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Astros’ Hidalgo Recovered

February 28, 2000

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) _ Richard Hidalgo has a simple goal. He wants to play a full season.

Hidalgo had 15 homers and 56 RBIs and led the NL with 15 outfield assists before he missed the final two months of the season following surgery to repair a malformation in his left knee.

``It’s difficult to lose two months,″ Hidalgo said. ``I think I can do a lot of things with a full season.″

Moises Alou missed all of last season following knee surgery and will return to left field this season. Hidalgo will move to right field, replacing departed Derek Bell.

``Any time we’ve got Richard Hidalgo playing in the outfield, we’ve had a better defensive outfield than anything we could configure without him,″ manager Larry Dierker said. ``He’s an exceptional fielder and can play all three positions. He gives us a lot of flexibility in that regard.″

Hidalgo played eight games in the Venezuelan winter leagues and through the first week of spring training. He’s been able to take live batting practice and take fielding from the outfield with no ill effects.

``There is no concern whatsoever about his knee,″ Dierker said. ``In fact, I think he’s moving better this spring than I’ve ever seen him move.″

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