With deadline looming, Pudge talks stall

The odds of Pudge Rodriguez returning to the Marlins took a drastic turn for the worse Friday.

ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reported Friday that Rodriguez and Scott Boras held a conference call with the Marlins front office -- owner Jeffrey Loria, president David Samson and general manager Larry Beinfest -- and came away so far apart on dollars and philosophy, it's possible they may not speak again before the Marlins lose the right to negotiate with Pudge on Sunday night at midnight.

During the call, according to sources with knowledge of the session, Rodriguez told the Marlins that not only would he not accept a hometown discount, he won't sign unless he gets a raise over the $10 million he made this past season.

The Marlins have offered him a two-year contract guaranteeing him approximately $15 million. Boras hasn't countered that offer. But Rodriguez and Boras have been telling teams they're looking for a five-year deal for more than $10 million a year.

"We are not optimistic at this point that we are going to be able to reach resolution on a contract before Sunday night at midnight," general manager Larry Beinfest told The Associated Press. "The financial goals of Pudge and the Marlins are significantly apart at this time.

"We did have the owner on the phone. We did have the player on the phone. And it just does not seem like it's something that is going to happen at this point."

Rodriguez's contract stipulates that the Marlins can't offer him arbitration. So if they don't reach an agreement by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, they lose the right to re-sign him at any point before May 1.

Boras told the AP his client was willing to stay with the Marlins for $10 million a year if he got a deal as long as the one Florida gave Mike Lowell earlier this week. The third baseman agreed to a $32 million, four-year

Boras said Rodriguez also cited the raise the Marlins gave
second baseman Luis Castillo this week in his $16 million,
three-year deal.

Rodriguez "made the decision today to let the Marlins know that despite the fact that his teammates got increases, he was willing
to accept a contract where his salary remained the same, and he
would take the same term of years Mike Lowell received," Boras
said. "He was willing to be flexible about how the money was to be
paid out during the contract."

Rodriguez hit .297 with 16 homers and 85 RBI this year, his only season in Florida. He added three more homers and 17 RBI in the postseason and was selected MVP of the NL championship series victory over the Chicago Cubs.

Earlier in the offseason, the Marlins traded first baseman
Derrek Lee to the Chicago Cubs. Florida plans only a modest
increase in this year's $54 million payroll.

Beinfest declined to discuss details of the team's multiyear
offer to Rodriguez.

Boras said Rodriguez wanted fans to "know he was fair and
loyal, and he wanted to stay."

If Rodriguez doesn't return, the Marlins may turn catching
duties over to two veteran backups, Ramon Castro and Mike Redmond.

"Obviously we are confident in Ramon and Mike," Beinfest said. "We'd like to see what Ramon can do. We haven't seen him play very much. We think he can do some very good things. We just haven't seen him enough to know that for sure."

Castro hit .283 with five home runs in 53 at-bats this year.
Redmond hit .240 with no homers in 125 at-bats.

Beinfest said he's optimistic about the chances of re-signing
right-handed reliever Chad Fox, who had a 2.13 ERA after joining
Florida in August.

Marlins reserve infielder Lenny Harris agreed to a minor league contract and will be invited to major league camp. He would get a $400,000 contract if he's added to the major league roster and
would have the chance to earn an additional $30,000 in performance

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.