NEW YORK (AP) _ Baseball owners improved to 3-0 in salary arbitration when a three-man panel ruled for the Arizona Diamondbacks in their case against catcher Jorge Fabregas.

Fabregas, Arizona's fourth pick in the expansion draft, will get $875,000 this year rather than the $1.5 million he requested.

``I'm disappointed it went the way it did. It's time to move on. It's time to play baseball,'' Fabregas said. ``I have no bitter taste against the Diamondbacks. They're a class organization. I'm happy to be here. I stood up for what I believed in.''

Fabregas made $275,000 last season, when he hit .258 for the Chicago White Sox with seven homers and 51 RBIs in 360 at-bats.

Arbitrators Robert Creo, Roger Kaplan and Jerome Ross made the decision Tuesday, a day after hearing the case in Phoenix.

Baltimore outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds, who had been scheduled for a hearing Tuesday, agreed to a $7 million, three-year contract. Hammonds, who made $490,000 last season, gets a $250,000 signing bonus, $1.25 million this season, $2.4 million in 1999 and $3.1 million in 2000.

He asked for $1.85 million in arbitration, and Baltimore offered $1.3 million. Hammonds, 26, hit .264 last season with 21 homers and 55 RBIs in 397 at-bats.

Milwaukee right-hander Jose Mercedes argued his case Tuesday, asking for a raise from $153,000 to $1.05 million. The Brewers countered at $615,000.

Mercedes, 27 next month, was 7-10 with a 3.79 ERA in 23 starts and six relief appearances last season. His case was heard by Roger Abrams, Jerome Ross and Gil Vernon.

Seven more cases remain among the 81 players who filed for arbitration last month. In the biggest, New York Yankees Bernie Williams asked today for a raise from $5.3 million to $9 million, which would be a record for a one-year baseball contract. The Yankees have offered $7.5 million to the outfielder, who says he will become a free agent after the season.

Meanwhile, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said baseball is checking rumors that Arizona tampered with Williams, who could join Andy Benes with the Diamondbacks after the season. Both are represented by Scott Boras.

Steinbrenner said he didn't know whether there was truth to the rumors that Williams and the Diamondbacks had been in contact, but that if that were the case, ``that would certainly be tampering in the worst way.''

Diamondbacks managing general partner Jerry Colangelo fired right back.

``It's inappropriate and unnecessary to make a comment at this point,'' he said. ``No complaint with Major League Baseball has been filed, and we're not going to give these statements credence.''

Yankees manager Joe Torre, who talked with Williams by phone Monday, said the outfielder will report to camp by Friday.

``Bernie said he was looking forward to being here and he didn't want to be a distraction,'' Torre said. ``There's going to be some distractions, but he'll try to just get rid of this contract stuff and have baseball questions then.''