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Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 29, 2001

Rockies close in on landmark contract extension for Helton

TUCSON, Ariz. -- After flirting with .400 last season, Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton is in exclusive company again: the top-paid players in baseball.

The Associated Press reported Helton has agreed to a new contract worth $151-million for 11 years, the fourth-largest deal in sports history.

The contract replaces a $12-million, four-year deal he agreed to in 1999 that was to pay him $4.95-million in 2001 and $5-million in 2002.

In total dollars, Helton trails only Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez ($252-million for 10 years), Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter ($189-million for 10 years) and Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez ($160-million for eight years).

With an average annual value of $13,727,273, Helton will rank 14th among major leaguers. The deal includes a team option for 2012.

Colorado scheduled a news conference for today to announce the contract and said it was about Helton but would not divulge details.

Kotsay sent to Padres

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Pitcher Matt Clement and leftfielder Eric Owens were traded from San Diego toFlorida for rightfielder Mark Kotsay.

Two minor leaguers also were traded in the five-player exchange. Right-hander Omar Ortiz wentto Florida and outfielder Cesar Crespo to San Diego.

ASTROS: Houston signed 10-year veteran catcher Scott Servais to a minor-league contract.

Servais, 33, was assigned to Triple-A New Orleans. He played five seasons for the Astros until he was traded in 1995 to the Cubs.

BRAVES: A tuneup start in an exhibition game endangered Greg Maddux's opening day start.

The five-time Cy Young Award winner was struck on the left big toe by Glen Barker's grounder in the second inning of the Braves' 4-4 tie against the Astros.

The ball caused a laceration and split the toenail, putting Maddux's start against the Reds in doubt.

"It's sore," Maddux said. "I don't think it's that bad."

Maddux did not require X-rays. He will be examined by Braves orthopedist Joe Chandler today. As for being ready for opening day, Maddux said, "I don't know. Find out (today) I guess."

CUBS: Oakland traded former Rays second baseman Miguel Cairo to Chicago for minor-league infielder Eric Hinske.

Cairo was signed to a minor-league contract by the A's in January and was given a shot at second base. Rookie Jose Ortiz won the job during the spring, making Cairo expendable.

DIAMONDBACKS: Arizona acquired catcher Chad Moeller from Minnesota for infielder Hanley Frias.

DODGERS: Kevin Brown will miss his opening day start because of an injured right Achilles' tendon.

Brown pitched on the side and said he felt good. However, the Dodgers are being cautious and will decide Sunday whether to put Brown on the disabled list.

"Obviously, I'd like to be out there, but you can't argue with their logic," he said.

Also, after hearing he wasn't going to be the fifth starter in the rotation, pitcher Ramon Martinez asked for and received his unconditional release.

Martinez, 33, gave up six earned runs on seven hits in 32/3 innings and walked four in what turned out to be his final appearance Tuesday.

He was 0-3 with an 5.83 ERA in six spring appearances. Martinez's release means 25-year-old Eric Gagne will be the fifth starter.

"This was hard. We love Ramon," general manager Kevin Malone said. "It was a difficult decision. We just thought Eric earned it."

PADRES: Infielder Ed Sprague was released because the team had no room for him on the bench.

General manager Kevin Towers said he was unable to swing a trade for Sprague, so he was released him in the chance he'll be able to sign with another team before the season starts.

PIRATES: The team acquired pitcher Omar Olivares from Oakland for a player to be named.

"I wasn't surprised," said Olivares, who is 2-1 with a 5.21 ERA in five spring appearances. "I was expecting it. I even had a good guess it would be Pittsburgh after talking to my agent about how things were moving around."

REDS: Ken Griffey still walked with a limp, but his strained left hamstring was much better during a workout at the team's training complex.

The Reds still are hopeful their centerfielder could be ready to play on opening day next Monday. He'll miss the rest of the spring training games to get treatment.

"There was definitely a marked improvement over yesterday," assistant trainer Mark Mann said.

ROCKIES: The team placed right-hander Masato Yoshii on unconditional release waivers, meaning he can sign with any major league team after 48 hours. If a team claims him within that time, it would have to cover Yoshii's $1.5-million salary and give the Rockies $20,000. If he's not claimed, Yoshii gets $368,853 in termination pay.

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