Stolen ring was offered on eBay

Florida Marlins: Rod Mickler's stolen 1997 Marlins Championship turned up on eBay in a sale prompted by this year's championship and will be returned, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Mickler was given the $7,000 gold ring while working as the general manager of Sportschannel Florida, which was owned by then-Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga, according to the paper.

Online pictures show the ring from various angles, including a side view exhibiting Mickler's name engraved in gold, the Post reported.

Palm Beach County sheriff's Detective Andrew Cavanagh called eBay officials, who connected him with the seller in Venice. Venice police officers then contacted 56-year-old Phillip Castellano, who said he bought the ring three years ago from a coin dealer in Lakeland, according to the paper.

"He paid $3,100 for it. He's basically going to be out the money," Cavanagh told the paper. He said Castellano won't be charged and isn't a suspect in the burglary.

"I'll be honest with you," Castellano said. "I might be out the money, but I'm really happy that it was returned to the owner."

New York Yankees: George Steinbrenner fired a lower-ranking Yankees employee who showed up at 9:02 a.m. Wednesday, two minutes late and after Steinbrenner, according to Newsday.

By lunchtime, Yankees senior vice president of operations Gordon Blakeley had succeeded in getting the employee rehired.

The Yankees concluded the first set of offseason meetings Wednesday and have already fired hitting coach Rick Down.

Just promoted last January, Blakeley has a tense relationship with Steinbrenner, who has questioned the development of talent and the play of minor league teams.

After the early firing, Steinbrenner stuck around the complex and called a meeting of all the employees, Newsday reported. Employees waited, but then he had left the premises. It wasn't clear whether Steinbrenner wanted to toy with his workers, or whether he forgot he had called a meeting.

Detroit Tigers: Catcher Matt Walbeck is retiring and agreed Thursday to become manager of the Detroit Tigers' Class A West Michigan farm team.

Walbeck, 34, spent 11 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Minnesota,
Anaheim, Philadelphia and Detroit, hitting .174 in 138 at-bats for
the Tigers this season with one homer and six RBIs.

At West Michigan he will replace Phil Regan, a former Baltimore
manager who retired following the season.

Former Detroit pitcher A.J. Sager will return for his third
season as the Whitecaps pitching coach. The staff also will include
Tony Jaramillo, the nephew of Texas Rangers hitting coach Rudy

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: The Devil Rays elected not to exercise their contract option on Travis Lee for the 2004 season, making the first baseman a free agent.

However, the Devil Rays said they still may make an effort to
re-sign the 28-year-old Lee, who batted .275 with 19 homers and
70 RBI in 145 games last season.

"We understand why Travis would want to explore free agency, but
there still exists the possibility for him to play for us next
year," Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said.

"Chuck and I have agreed that the mechanical option in Travis'
contract would not be exercised and that we would continue to
discuss Travis' future relationship with the Devil Rays in the
upcoming weeks," said Lee's agent, Scott Boras.

Lee finished last season with the second-best fielding
percentage of all first baseman, trailing only Paul Konerko of
the Chicago White Sox.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers agreed to terms
Thursday with free agent pitcher Carlos Almanzar.

The 29-year-old right-hander signed a one-year contract with
Oklahoma of the Pacific Coast league. He has been invited to the
Rangers' spring training as a non-roster player.

Almanzar went 2-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 42 relief appearances with
Cincinnati's Louisville club this year.

In his only career major league start, he pitched two-thirds of
an inning before he fractured his right ring finger attempting to
field an Alex Rodriguez single in June when Cincinnati played the
Rangers in Arlington. He was out the rest of the season.

He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Toronto
in December 1991 and has a career 50-41 minor league record.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.