Unsigned veteran doing 'much better'

Veteran first baseman Andres Galarraga, who is currently a free agent, apparently has had a recurrence of the non-Hodgkins lymphoma that kept him from playing all of the 1999 season and flared up again in 2002.

Galarraga, 42, has been battling cancer since November, the Contra Costa Times newspaper reported Tuesday.

"He's better now, he's much better," Giants third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo, a fellow Venezuelan and former San Francisco teammate, told the Times. "I haven't heard anything negative. I heard he wants to come back during the All-Star break, but he doesn't want to play far from his family [in West Palm Beach, Fla.]."

Galarraga, a popular power hitter known as "Big Cat" during his career, is two home runs short of 400. He's driven in 1,423 runs and has a career .288 batting average in his 19 big-league seasons with Montreal (two stints), St. Louis, Colorado, San Francisco (two stints), Atlanta and Texas.

He was with the Braves when first diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1999, and the cancer returned in 2002 after he rejoined the Expos. Galarraga played in 110 games during a second stint with the Giants last season, hitting .301 with 12 homers and 42 RBI in 272 at-bats.

He was not tendered a contract by the Giants before Dec. 7, meaning he couldn't be re-signed by the club until May. At this point, a return to the team at the All-Star break does not appear likely.

"I haven't talked with him since I left for spring training," manager Felipe Alou told the Contra Costa Times. According to the newspaper, Alou's daughter attends the same high school in West Palm Beach as Galarraga's daughter. "At this hour, you don't know if he's baseball ready. As close as we are, I don't know what his intentions are.

"My wife saw him in West Palm and she said he looked good. He's healthy and in good spirits. He told her he sends his best wishes for us. Maybe I'll give him a call and see where he's at."

Galarraga has said he'd like to reach 400 homers before he officially retires.