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© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001

Deion: Sheffield still wants trade

SARASOTA -- On the day he announced he was withdrawing his request that the Dodgers trade him, Gary Sheffield asked a close friend, Deion Sanders, to tell Reds general manager Jim Bowden that he did not really mean his latest public pronouncement, the New York Times reported.

Sanders relayed the message to Bowden after batting practice Sunday at Ed Smith Stadium.

Pulling Bowden away from a conversation with a reporter, Sanders told him, "I talked to Gary last night, and he still wants to come here."

"But he said he wants to stay with the Dodgers," Bowden said.

"Don't pay no attention to that," said Sanders, the pro football star who is trying a baseball comeback. Sanders reiterated that Sheffield said he would defer half of his $41-million in salary for the remaining four years of his contract.

In Vero Beach, Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone said he wouldn't rule out trading Sheffield.

"We're going to keep all our options open," Malone said. "As I've said all along, I don't want to trade Gary Sheffield, but who's to say we can't get overwhelmed in a deal for Gary."

Sheffield, meanwhile, snapped an 0-for-10 slump with a triple in the fourth against the Cardinals.

ASTROS: Closer Billy Wagner, coming back from elbow surgery, gave the team a scare when he left against Cleveland after two pitches. Wagner has a mild strain on the left side of the groin and took himself off as a precaution.

BRAVES: Right-hander John Smoltz couldn't find a rhythm in his second spring start. Smoltz, coming back from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, threw with great velocity and no pain for 36 pitches against the Marlins. "I wasn't real comfortable today," Smoltz said. "I was trying maybe too hard. ... I raced a little bit today."

CUBS: Sammy Sosa injured himself slightly on a double by Arizona's Greg Colbrunn as he crashed into a padded post while trying to catch the ball. Sosa iced a shoulder after the game and said he would get it examined this morning.

D'BACKS: First baseman Mark Grace carried the lineup card to home plate as he returned to the Cubs' spring-training facility in Mesa, Ariz., for the first time as a visiting player. Grace, a Cub for 13 years, signed a free-agent contract with Arizona in December.

MARLINS: The team has conceded that the waterfront site it prefers for a new ballpark faces insurmountable political opposition, and it will accept another downtown location. Several sites remain under consideration, one along the Miami River. ... Centerfielder Preston Wilson agreed to a $32-million, five-year contract.

METS: Right-hander Rick Reed, who missed his last start with pain in his right side, pitched three hitless innings against the Tigers.

PIRATES: Right-hander Francisco Cordova pitched a scoreless first against a Blue Jays split squad in his first action since having a bone spur removed from his pitching elbow in August. Right-hander Jason Schmidt, who also had surgery in August, was pulled from his first scheduled start Tuesday against Houston, though the team still hopes he will be ready on opening day.

REDS: Centerfielder Ken Griffey will not travel for road games against the Devil Rays today and the Blue Jays in Dunedin on Tuesday. ... Shortstop Barry Larkin, who missed six games with a sore right groin and played in three, re-aggravated the injury Saturday and did not play. An MRI was negative, but Larkin will be held out a week and be re-evaluated.

@987$temp$ $STPT$

ID: + Paper: +

Date: 3/12/01 Page: 13C+

Section: SPORTS Byline: LARRY BLUE +

Headline: Tournament insider Notes: +

A few minutes after sunrise Sunday, Mark Szulga felt a hit on the live squirrelfish he was using for bait. Entered in the Old Salt's Grouper Tournament, Szulga was trying to catch a fish big enough for the weigh-in. It was not until returning to shore on the boat Little Bull that he learned the grouper weighed 36.2 pounds and took first place in the event

The trip to get to that grouper took Szulga 80 miles offshore to a depth of 280 feet of water. According to Szulga, the bite was good at the beginning of the tide, early in the morning. Later, the tide moved so fast it became difficult to fish.

Doug Johnston on SaltShaker turned in the second-place grouper, 31.2 pounds. His fish took a porgy in 180 feet of water, 65 miles offshore.

Jordan Gooden, fishing on Team Extreme, came in third with a 29.54-pound gag grouper. Gooden, 15, said his fish also took a porgy, in 165 feet of water.

Erik Ball, fishing on Hot Line, turned in a red grouper that weighed 24.76 pounds for fourth place. The red took a sardine.

The tournament had been canceled last week because of inclement weather. It was reset for Saturday, but weather again caused it to be rescheduled for Sunday.

- To get in touch with Larry Blue, call (727) 397-3773 or send him an e-mail,

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