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Dellucci was a startled starter

Replacing Garcia in right put Yankee in fantasy land

The bandage around Karim Garcia's left hand, protecting the cut he suffered Saturday night at Fenway Park when he jumped into the Yankees bullpen in the ninth inning, did not prevent him from throwing a ball or taking batting practice last night prior to Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

"I'm OK," said Garcia, "I'm ready to do anything." Ready or not, Garcia was not penciled into manager Joe Torre's starting lineup. With a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, Torre dropped reserve Dave Dellucci into right field and had the ex-Diamondback hitting in the No. 9 spot against the knuckleballing Tim Wakefield.

The 29-year-old Dellucci was acquired by the Bombers July 29 in the deal that took Raul Mondesi off New York's hands. Righthanded pitcher Bret Prinz also made the move to New York in the transaction, along with -- hold on to your rally towels, Sox fans -- catcher Jon Sprowl, son of former Sox hurler Bobby Sprowl, who had a brief but infamous stay on Don Zimmer's staff here in 1978.

On and off the disabled list this year with first a concussion and later a sprained ankle, Dellucci is a fairly proficient base stealer. He had 12 swipes, three with the Yankees, in only 91 games this season, and prior to the game last night, his emotions were running on overdrive.

"This all feels surreal to me right now," said a wide-eyed Dellucci. "It's kind of hard to separate fantasy from reality, but I've had a couple of hours to digest it, let it sink in . . . and once an inning or two have gone by, that's when I'll realize I'm really here, in the thick of it." Meanwhile, there was no telling exactly when, or if, Garcia will resume his spot in right. Prior to the bottom of the ninth Saturday, he vaulted the fence of the Yankee bullpen to come to the assistance of Jeff Nelson, who was hooked up in a bizarre tussle with a member of the grounds crew. After the mayhem, Garcia returned to the Yankee dugout, his left hand bloodied.

Neither the Yankees nor Garcia have divulged details of the injury, or exactly how it happened, but he now has a 1-inch band of medical tape running around the hand, just below knuckle level, and the tape wraps around nearly the full length of his pinky.

Reports again circulated the ballpark last night that Garcia and Nelson will be charged today for the assault on grounds crew member Paul Williams, who spent a few hours at Beth Israel Deaconness Hospital after the fracas, treated for a number of injuries, according to the Red Sox.

In keeping with Yankee policy, Garcia would not address the bullpen brouhaha and emphasized that the $10,000 fine he was assessed by Major League Baseball Sunday was for his part in the drama surrounding the Pedro Martinez brushback pitch in the fourth inning. Garcia intends to appeal the fine.

There is the chance that Garcia will be back in right field this afternoon for Game 5, an appearance that could rile some of the Fenway faithful."The fans here are pretty good fans," said Garcia. "I don't see any problems."

For one night, at least, the locals had one delighted Dellucci to shower with their affections. "Where I am right now, who I'm with, I'm telling you, I couldn't be happier," said Dellucci. "I was in the playoffs with Arizona, but this is a Red Sox-Yankees series, and I don't think any experience can prepare you for this."

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