MIAMI -- After missing nine games following an appendectomy, Ryan Klesko is expected to return to the lineup for this afternoon's series finale against the Marlins.
Klesko took batting practice and fielded balls in the outfield at full-speed Saturday afternoon and pronounced himself ready to go.
"I worked out like I normally would," he said. "I was ready yesterday. I was expecting to play today."
Playing it safe, manager Bobby Cox decided to give Klesko an extra day after watching him wince while reaching for fly balls at the wall during batting practice Friday.
"He hit the ball nine miles in batting practice, but when he went up to the wall he grabbed his stomach a little bit," Cox said. "I don't know if he can stretch for balls right now. We do have a lead to work with and we don't have to rush it."
Klesko was hot when he was injured, having hit in 18 of his last 20 games at a .408 clip. He hoped to make a pinch hitting appearance Saturday night, but he's wary of finding his stroke again quickly.
"For me, missing time is hard," he said. "It seems different for some guys. Andres Galarraga missed five games and came back and hit a home runs. If I'm out for a few days I don't feel comfortable right away."
SUPPORTING GALARRAGA: Andres Galarraga looked up into the stands Saturday night and saw all the colorful Venezuelan flags and figured most of Caracas had emptied to attend this weekend series.
"I think more than 50 percent of the people in the stands are from Venezuela," he said. "You can see the flag everywhere."
Galarraga said some Venezuelan travel agencies put together some package deals for the series, offering tickets and hotel accommodations for fans. The result has been demands on his time or autographs and appearances because as Ozzie Guillen said, "He's the most popular man in Venezuela."
Galarraga also was besieged by family and friends for tickets and ended up leaving 25 for Saturday's game. But he drew the line on trying to find enough tickets for everyone for all the games.
"If they came Friday night, then they can't come (today) too," he said.
MILLWOOD OK WITH ROLE: Kevin Millwood won't make another start until Saturday against the Brewers, but if you expect to hear him complaining about being skipped, don't hold your breath. The young right-hander is saying all the right things and sounding like he means them.
"I've been pushed back all year," he said. "It's not going to do any good to sit around and whine about it. That's the way it's always been. If you can't accept that, you're just going to make your job that much tougher."
Millwood wouldn't mind getting in an inning or two in relief before his start, but with six relievers needing work, his chances are slim. So, he'll try and stay sharp by working in the bullpen before games, like fifth starters have been doing for years.
"If I do (make a relief appearance), that's good, but if I don't, that's fine too," he said. "I think I can stay sharp in the bullpen with some side sessions. I think some time off before my last start helped me work out a few glitches."
PRIDE MAY REHAB: Curtis Pride may head to Class AA Greenville or Class AAA Richmond today to play a game or two. He's eligible to be activated from the disabled list Monday, and Cox wants him to get some at-bats before he rejoins the club and Randall Simon returns to Richmond.
"He could be back Wednesday," Cox said. "Maybe after one game he would be fine."
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