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A-Rod, Ramirez Closing in on Teams

December 11, 2000

DALLAS (AP) _ Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez are closing in on the biggest decisions of their baseball careers.

Rodriguez narrowed his field to four teams Sunday, including Atlanta, Seattle and Texas. Ramirez prepared to decide between offers from Boston and Cleveland.

Rodriguez’s agent, Scott Boras, identified Atlanta, Seattle and Texas as three of the remaining teams but would not talk about the fourth.

``Tomorrow will be a telling day,″ he said.

Boras met with officials from all four teams, including Rangers owner Tom Hicks, and scheduled more meetings for Monday. Rumors of a $200 million-plus offer circulated. The agent joked of reports of a $240 million offer.

``Where is it? I’ll sign!″ he said.

While Boras wouldn’t address the real figures being offered, he said a ``precarious part″ of negotiations was putting together a 10-to-12-year deal that also gives a player the right to opt out after several years.

``It’s kind of unprecedented,″ he said.

The hometown Rangers were elated to have made the final cut.

``He has said enough positive things to us that I feel confident he is interested,″ Texas general manager Doug Melvin said.

Ramirez’s agent, Jeff Moorad, and Cleveland had vastly different views of their talks. Indians general manager John Hart said in the early evening that his team had little hope of re-signing its most productive batter.

``Faint chance, remote chance, unlikely. Those are probably the best words to use,″ he said after the first of several meetings with Moorad. ``It’s a faint pulse.″

Moorad also met with Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette, who spent two days in California last week trying to work out a deal. Moorad planned to review the offers with his client on Monday.

``At this point, the likely agreements are comparable,″ Moorad said. ``I think both organizations have stretched to make a deal. The ball rests in Manny’s court.″

In other news:

_ The New York Mets were close to completing a four-year contract with right-hander Kevin Appier worth about $42 million.

_ Detroit and Houston discussed a trade that would send Roger Cedeno to the Tigers.

_ Right-hander Darren Dreifort and Los Angeles were close to finalizing a $55 million, five-year contract, which probably will be announced Monday.

_ Anaheim sent right-hander Seth Etherton to Cincinnati for shortstop Wilmy Caceras in the first trade of the meetings.

_ Florida acquired outfielder Jeff Abbott from the Chicago White Sox for minor league outfielder Julio Ramirez.

_ Toronto agreed to a four-year contract with shortstop Alex Gonzalez worth about $20 million.

_ Texas agreed to a $3.25 million, one-year contract with former NL MVP Ken Caminiti, which with options and incentives could be worth $20.9 million over three seasons. The Rangers also agreed to a $4.9 million, two-year deal with right-hander Mark Petkovsek.

_ Atlanta agreed on a two-year contract with backup outfielder Dave Martinez, a deal worth about $3 million.

_ Pittsburgh agreed to a $6 million, two-year contract with left-handed reliever Terry Mulholland and a two-year deal with right fielder Derek Bell worth about $9 million.

_ After signing pitcher Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, Colorado agreed to a one-year contract with outfielder Ron Gant, worth about $1.5 million.

_ Arizona and Curt Schilling’s agents worked on a three-year extension worth about $33 million.

_ Philadelphia waited for Ricky Bottalico to complete a physical before completing a contract with the reliever.

_ The Chicago Cubs talked with the agent for right-hander Jason Bere.

Most major league general managers were at the meetings, and they got together with umpire crew chiefs for the first time in memory.

Sandy Alderson, one of baseball’s executive vice presidents, told general managers last month that the strike zone will be called according to the rule book this season.

``We’d all like it to move up an inch or two above the belt,″ said Minnesota’s Tom Kelly, perhaps the most animated manager about the subject. ``But 10, 11 or 12 inches? That’s wrong. I don’t know if the umpires can do that.″

Many managers don’t want their pitchers to throw high strikes, saying only fastball pitchers can get away with it.

``Pedro might never lose,″ Indians manager Charlie Manuel said of Boston’s Pedro Martinez.

Many managers are bracing for the expiration of baseball’s labor contract next Oct. 31 and a possible work stoppage, which would be the sport’s ninth since 1972.

``I’m just petrified,″ Florida Marlins manager John Boles said.

``I’m fearful of what might happen,″ added St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

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