Hurt playing hoops, Boone might miss season

NEW YORK -- Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone injured his
left knee playing basketball and might miss the season.

Boone was hurt Jan. 16 and may have torn his anterior cruciate
ligament. He was examined three days later by Anaheim Angels team
physician Dr. Lewis Yocum, and Boone informed the Yankees of the
injury that night.

The extent of the injury will not be known until
swelling subsides, and he has not yet been examined by Yankees' doctors.

Boone agreed Dec. 1 to a $5.75 million, one-year contract, and the
contract contained language saying it would become nonguaranteed if
he played basketball.

"Concerning his contract, I can confirm that there are certain
prohibited activities, which include basketball," Cashman said.

If there is a complete tear, he would require reconstructive surgery that could keep him sidelined until 2005.

"We are currently evaluating the extent of the injury and
expect to solicit multiple opinions before providing a complete
diagnosis," general manager Brian Cashman said Monday.

In response to Cashman saying certain activities in Boone's contract were prohibited, the Major League Baseball Players Association said it would fight any attempt by the team to terminate Boone's contract.

The Yankees do not have a backup third baseman with full-time
experience. Enrique Wilson and newly signed Miguel Cairo are options to fill the spot.

New York acquired Boone, who will turn 31 in March, from Cincinnati on July 31, and his
11th-inning homer off Boston's Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series won the pennant for the Yankees.

Boone is eligible for free agency after next season, and if the
Yankees successfully converted the deal to a nonguaranteed
contract, they could release him and be responsible for only 30
days' termination pay, about $942,000.

The Yankees had hoped minor leaguer Drew Henson would be an option at third this season, but the former University of Michigan quarterback struggled mightily in the Yankees' farm system and the trade for Boone signaled that New York did not think Henson would be ready for 2004.

Henson agreed to a $17 million, six-year contract with the Yankees in 2001. He hit .234 with 14 homers, 40 doubles and 78 RBI
at Triple-A Columbus this season. But he also struck out 122 times and made 28 errors at third.

The Yankees and Henson's agent recently have had talks toward severing his ties with the team. The Houston Texans drafted Henson last year and hold his NFL rights until April. If Henson and the Yankees come to a resolution that would free him from his contract, it's expected that Henson would work out for teams (by invitation only) interested in trading for him.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.