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Astros await test results on Bagwell, weigh options

HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros were awaiting test results on
Jeff Bagwell's troublesome right shoulder before determining how
productive they think he can be next season.

The four-time All-Star first baseman and 1994 NL MVP is
guaranteed $17 million in 2006, but if he retires or deems himself
unable to play, the Astros can file an insurance claim and collect
$15.6 million. The team must file the claim by Jan. 31.

"We would love to have a healthy Jeff Bagwell," general
manager Tim Purpura said Friday. "If we can't have that, we have
to consider all of our options."

The 37-year-old Bagwell missed 115 games last season after
undergoing capsular release surgery on his shoulder. He returned in
September, but couldn't throw and was limited to pinch-hitting duty
in the playoffs.

At the team's request, Bagwell flew to Birmingham, Ala., on
Thursday to be examined. He was hooked up to high-tech,
computerized machines that analyzed the strength and range of
motion in his shoulder.

Purpura said the Astros were expecting the results of those
tests by early next week.

"We're just trying to gauge where he's at," Purpura said.
"His shoulder was in pretty bad shape."

Barry Axelrod, Bagwell's agent, said his client intends to train
with the Astros this spring and begin his 16th major league season.

"He's feeling great," Axelrod said. "He's throwing again and
he feels like he's swinging the bat well. He'll never have a year
like he had in 1994, but he still feels like he can be a very
productive player."

Axelrod said the Astros have never asked Bagwell to retire.
A fan favorite, Bagwell is Houston's career leader in homers
(449), runs scored (1,517) and RBI (1,529), but Axelrod
understands the Astros' difficult position.

"He's not going to be a $17 million player and I'm sure the
team would like to have about $15 million of that free to spend,"
he said. "It's all part of the process, and we understand that.
This is a business."

Purpura would not speculate about whether he thought Bagwell
would be an Astro next season.

"There are so many issues intertwined," Purpura said. "It's a
tough situation for the player, it's a tough situation for the
team."