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Baseball roundup

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 31, 2001

Sosa opts to attend convention after all

CHICAGO -- Sammy Sosa now says he is coming to the Cubs fan convention this weekend.

Sosa, who told the Cubs last week he wouldn't attend because of commitments in his native Dominican Republic, said his reversal had nothing to do with his contract negotiations.

"I don't want anyone to think that I wasn't coming because of my contract," said Sosa, who has not attended the convention since 1998. "That had nothing do with it. I don't want to let the Cubs fans down. I want to be there for them."

Sosa plans to fly to Chicago from the Dominican Republic to attend the convention. He is scheduled to attend the opening ceremonies and at least one autograph session Saturday. The convention ends Sunday.

Sosa's agent, Adam Katz, said Sosa's attendance should not suggest the sides are close to an agreement on a contract extension.

RAYS PROMOTION: The Devil Rays promoted Dan Moeller to head groundskeeper. Moeller, who joined the team in December 1997, will oversee field maintenance at Tropicana Field, Florida Power Park and the Raymond A. Naimoli Baseball Complex.

TWO CONTRACTS VOIDED: The commissioner's office voided the contracts of two Dominican pitchers because they used false birth certificates, and it said teams can't sign them before July 1. Left-hander Jose Ramon Canela Marte, 19, signed a minor-league contract with the Rockies under the name Wellington De Paula, using a birth certificate that stated he was 16. Right-hander Junior Alexander Felix Medina, 23, signed a minor-league contract with the Braves using the same name and birth certificate.

BREWERS: Catcher Henry Blanco agreed to a two-year contract worth $2,225,000.

DIAMONDBACKS: Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson is skeptical officials will succeed in getting veteran umpires to raise the strike zone some 9 inches above the belt to enforce it as it is written in the rule book. "A few of the umpires have been there longer than any of the baseball players out there," the left-hander said. "To ask them to change their philosophy of what they've been doing most of their life is like asking me to start throwing knuckleballs."

MARINERS: Right-handed pitcher Paul Abbott agreed to a $1.7-million, one-year contract. ... Third baseman David Bell signed a one-year contract.

PADRES: Catcher Rick Wilkins agreed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

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