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Wells to sharpen aim this week

He'll create a plan for facing Yankees

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The next one counts, meaning David Wells has six days to reach the mind-set needed to beat the Yankees.

"I'll go golf, have a couple beers, hang out with [Kevin] Millar, hang out with my new catcher, get our [expletive] together and get ready for Sunday," Wells said. "We'll get a game plan going."

Wells concluded his exhibition season yesterday with five unspectacular innings against the Phillies: eight hits, five earned runs, four strikeouts, and no walks. He threw 83 pitches.

"Eighty-three, and not feeling any fatigue whatsoever, is a great sign," Wells said. "I didn't feel I was losing anything."

It might appear, given the hit total, that he didn't have anything to begin with. Not so, said his manager.

"Wells did much better than his line score," said Terry Francona. "This is a spring day. The wind is gale-ing. Look at Millar's home run. That was my main concern, him leaving here not aggravated."

The ball Millar hit in the sixth inning turned into a kite somewhere over right field and landed on the grass hill beyond the fence at Bright House Networks Field, forging a 5-5 tie in a game the Sox won, 9-5, despite trailing, 5-1.

Wells was 0-1 this spring with a disconcerting 7.94 ERA (15 runs in 17 innings). He walked just two -- which is in line with his peerless 20-walk seasons each of the last two years -- and struck out 10. The good news is that last spring Wells gave up a homer to the first batter he faced, pitched in just three major league spring training games, then hurled seven scoreless innings in San Diego's home opener against San Francisco.

He's encouraged -- no stunning upset -- that his relationship with Jason Varitek has evolved so quickly.

"It's been working great," Wells said. "I hadn't shook him off until today. I just want to see what kind of game he's calling, and it's pretty good. It's like I've thrown to him for five, six years. He's got everything I would want in a catcher without even talking to him about it. That's a good sign."

Francona said Wells should be able to get to 100 pitches in the opener.

"I'm fired up," said Wells, who has pitched only two Opening Days, in 2000 with Toronto and 2001 with the White Sox. "I've been thinking about it since they gave me the nod."

Kapler is missed
Many days last season, Millar, Varitek, Doug Mirabelli, and Gabe Kapler could be spotted hitting together in the cages under the center-field bleachers at Fenway Park. This summer, Kapler will be in Japan, making $2.7 million with the fabled Yomiuri Giants.

"They just threw so much at him that he couldn't pass it up," Mirabelli said. "He's at an age [29], he needed to do it now or he wasn't going to do it. He e-mails us a lot.

"Right now, this whole team -- no disrespect to other players on this team -- but just from a friend standpoint, everybody misses Kapler. I hear it almost daily: `Hey, I wish Kapler was here.' Everybody on this team loved Kapler. It's hard to look forward, but I just hope when he comes back from Japan he comes back here. Everybody says that."

Kapler made $750,000 last season, hitting .272 with 6 home runs and 33 RBIs in 290 at-bats. He played all three outfield positions as well as DH. His replacement is Jay Payton, who is making $3.5 million. Payton has a team option for 2006 at $4 million, though the Sox could buy him out for $500,000.

Yankees today
The Sox visit Tampa today for the second and final exhibition game against the Yankees before Sunday's opener. Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling are scheduled to pitch today -- but not at Legends Field. Johnson will pitch a minor league game to avoid facing the Sox. Schilling will pitch a Triple A game at 1 p.m. against Pittsburgh's top affiliate, the Indianapolis Indians. The game, originally scheduled for the minor league complex, will be played at City of Palms Park. There will be no cost for admission. This being the Sox and Schilling, they might have to turn people back at the door. He's expected to work four to five innings, or 75 pitches . . . Schilling will pitch another minor league game Saturday at 10:30 a.m., then join the team in New York. He'll stay with the club before flying to Indianapolis with pitching coach Dave Wallace and trainer Chris Correnti for his April 7 start in Pawtucket's season opener . . . Sox regulars scheduled to play today in Tampa: Mirabelli, Millar, Bill Mueller, David Ortiz, Mark Bellhorn, and Ramon Vazquez. Byung Hyun Kim and John Halama are the only major league pitchers expected to appear. Halama will start opposite Aaron Small . . . Johnny Pesky said he, Dom DiMaggio, and Bobby Doerr will be in uniform for the April 11 home opener. Pesky is 85, Doerr will be 87 April 7, and DiMaggio is 88 . . . Payton (bruised right hand) will not play today, but Francona said there's nothing structurally wrong with the hand . . . Neither Anastacio Martinez nor Kim will travel to Arizona tomorrow for the two-game exhibition series Thursday and Friday. One of the two will occupy the last spot in the bullpen. Martinez is out of options, while Kim, who's making $6 million, can refuse a minor league assignment. Martinez pitched the seventh yesterday and got the win. He walked one and struck out two without allowing a hit. "I don't know if it was the wind, but they were getting swings and misses and the ball was cutting in on people," Francona said. "It was a good inning, though." . . . The Sox will have to open a spot on the 40-man roster for Dave McCarty, who will make the team as the 14th position player . . . The Sox sent first baseman Carlos Torres to the Nationals to complete the Feb. 15 deal in which they got infielder Alejandro Machado.

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