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Classic move: Yankees apologize

Even before a pitch was thrown yesterday in Tampa, Fla., the New York Yankees apologized to their fans.

The Yankees displayed a sign by the customer service booth on the main concourse, explaining it wasn't their fault Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, and Bernie Williams had departed for the World Baseball Classic.

''Thank you for expressing your concerns," the sign stated. ''We are sorry that certain players will not be present for portions of spring training. These players have elected to participate in the World Baseball Classic. The World Baseball Classic is an event sanctioned by the commissioner of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

''The New York Yankess," the sign went on, misspelling the team's name, ''did not vote to support this event. Any comments you have regarding the World Baseball Classic should be directed to the commissioner of Major League Baseball or the Major League Baseball Players Association."

New York abstained when baseball owners approved the World Cup in August 2004 at the urging of baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

''We don't like it that well," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said when spring training began. ''If a player gets hurt, he's risking a lot. But it was Selig's idea and he wants to do it, so I suppose we're going to do it."

Later yesterday, Selig defended the Classic, saying, ''You mean guys don't get injured in spring training? Guys get hurt walking down the street. All the managers, pitching coaches [are] very sensitive. Look, you can always pick at something, but there's a broader picture, a grander picture."

Meanwhile, the Yankees lost to the Reds, 4-1, dropping to 0-3 in spring training, and unknown Edwin Encarnación got Randy Johnson's attention.

''Who is that kid?" the Big Unit said after allowing a two-run homer and an RBI double to Encarnación.

Encarnación, a 23-year-old third baseman, homered twice Friday against Minnesota.

''I knew who Juan Encarnación was -- the guy who played with Cincinnati and with Florida," Johnson said jovially. ''Maybe that's his brother or cousin or something like that. A pretty good hitter, though."

Johnson threw 48 pitches over three innings with a pair of strikeouts. He allowed three hits, two to Encarnación, who is not related to Juan.

Japan moves on
In the World Baseball Classic yesterday, Japan advanced to the second round with a 14-3 win over Taiwan in Tokyo.

The Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki had a hit and scored a run, and Hitoshi Tamura hit a three-run homer in the first inning. Tamura, who had 31 homers last season for the Yokohama BayStars, connected off Hsu Chu Chien.

Earlier, South Korea beat China, 10-1, to advance to the second round.

No surgery for Guillén
Washington Nationals outfielder José Guillén won't have surgery to repair damaged tendons in his left wrist after he got a second opinion. Guillén will have the wrist immobilized for 7-10 days, after which he could begin baseball-related rehabilitation. A different hand specialist recommended Guillén undergo surgery that could have sidelined him three months . . . Nursing a toe injury that has hampered him since last season, New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martínez worked off a bullpen mound in the morning. He threw 16 pitches from the windup and 11 from the stretch . . . In Jupiter, Fla., the unexcused absence of Florida Marlins second baseman Pokey Reese remained mostly a mystery, with the team relieved he's safe but wondering if he's gone for good. Reese left spring training to return home, manager Joe Girardi said. The Marlins had no contact yesterday with Reese or his agent . . . Former Red Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli hit a three-run homer in San Diego's 17-4 win over Seattle.

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