NEW YORK — Joe Torre made it home — just long enough to get his daughter to school, pick up his car keys and drive to Shea Stadium.

He didn't drive past Yankee Stadium, taking the Whitestone Bridge instead of the Triborough on an unusually sunny Thursday afternoon.

"Not purposely. That's the quickest way here from my house," he said.

Still, Torre's former baseball home is never too far from his mind. When Derek Jeter was hit on a hand by a pitch from Daniel Cabrera on May 20, Torre was watching on television at Dodger Stadium. He picked up the phone and immediately telephoned his old clubhouse back in the Bronx.

"It sounded ugly," said Mr. T, as Jeter refers to him. "I called the training room just to see how he was. He got on the phone and said he was OK."

He also called "Joey" — new Yankees manager Joe Girardi — after New York's first trip to Boston.

"I just wanted to get his firsthand opinion of that nice experience up in Fenway," Torre said with a twinkle of mischievousness.

Torre looked tan and relaxed before his first game back in New York since resigning as manager of the Yankees last October following 12 stunningly successful seasons, four ending in World Series titles. The Dodgers plane landed at 4 a.m. after a game in Chicago, so the new L.A. skipper went to the team hotel in Manhattan, then got up early to head home to suburban Westchester.

ASTROS SIGN KING: The Houston Astros on Thursday added their second recently-released pitcher in two days, signing left-hander Ray King to a minor league contract. The Astros signed right-hander Jorge Sosa, cut loose by the Mets, to a minor league deal on Wednesday. A third pitcher, right-hander Dave Borkowski, accepted a minor league assignment after clearing waivers.

All three pitchers will play for Triple-A Round Rock. King is due to report on Saturday and Borkowski on Sunday.

King, 34, was released by the Nationals on April 29 after allowing four earned runs in 6 1-3 innings over 12 appearances.

Borkowski was 0-2 with a 6.86 era. He was designated for assignment on Tuesday to make room for starter Wandy Rodriguez.

A'S ACTIVATE CHAVEZ: At Oakland, Calif., Eric Chavez returned to the Athletics a few days ahead of schedule. The A's activated their six-time Gold Glove third baseman from the 60-day disabled list Thursday and put him in the starting lineup as designated hitter for the finale of a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays. As expected, Oakland placed designated hitter Frank Thomas on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right knee and quadriceps tendinitis.

CHURCH RETURNS TO SHEA: Mets outfielder Ryan Church returned to Shea Stadium on Thursday, still uncertain when he'll rejoin the lineup following his second concussion this year. Feeling dizzy, Church was sent home Tuesday and told to avoid bright lights. "We're just in a holding pattern," Church said before Thursday night's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Church was hurt May 20 trying to break up a game-ending double play at Atlanta. He has not started since then but has pinch-hit four times.

BUTLER SENT DOWN: At Kansas City, Mo., the offensively weak Kansas City Royals sent DH/first baseman Billy Butler to Triple-A Omaha on Thursday, hoping to kick-start a feeble attack that had contributed to their 10-game losing streak. Coming up from Omaha was infielder Mike Aviles, a 27-year-old non-roster invitee who was hitting .338 through 50 games. Aviles got the start at shortstop against Minnesota on Thursday night, replacing slumping Tony Pena Jr.

CUBS RECALL COTTS: The Chicago Cubs recalled left-hander Neal Cotts from Triple-A Iowa on Thursday and optioned right-hander Jose Ascanio to the minors. Cotts is making his first trip back to the majors since the Cubs optioned him to Triple-A on May 20, 2007. The 28-year-old was a key member of the White Sox bullpen in 2005 when they won the World Series, with a 1.94 ERA in 69 appearances, but he's struggled ever since. After getting getting traded across town, he went 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA in 16 appearances with the Cubs in 2007. He was 2-0 with three saves and a 2.00 ERA in 19 appearances in the minors this season.