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Ex-hot prospect White still a Ray

MARC TOPKIN
Published January 16, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays were able to hang on to Matt White as the injured right-hander cleared waivers Thursday and was outrighted to Triple-A Durham.

By taking White off the 40-man roster last week to make room for Robert Fick, the Rays risked losing him and the $10.2-million they invested in him in 1996 as one of the nation's top high school prospects. None of the other 29 teams was willing to claim him for $20,000 and keep him on its 40-man roster.

"I was happy," White said. "It would have been great if somebody would have picked me up and I would have been in the big leagues because that's the ultimate goal. Hopefully I can make it happen now with the Rays."

White, 25, is recovering from his second shoulder operation in 25 months. He is ready to start throwing off a mound and expects to pitch in games this season.

"I'm pleased Matt White is still in this organization," general manager Chuck LaMar said. "We've never given up on Matt White; his makeup is too good, and he has too much ability. It's been a long struggle for him with his surgeries and hopefully he rebounds."

Meanwhile, the Rays continue talks to add left-handed pitching, with Damian Moss, Glendon Rusch and Ron Villone the leading possibilities.

Pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez and infielder/outfielder Damian Rolls filed for salary arbitration. Figures will be exchanged Tuesday.

Aaron hammers Rose

ATLANTA - Pete Rose shouldn't get a reprieve after admitting last week that he committed the game's worst sin: betting on the game while in the game, home run king Hank Aaron said.

Aaron also said Rose shouldn't have the chance to get into the Hall of Fame without a ticket.

"During these past few days, I've looked at Pete on television, and he hasn't given any signs of an honest confession. Plus, I've seen absolutely no truth whatsoever in what he's saying," said Aaron, referring to Rose's revelation that he has spent 14 years lying about his gambling habits.

Rose said he never bet against the Reds team he was managing and never bet on baseball from a clubhouse. He said he is only a "recreational" gambler and doesn't need professional help.

Aaron has his doubts.

"It's just like an alcoholic saying that he doesn't drink whiskey anymore, but he still drinks beer," he said. "Pete says that even though he isn't a gambler anymore, he still bets on the horses. That's bad."

EXPOS HOME TOP PRIORITY: Major League Baseball hopes to pick the Expos' future home by the All-Star break, vowing to make a decision this season after two years of missed deadlines.

The Expos were bought by the other 29 teams before the 2002 season, and the commissioner's office said then that it hoped to relocate the team by 2003.

After a two-day meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., Expos president Tony Tavares said baseball's goal was to "hopefully have a decision by the All-Star Game."

Commissioner Bud Selig wouldn't predict if the proposed $430-million sale of the Dodgers from News Corp. to Boston developer Frank McCourt would be approved before the Jan. 31 deadline. Officials want to make sure the debt involved doesn't exceed the sport's limits.

The Los Angeles Times has reported that McCourt has borrowed virtually all the money behind his offer.

RIJO PONDERS RETIREMENT: Jose Rijo's comeback might have reached the end. A month before the Reds open spring training, the right-hander has given no indication he'd like to come back from his sixth elbow operation.

ARBITRATION FILINGS DROP: AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, 2001 NL rookie of the year Albert Pujols and Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano were among 65 players who filed for arbitration, the fewest since 1999.

DUQUETTE RETURNS: Former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette purchased the operating rights to the Thread City Tides of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He will rename the team the Berkshire Dukes.

METS: Free-agent outfielder Karim Garcia reached a preliminary agreement on a contract contingent on him passing a physical.

- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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