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Tigers emerge as Pudge suitors

Times Staff and Wire Reports
Published January 17, 2004

DETROIT - The Tigers have offered former MVP Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez a $40-million, four-year contract, the Associated Press reported.

The 10-time All-Star catcher and his agent, Scott Boras, were in Detroit on Thursday, AP reported.

Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said last week that the team is interested in Rodriguez, but he has declined to elaborate on his discussions with Boras.

"We continue to explore the situation," Dombrowski said Friday before flying to the Chicago area for his father's birthday. "I don't expect anything imminently."

The Cubs and Orioles also have expressed interest in Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, MVP of the NL Championship Series, had a $10-million, one-year deal with the Marlins last season and helped them win the World Series. He asked for a $40-million, four-year contract from Florida, which broke off talks Dec.7 by refusing to offer salary arbitration.

Detroit set an AL record with 119 losses last season, one short of the modern major-league record held by the 1962 Mets.

Rays, Gonzalez near deal

ST. PETERSBURG - The Devil Rays are close to a one-year deal with right-handed pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez, their most consistent starter last season.

Gonzalez filed for arbitration, but the team has been hopeful of signing him to a one-year deal for between $1.5-million and $2-million. Gonzalez had a 3.91 ERA but a 6-11 record, victimized by poor run support (3.91, sixth lowest in the league) and an ineffective bullpen (five times leaving a game with a lead and not getting the win).

The Rays may avoid the arbitration process altogether. The only other player who filed is infielder/outfielder Damian Rolls, and there has been progress toward a one-year deal there as well.

The Rays increased their spring training roster to 58 by re-signing right-hander Gerardo Garcia to a minor-league contract and inviting him to camp.

ORDONEZ TO PADRES: San Diego signed former Devil Rays shortstop Rey Ordonez to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training with a chance to win an everyday job.

Ordonez will earn $650,000 if he makes the big-league team, with a chance to make $125,000 in performance bonuses.

The Rays acquired Ordonez in a trade with the Mets last offseason. He was in the midst of his best offensive season with a .316 average, three home runs and 22 RBIs through 34 games before a season-ending knee injury.

BREWERS ON SALE: The Brewers will start the process of selling the team, which has been controlled by Bud Selig and his family since it moved to Milwaukee in 1970.

The Brewers have retained Allen & Company of New York to handle the deal.

Selig ran the Brewers until 1998, when he was voted commissioner after six years of holding the job on an interim basis. Since then, his shares have been in a trust that put the team in control of his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb.

WOOD AGREES: Kerry Wood agreed to a $9.75-million, one-year contract with the Cubs, who hope to work out a multiyear deal.

Wood, 26, was 14-11 with a 3.20 ERA last season and led the major leagues with 266 strikeouts. Chicago will continue to negotiate with the right-hander, who combines with Mark Prior to form a formidable top of the rotation.

Also, Chicago hired former Red Sox manager Grady Little as a scouting consultant and assistant to Hendry.

EX-PITCHER PLEADS: Former big-league pitcher Dennis Ribant pleaded guilty in Newport Beach, Calif., to one count of bribery and one felony count of state income tax evasion for filing a false return. Ribant, who sells life insurance, negotiated a plea agreement with the Orange County district attorney's office.

CASTRO CASE: Marlins catcher Ramon Castro pleaded innocent to charges he raped a woman in his hotel room in August. A pretrial conference is scheduled for Feb. 6.

OBITUARY: Gus Suhr, who played the most games at first base in Pirates history, died Thursday at his home in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was 98.

Mr. Suhr set the NL record of 822 consecutive games played, a streak that ended in 1937 when he attended his mother's funeral. The mark stood until Stan Musial broke it in 1957.

CARDINALS: Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Ozzie Smith are expected to be on hand today for the groundbreaking ceremony of the team's new stadium, just south of Busch Stadium, which is scheduled to be demolished after the 2005 season.

MARLINS: Right-hander A.J. Burnett is recovering more quickly than expected from reconstructive surgery on his pitching elbow and could be in the rotation on opening day. He is scheduled to throw off a mound for the first time Thursday.

METS: Free-agent infielder Todd Zeile reached a preliminary agreement on a contract pending a physical early next week.

PIRATES: Right-hander Kris Benson threw off a mound in Bradenton for the first time since July, then pronounced himself healed from the shoulder injury that cut short his 2003 season.

- Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.

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