Baseball

Yankees - and Matsui - receive their rings

Hideki Matsui opened the dark brown box with his shiny World Series ring, examined the treasure and glowed as the fans at Yankee Stadium and his former teammates surrounded him with love.

Leave it to Derek Jeter to provide his own special touch.

Instead of the white gold original with 119 diamonds totaling 3.55 carats, the box contained a replica from an April 3 spring training promotion — something hardly more valuable than a Cracker Jack prize, courtesy of a Jeter prank.

“The first time that I realized that it was fake was when Joe Girardi brought the real ring to me,” Matsui said. “Actually, I just found out right now that Jeter was behind all of this.”

Back in the Bronx for the first time as an ex-Yankee, Matsui was the center of attention as New York celebrated its 27th World Series title before Tuesday’s 7-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels.

When Matsui last played here, he drove in six runs in Game 6 to finish the Phillies and was voted World Series MVP. He left the Yankees to sign with the Angels, who happened to be the opponent for New York’s home opener.

He received his ring last, feeling emotional as he emerged from the third base dugout. The Yankees who had been lined up in their proud pinstripes from first to second, stretching over a bit toward third, came in and surrounded a returning friend, not a foe. The sellout crowd of 49,293 responded with a standing ovation.

“He deserves it,” Jeter said. “He played here for seven years. He played hard. He came to work every day. He’s a favorite amongst the players.”

When Matsui batted for the first time on an 0-for-5 day, the applause was loud and lingered, causing him to step out of the batter’s box and wave his strange red helmet twice.

“I was very deeply moved,” Matsui said through a translator, even though Jeter said the Japanese star’s English is quite good. “It’s something I will remember forever, that moment.”

Delgado focuses on rehab, feels ‘great’

Free-agent slugger Carlos Delgado took a break from his rehab following hip surgery to visit his former New York Mets teammates at Coors Field in Denver.

The first baseman said he’s focused on getting healthy and not on his return to baseball. The 37-year-old Delgado has said he still hopes to play.

Dr. Marc Philippon, who also repaired Alex Rodriguez’s hip last year, operated on Delgado in Vail, Colo., in February. It was Delgado’s second hip surgery in nine months.

“I’ve been in Vail for almost nine weeks now,” he said. “Getting my work done. I don’t do a whole lot, I go in and get my work done in the morning and then go home and play with the kids and then go back in the afternoon and go do my PT then go back and hang out.”

Delgado played 26 games for the Mets last season before the injury stopped him. He played winter ball in Puerto Rico and was working out while trying to latch on with a team when he opted for a second operation.

“I’m feeling great,” Delgado said. “Things are going good. It’s been eight weeks. A lot of rehab and I’ve been on crutches for eight weeks and everything is good.”

He didn’t want to talk about potential suitors, however.

“Oh, I’m not talking baseball,” he said. “I’m talking rehab. That’s the most important thing. My main concern is to get healthy and then we deal with whatever phone calls we get and whatever options I have in front of me.”

Delgado said he’ll ditch his crutches today and expects to be running soon.

Short hops

Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters batted cleanup for the first time Tuesday, part of a new-look lineup devised by manager Dave Trembley to generate offense from a team averaging fewer than three runs a game. Miguel Tejada was moved from cleanup to second, and Adam Jones was dropped from second to fifth. … Boston Red Sox pitcher Boof Bonser allowed nine runs in two innings in a rehab start for Triple A Pawtucket. The right-hander, on the disabled list with a right groin strain, also hit one batter and threw a wild pitch against Lehigh Valley. … Outfielder Brad Hawpe left the Colorado Rockies’ game against the Mets with tightness in his left quadriceps after hitting a two-run double in the first inning. … Cuban outfielder-first baseman Leslie Anderson and the Tampa Bay Rays reached agreement on a four-year contract worth a minimum of $1.725 million. The 28-year-old Anderson hit .381 with 13 homers and 61 RBI for Cuba’s Camaguey during the 2008-09 season. … The Toronto Blue Jays agreed to a $10 million, four-year contract with Cuban shortstop prospect Adeiny Hechavarria. A right-handed hitter who turns 21 on Thursday, Hechavarria hit .262 with six doubles, two triples and one homer last season in the Cuban league.

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