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Clock ticks as Hamilton awaits okay

By MARC TOPKIN
Published February 13, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Josh Hamilton's hope of joining the Devil Rays for the start of spring training doesn't look good.

Hamilton said Thursday he still has not heard if Major League Baseball will allow him to report to camp next week with the rest of the position players.

Hamilton, who sat out last season to address undisclosed personal issues, said last month he was eager to rejoin the team and expected to get word from agent Casey Close by Feb. 1, then head to Florida from his North Carolina home.

"I haven't heard anything," Hamilton said by telephone Thursday. "I'm just chilling. I'm still working out and still hitting, but I'm just waiting."

The Rays, who have a locker prepared for Hamilton in the clubhouse, also are waiting for official word. Spring training opens Sunday with the first workout for pitchers and catchers.

Also:

Rocco Baldelli will be signing autographs and helping at the drive-through window from 4-5 p.m. today at the Checkers at 8199 U.S. 19 N in Pinellas Park. A portion of the sales will benefit Baldelli's foundation.

Several Rays will attend the Happy Heart Party at Tropicana Field for All Children's Hospital pediatric heart surgery patients and their families at 2:30 p.m.

Pitcher Jorge Sosa and infielder Antonio Perez agreed to terms on one-year contracts.

Pitcher Doug Waechter was honored by the St. Petersburg City Council and received a key to the city.

AARON JOINS NFL: Home run king Hank Aaron joined the Atlanta Falcons board of directors. Aaron, who hit most of his 755 homers for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, will act as an adviser and community ambassador.

ANGELS: Shortstop David Eckstein won his arbitration case, receiving a raise from $425,000 to $2.15-million. Anaheim had offered $1.6-million.

DODGERS: The team's $430-million sale to Boston real estate developer Frank McCourt probably will close today, a day later than expected.

METS: Right-hander James Baldwin agreed to a minor-league contract and was invited to spring training. Baldwin is 79-70 with a 5.02 ERA in nine seasons.

ORIOLES: Outfielder Jay Gibbons, who led the team with 100 RBIs last season, signed a one-year, $2.6-million contract.

PIRATES: Shortstop Jack Wilson won his arbitration case, the first player to beat Pittsburgh since second baseman Jose Lind in 1992. The defensive wizard will earn $1.85-million instead of the $1.4-million submitted by the team.

YANKEES: Bernie Williams, trying to keep his job as centerfielder, joined workouts at the minor-league complex in Tampa five days before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report. Williams, whose left knee operation in May cut into his range, could be shifted to DH to make room for Kenny Lofton.

- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

[Last modified February 13, 2004, 01:45:34]

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