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He spins training wheels

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Correnti supervised the training program that transformed Nomar Garciaparra from a 165-pound minor league shortstop to a magazine-cover mass of muscle. He also is the man in whom Pedro Martinez entrusted his rehabilitation from a damaged shoulder, the guy who helped nurture five starting pitchers through an entire season without missing a start, the man who helped Sox doctor Bill Morgan devise the innovative tendon-stapling procedure for Curt Schilling.

He also once told a fib to protect Michael Jordan.

Correnti, the Sox physical therapist, was at the Arizona Fall League in 1994, acting as trainer for the team managed by Terry Francona and featuring a kid shortstop in his first year of pro ball, Garciaparra. The star attraction, however, was Jordan, who was just embarking on his ill-fated quest to try professional baseball.

"He was outstanding," said Correnti, a native of Rockford, Ill., who went to Illinois State University and was hired out of college by the Houston Astros to serve as trainer on their Florida State League team in 1990. "The guy was real good to me." But in Arizona, Jordan sprained his ankle -- playing basketball.

"We played basketball every Sunday, the staff versus the players," Correnti said. "Michael sprained his ankle. He came down and landed on somebody.

"The next day, his ankle was like this," Correnti said, spreading his hands. "He said, `Chris, I don't want to tell people I hurt this playing basketball. Can you talk to the press?' "

Correnti said he thought he'd be talking to just a few reporters, but instead walked into a roomful of notebooks and cameras.

"I didn't have anything prepared," he said. "It was hilarious. I said, `He stepped on a bat in the batting cage.' "

Keeping players' confidences comes with the territory. Correnti, who did his time in such minor league outposts as Burlington, Iowa, Lynchburg, Va., and Trenton, is soft-spoken yet looks you directly in the eye, and has an air about him that inspires trust.

He is especially close with Martinez, having joined the Sox in 2001, the year Martinez hurt his right shoulder.

"It was a tough time," Correnti recalled. "He'd never had an injury before, and he'd witnessed first-hand everything his brother Ramon went through. It was a tough time, not only physically but mentally."

Due to Martinez's commitment, Correnti said, Martinez's recovery was a great success. "He was fanatical," said Correnti, who estimates he talked with Martinez at least once a week by cellphone during the offseasons, and visited him both in the Dominican Republic and his home in Miami.

When Martinez walked in from the bullpen after warming up before his ALCS start in Yankee Stadium -- the crowd deafening with its chants of "Who's your daddy?" -- that was Correnti walking on the outfield grass alongside him. But he said he was barely aware of the commotion. "Around game time, I'm juiced, too," he said. "I do what I can to get him out there, but those are my boys out there."

Word from The Man
A telegram Sox owner John W. Henry received on the eve of the World Series: "Dear John, Congratulations on winning the ALCS. This should be a great Series with these two championship teams. Missed you this summer in Boston. I will not be making the trip to Boston the weekend, but I am looking forward to seeing you in St. Louis on Tuesday. Good luck. Your friend, Stan Musial." . . . The assumption is growing that Willie Randolph, who wowed the Mets in his interview Monday, will be named their manager . . . Manny Ramirez has officially been added to the roster of major league all-stars touring Japan after the World Series. Others who have committed to going are pitchers Roger Clemens and Dontrelle Willis, outfielders Moises Alou, Miguel Cabrera, and Vernon Wells, and shortstop Michael Young . . . Pitching coach Curt Young could wind up being a casualty of the A's not making the postseason . . . The Twins lost top outfield prospect Jason Kubel in a collision during an Arizona Fall League game. Kubel, who was expected to compete for the starting right field job, is expected to miss the 2005 season with a serious knee injury . . . Commissioner Bud Selig, dismissing the suggestion that using the All-Star Game winner as a means to determine home-field advantage in the World Series was a bad idea: "It's not as if we were using Einstein's theory of relativity before."

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