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Rojas can feel Contreras's joy

NEW YORK -- Red Sox bullpen coach Euky Rojas quietly will walk over to Jose Contreras of the Yankees before tonight's game and offer him a warm handshake.

Contreras will know what Rojas means without a word being spoken.

Rojas, the Cuban national team's all-time saves leader, fled that country with 12 others on a 15-foot raft in August 1994 and drifted for five days before being rescued by the US Coast Guard.

Contreras defected from Cuba in October of 2002 during the Americas Series tournament in Santillo, Mexico, but had to leave his wife and family behind. They got out of Cuba just last week, and nobody was happier than Rojas when he learned Contreras's family had escaped.

"As a human being, I'm real happy for him and his family," Rojas said. "When a guy is away from his family, all the money in the world can't help you when you can't be with your family. I'm sure it was affecting his performance."

Rojas kidded, "I'm glad his family is here, but I don't like to hear he's pitching so good now."

Rojas said he will not ask how Contreras got his family out, believing it's a private matter, but he suspects he had to pay somebody. "That's hard to do, because [the Cuban government] was keeping an eye on his family," said Rojas. "So I'm sure it had to be very hard for whoever was able to do it to actually do it."

Rojas said he's also happy "for the Cuban people, because they're not afraid of Castro no more. It's a total slap in the face to him and his government. I'm just happy as a human being for the Contreras family that they are reunited."

Reaching out to help
It started with a shoe box in the middle of the clubhouse, with David Ortiz asking for donations. It peaked yesterday when Ortiz, Pedro Martinez, and Sox owners John Henry, Tom Werner, and team CEO Larry Lucchino announced at Fenway Park that $200,000 has been raised for the Dominican Republic Flood Relief Fund. Henry matched the $100,000 raised by Sox sponsors, fans, and players.

"This started with David coming to us and talking to the club about the devastation that was happening in the Dominican," said Werner. "This is something that we cared about deeply. So we said to David, why don't we make this a collaboration between our fans and you two [Ortiz and Martinez] and Manny [Ramirez] and the club, and let's really pool our resources and talk about this and try to create a fund that will actually bring a sizable amount of money down to the people who need it most."

The Sox, who opened a baseball academy in El Toro, D.R., last December, have taken a deep interest in the relief effort.

"It didn't matter how much we would have done, it wouldn't be enough," Martinez said. "I know a lot of you just saw a little clip of what happened. But believe me -- I come from there. I know exactly how things are. It's not pretty.

"Everyone that has anything to do with this will remain in a lot of people's hearts, people that you will probably never see, but people that really care, and people that really will appreciate it for the rest of their life."

Schilling is stable
Curt Schilling had his fourth MRI on his balky right ankle yesterday and team doctor Bill Morgan said the test showed the ankle is stable and Schilling will make his next start this weekend in Atlanta. Manager Terry Francona had suspected the news would be good because "he's really felt better and better the last 10 days." . . . The rehabbing Bill Mueller and Ellis Burks played for Pawtucket last night in its 13-5 win in Norfolk, Va. Mueller played third went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI, while Burks went 0 for 2 and scored a run as a DH . . . The Yankees' Gary Sheffield received a second cortisone shot for bursitis in his shoulder after Sunday's doubleheader . . . Ortiz was voted the American League Player of the Week. He hit .440 (11 for 25) with three doubles, three homers, and nine RBIs. He slugged 1.040. It's the first time in his career that Ortiz has won the honor . . . In the latest All-Star vote totals, Ramirez is still second in the outfield in the AL behind the Angels' Vladimir Guerrero. The Yankees have three infielders in line to start -- first baseman Jason Giambi, shortstop Derek Jeter, and third baseman Alex Rodriguez . . . The Yankees signed journeyman reliever C.J. Nitkowski to a minor league contract and assigned the lefthander to Triple A Columbus.

Globe Correspondent Adam Kilgore contributed from Fenway Park, and material from the Associated Press was used. 

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