Williams' Decision Helps to Clear Up Boston Uncertainty

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Boston manager Jimy Williams got rid of all the uncertainty in the Red Sox camp in one day by announcing rookie Nomar Garciaparra will be the shortstop with John Valentin moving to second and Wil Cordero to left field, leaving Troy O'Leary in a potential right-field platoon with Rudy Pemberton.

Garciaparra will become only the second rookie shortstop in Boston's opening day lineup in 32 years, the first since Tim Naehring in 1991.

Williams also announced that Mike Stanley will be primarily a DH and is not in the picture for catching duties. They are moves that had been anticipated since before spring training, but ones that Williams refused to make until two weeks into the exhibition season. "I think respect is something we need to talk about," Williams said of the delayed announcement. "How can I move John Valentin to second base without ever seeing him? "If I were a shortstop, what kind of respect would I have for a manager if he said I'm going on somebody else's decision that you should go to second? I don't think it's the right thing to do." Williams learned the delicacy of position changes for veterans when he managed Toronto and found himself in the middle of a controversy when the organization decided to make left fielder George Bell a full-time DH. That undoubtedly was why he tried a diplomatic approach in Boston, including private meetings before the public announcement. His effort, however, wasn't helped by the constant antagonistic approach the Boston front office takes with the players. Medical problems continue to haunt the New York Mets. Derek Wallace, supposed to be the righthanded setup man for closer John Franco, is out for five months following surgery for an aneurysm under his right shoulder. Jay Payton, the top outfield prospect in the organization, is headed for a ligament replacement in his right elbow for the second time in three years. Righthanded starter Armando Reynoso came out of a recent start with a soreness in his right elbow, near the spot where he had a ligament transplant while he was with the Rockies in 1994. Shortstop Rey Ordonez is showing no signs of improving despite rest for what is being called right rotator cuff tendinitis. Righthanded pitcher Juan Acevedo has been slowed by a sore shoulder, second baseman Carlos Baerga by elbow weakness, and catcher Todd Hundley by a strained hamstring. And then there's the case of pitcher Roberto Ramirez. He made such an impression pitching for the Mexico City Reds against the Mets that the Mets worked out a deal to try out Ramirez, but he threw for only seven minutes in a bullpen session, complained of shoulder soreness and was returned to the Mexico City team. Houston manager Larry Dierker remains committed to using Craig Biggio as the leadoff hitter, but he is having trouble plugging the No. 2 hole that Biggio handled the last three years. Pat Listach, projected to hit second, was scratched after early spring struggles. Now the Astros are talking about rookie right fielder Bob Abreu. The catch with Abreu making the team is contingent upon Derek Bell being able to move to center field, and the jury is out on that. "We'll see where he is at the end of the spring," Dierker said. "We don't want him to get discouraged or lose patience." San Diego continues to have talks with the Yankees that could lead to Hideki Irabu getting his wish and pitching in New York. After initially asking for 1996 AL Rookie of the Year Derek Jeter as the prime player in a package, the Padres have modified the proposal to outfield prospects Ricky Ledee and Rafael Medina plus as much as $4 million. Ledee is considered the key figure in the deal. It's no longer an experiment. Los Angeles manager Bill Russell said Raul Mondesi will open the season hitting third, Mike Piazza dropping to cleanup and Eric Karros to fifth. Terrell Wade has been drawing all the starting assignments in the competition for Atlanta's fifth starter spot, and has calmed fears about his control, walking only one of the first 24 batters he faced. …