Boone sees action in minors

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas -- Aaron Boone is back playing baseball, appearing in a minor league game in Texas less than five months after open-heart surgery.

Boone batted second Monday night for the Corpus Christi Hooks, a Double-A affiliate of the Houston Astros. He swung at the first pitch and popped up to the first baseman in foul territory. Boone played third base against Midland and was hitless in two at-bats before leaving the game.

"It felt good to get out there and play in a real game," Boone told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "I felt good physically. I always have nerves whether it's a spring training game or my first game in Corpus.

"I was excited tonight. I think it went really well. I had a couple of balls come my way and got to face pitching for the first time in a long, long time. A little overwhelming, but a necessary step on the way back."

The 36-year-old Boone had an operation in late March because of a congenital defect in his aortic valve.

"My first concern was getting it done," he said. "Then once it did go well I knew the timeline. I thought I had a chance to be in this position."

Boone will be off Tuesday and then play five innings again on Wednesday. He hopes to get back into the majors by the end of the season.

"The biggest thing for me is going to be building up my strength to play consecutive days," Boone said.

The Astros, who lost 8-6 to the Marlins in Miami on Monday night, were happy just knowing Boone was back on the field.

"I think it's pretty remarkable he's able to bounce back," Houston manager Cecil Cooper said. "He's been working out with us the past two weeks, and he's looked pretty good."

Boone, a member of one of baseball's most famous families, signed with the Astros in the offseason. He hit a pennant-winning homer for the New York Yankees in the 11th inning of Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series.

The son of former big league catcher Bob Boone, Aaron Boone is also grandson of infielder Ray Boone. Aaron's brother, Bret, played 14 seasons in the major leagues, too.

Aaron Boone is trying to play in his 12th major league season, possibly when rosters expand in September. He has previously played for Cincinnati, the Yankees, Cleveland, Florida and Washington.