Yankees.

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