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Healthier outlook for Williamson all around

Something unusual happened yesterday with Scott Williamson: He smiled.

After days of personal turmoil over his infant son's health and the condition of his own pitching arm, Williamson received a double dose of good news. His 8-week-old son, Scott Reese, was cleared to return home, and a pair of MRIs on Williamson's shoulder and elbow showed no damage.

"Everything came back clean, so that's a big plus," he said.

Williamson said he has been receiving treatment because his shoulder "is barking a little bit." The MRI on his elbow was merely precautionary, he said. He underwent Tommy John surgery on the elbow two years ago.

General manager Theo Epstein said Williamson might need a day or two before he returns to action. He is expected to throw in the bullpen at least once before he pitches again.

As for the infant, he was released from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center late Saturday after a frightening episode for Williamson and his wife, Lisa. The baby was running a "critically high fever" and suffering a rash, among other symptoms, which required him to be treated intravenously and prompted doctors to perform a spinal tap. The child spent thee days in the hospital.

"He's definitely a lot better," said Williamson, who had yet to receive an official diagnosis of the illness.

Willliamson's wife also was faring better. She has been rushed to the hospital three times since she gave birth, including once less than two weeks ago, when she began hemorrhaging. All the visits involved unusually high blood pressure.

"She's doing well," Williamson said. "Her blood pressure came down."

Williamson considered seeking a leave of absence but decided against it when he was assured his wife and child could return safely to their home in Cincinnati, where her family would help care for them.

"I've got to play baseball, that's what I'm here for," he said. "When they get home and call me and say, `Hey, we're home,' I'll be pretty satisfied and be happy again."

Epstein, who Williamson said was highly supportive, endorsed the pitcher's decision.

"He's able to take care of his family and stay here with the team," the GM said. "He knows it's an important part of the season. He's great about it."

Williamson's performance (0-1 with a 7.00 ERA) has been disappointing since the Sox acquired him July 29 from the Reds, but he attributed his struggles in part to his family trauma.

"It's impossible to concentrate on baseball when you've got a newborn baby in the hospital in severe, almost critical condition," he said. "It's really hard to go out there and give the team everything you've got, which I need to do. I feel like I've let my family down and the team down by not giving everything I can. I've kind of been torn in two different directions."

Three hundreds

When Johnny Damon scored his 100th run of the season in the first inning, it gave the Sox three players with 100 for only the third time in at least 20 years (Nomar Garciaparra scored his 116th right after Damon, and Manny Ramirez has 115). In 1998, John Valentin scored 113 runs, Garciaparra 111, and Mo Vaughn 107. The only other team in the last 20 years to accomplish the feat was the '84 Sox, with Dwight Evans (121), Wade Boggs (109), and Tony Armas (107). This is the sixth straight season Damon has scored 100 or more runs. He also committed a baserunning gaffe in the third inning. After stealing second base for his 29th theft of the season, he headed back to first, mistakenly believing Ramirez had fouled off a pitch. He was easily thrown out . . . In pursuit of his second straight batting title, Ramirez has hit .379 in September to improve to .324. The league leader, Bill Mueller, has hit .344 in the month and is at .327 . . . Ramirez and Walker each logged his 50th multihit game . . . The Sox have 2,721 total bases, surpassing their club record of 2,676 in 1997 . . . They also improved to 51-27 at home, the first time they have had 51 wins at Fenway since 1998. The Sox have not won 52 games at home since 1978.

Don't touch that dial

The Sox took a step toward quelling the mini-flap over the television monitor in their bullpen by installing one in the visitor's pen. The TV in the Sox pen remained dark during the game, and the Sox indicated the set would be turned on only if the visiting monitor is functional . . . Grady Little clearly has gotten fed up with the second-guessing and criticism he believes has been regularly directed at him by Bob Rodgers, the host of NESN's postgame show. Asked how he might align the pitching rotation for the postseason, Little said, "Before we make decisions like that, I think we're going to be talking to Bob Rodgers about what we'll end up doing because he seems to be an authority about everything that goes on around a major league team from all that experience he's had with the Little League teams and high school teams that he's coached." Little added, "The job we've got around here is a whole lot easier to do after the game's over." . . . Trot Nixon set a career high with his 28th homer of the season . . . Casey Fossum was expected to undergo tests on his left shoulder. He has been diagnosed with tendinitis and is unlikely to pitch again this season . . . The Sox hope pitching coach Tony Cloninger remains with the team the rest of the way. He had taken a leave of absence to be treated for bladder cancer. Interim pitching coach Dave Wallace will remain in uniform . . . Mike Timlin is the 12th pitcher in Sox history to make 70 appearances in a season. Greg Harris set the club record with 80 in 1993 . . . The Sox and Yankees are the only teams in the majors that have not committed a balk this season . . . Garciaparra and Ramirez committed a double error in the first inning as the shortstop let a hard shot by Matos get by him and Ramirez bobbled it to allow Matos to reach second. The errors proved harmless as Matos went no farther.

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