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Club would be protected if Millwood gets hurt

Cleveland Indians: Concerned about Kevin Millwood's elbow, the
club structured his $7 million contract in a way to
protect the team financially if the right-hander gets hurt while
pitching next season.

Under the innovative deal with agent Scott Boras, which has not
yet been finalized, Millwood will be guaranteed $3 million in
salary. He also gets a $4 million signing bonus, but that money is
contingent on him not spending more than 20 days on the disabled
list for a shoulder or elbow injury sustained while pitching -- not
fielding or batting.

Millwood also can earn an additional $1 million in performance
bonuses, getting the full amount if he makes 34 starts or pitches
215 innings.

"I'm confident that we'll get it done," said Indians general
manager Mark Shapiro, who expected the team to make an announcement on
Saturday.

If Millwood spends 21 or more days on the DL for an injury to
his shoulder or elbow sustained while pitching, he would lose
1/183rd of the signing bonus for each day on the DL, including the
first 20. That reduction calculates to $21,857 per day.

The structure is somewhat along the lines of the $40 million,
four-year deal Boras negotiated last offseason between catcher Ivan
Rodriguez and the Detroit Tigers, which allows the team to make a
termination payment and void remaining salaries if he goes on the
DL for a lumbar spine injury for specified days.

Millwood, 30, has pitched more than 200 innings four times in
his career and would earn a $250,000 bonus for making 29 starts or
reaching 185 innings.

He would get another $250,000 each for 31 starts or 195 innings,
33 starts or 205 innings and 34 starts or 215 innings.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals intend to carry "The Load" for another three years, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The paper reported the Cardinals will next week that they will keep manager Tony La Russa in place through the 2007 season. The deal is the longest signed by La Russa since being named Cardinals manager in October 1995 and would put him second to Red Schoendienst for the longest stay in the position should he serve its complete term.

Terms of the contract weren't revealed; however, the Post Dispatch reported it is thought La Russa will earn escalating salaries between $2.5 million and $3 million during its term.

Affectionately nicknamed "The Load" by some of his former players, La Russa did not deny an agreement has been reached, but he elaborated little.

"I think we all understand I'm not going to cheat them," La Russa told the Post-Dispatch. "If for some reason we can't get to the same level, I'll make it clear they can get somebody else. That's why I don't pay a lot of attention to the contract.

"We're going to have expectations for this year's club. I realize there's a lot of excitement about a new stadium in 2006, but our emphasis is going to be totally on 2005."

La Russa, 60, has taken four teams to the World Series, winning once with the Oakland A's in 1989. In 25 full seasons as a major-league manager, La Russa has steered 10 teams to at least a share of a division title.

New York Mets: While the club awaited word on where it stood
in the Carlos Beltran negotiations, it reached a preliminary
agreement on a one-year contract with infielder
Miguel Cairo.

His deal, worth about $900,000, won't be finalized until after
he passes a physical, a baseball official familiar with the talks
said on condition of anonymity.

Cairo, 30, was a surprise with the Yankees last season. He began
the year platooning with Enrique Wilson, then became the regular
starter during the second half of the season and wound up hitting
.292 with six homers, 42 RBI and 11 steals.

He made $1.05 million, including $150,000 in performance bonuses
based on plate appearances, and sought a two-year deal from the
Yankees. Not wanting to give him that, New York instead decided on
Dec. 7 to agree to a $4 million, two-year contract with Tony
Womack, who started at second base last year with the St. Louis
Cardinals.

Cairo was signed as a backup by the Mets, who have Jose Reyes at
shortstop and Kaz Matsui at second base.

Detroit Tigers:
First baseman Carlos Pena and the Tigers
agreed to a one-year contract worth $2,575,000.

Pena, 26, hit .241 with a team-high 27 home runs in 142 games
with the Tigers last season. He had career highs in games, at-bats
(481), runs (89), doubles (22), homers and RBI (82).

Oakland traded Pena to Detroit in 2002 in a three-team deal that
sent Jeff Weaver from the Tigers to the New York Yankees.

Pena, the only Detroit player eligible for salary arbitration,
would earn a $25,000 bonus if he has 625 plate appearances. He made
$330,000 last year and was eligible for arbitration for the first
time in 2005.

New York Yankees:
Dwight Gooden is returning to his role as a
special adviser to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, the
position he first held following his retirement at the end of
spring training four years ago.

The 1985 NL Cy Young Award winner left the post two years ago to
be the pitching coach for the Yankees' rookie team in the Gulf
Coast League. He was a baseball operations special assistant last
season.

"The one year I coached, and being on the field, was a good
experience, but I think down the road my role will be inside,"
Gooden said Friday. "I'll be evaluating some of the minor league
pitchers, watching other teams pitchers and even some of the
hitters. When we get ready to make moves, I'll give my opinion."

Gooden was involved in the negotiations that lead to his nephew,
outfielder Gary Sheffield, signing with the Yankees last offseason. Sheffield had surgery on his left shoulder Nov. 30 and is expected
to recover by the start of spring training.

"He's going to be ready," Gooden said. "He's working hard. I
look for him, as long as he stays healthy, to have a better year
this year than he did last year. And last year, you can't do much
better than that."

Sheffield, who hit .290 with 36 home runs and 121 RBI in his
first season with New York, has started indoor workouts at the
Yankees' spring training complex.

Gooden went 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA in a career that included a
no-hitter for the Yankees against Seattle on May 14, 1996. He will
be an onfield instructor during spring training.

Atlanta Braves: The Braves agreed to $600,000, one-year
contract with Gabe White, adding another left-hander to
their bullpen.

White, who split the 2004 season between the New York Yankees
and Cincinnati, took a significant pay cut from his previous salary
of $1,925,000. The Reds declined to renew White's option at the
same price for 2005, opting for a $200,000 buyout.

The big pay cut wasn't surprising. White struggled in 2004,
going 0-1 with an 8.27 ERA for the Yankees. After being traded to
the Reds in June, he went 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA in 40 games, leaving
him with an overall ERA of 6.94.

The Braves, who have a track record of turning pitchers around,
hope White can regain the form he showed in 2002 (6-1, 2.98) and
2003 (5-1, 4.05).

White gives the Braves a second left-hander in the bullpen. Tom
Martin, who was acquired just before the trade deadline last
season, went 0-2 with a 3.97 ERA.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Miller Park stadium district and Mitsubishi
Heavy Industries of America agreed to a settlement that
ended a three-year legal fight over repairs to the ballpark's
retractable roof.

The deal, which avoided a trial scheduled to start Monday, calls
for the stadium district to receive nearly $33 million, including
$4 million from Mitsubishi for defects in the roof, according to
documents released by both parties. Mitsubishi, in turn, would
receive $22 million, $6 million of which would come from the
district for cost overruns on the project.

The district already had set aside money to settle Mitsubishi's
claim and will need no additional tax money, board chairman Jay
Williams said.

Residents in five southeastern Wisconsin counties are paying a
0.1 percent sales tax until 2014 for the stadium.

Mitsubishi attorney Dean Laing said the judge called the
settlement a "win-win," with both parties getting around 60
percent of their claims.

The stadium's roof has had problems since the ballpark opened in
2001, including loud noises, leaks and faulty mechanical systems.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Shortstop Jack Wilson, just
signed to $8 million, two-year contract, expects to be ready for
spring training despite being hospitalized recently for an
appendectomy.

Wilson's appendix burst Dec. 21 at his Thousand Oaks, Calif.,
home, requiring a rushed trip to a hospital. He was released
Christmas night.

The 6-foot, 175-pound Wilson has regained six of the 15 pounds
he lost, but is not yet ready to resume heavy weightlifting.

"The one thing that worries me is I am behind," Wilson said
Friday. "This is the time of year when you really start hitting
the weights and start working out hard, and I'm not going to be
able to do that for a few more weeks."

Despite the setback, Wilson is optimistic he will be fully
recovered when spring training starts next month. Wilson flew from
California to Pittsburgh to have a physical on Friday and sign the
contract.

Chicago White Sox: The acquisition of A.J. Pierzynski spelled
the end of Jamie Burke's tenure with the Chicago White Sox.

The White Sox designated Burke for assignment,
clearing him from their 40-man roster.

Burke, 33, hit .333 with 15 RBI in 47 games with the White Sox
last season. In 73 career games with the Angels and White Sox,
Burke has batted .331 with 17 RBI in 133 at-bats.

On Thursday, the White Sox signed Pierzynski, who spent 2004
with the San Francisco Giants, to a one-year contract worth
$2.25 million.

San Diego Padres: Chris Hammond and the San Diego Padres agreed to a $750,000, one-year contract that is contingent on the
left-handed reliever passing a physical next week.

Hammond can make an additional $300,000 in performance bonuses,
getting the full amount if he appears in 65 games.

He went 4-1 with a team-low 2.68 ERA out of the bullpen for
Oakland last year, missing six weeks due to a strained pitching
shoulder.

No-limit refund

A man who paid more than $17,000 for what
turned out to be an altered Mickey Mantle baseball card deserves a
refund, even though he didn't learn the card's true value for two
years, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The court said James Fitl rightly relied on the dealer's
authority and could only have discovered the alterations by
conducting an investigation, something the court said Fitl was not
required to do.

The Omaha man bought the purportedly
"mint condition" 1952 Topps card from Mark Strek after meeting him at a San Francisco
card show in 1995. Fitl put the card in a safe deposit box, waiting
until 1997 to send it to a grading service, which declared it
worthless because it had been discolored and doctored.

Strek refused a refund because Fitl didn't ask within a month of
purchase.

Siding with a lower court, the Supreme Court found that Fitl had
complied with a state law requiring him to report any product
defects "within a reasonable time."

"What is a reasonable time for taking any action depends on the
nature, purpose and circumstances of such action," Judge John
Wright wrote.

The ruling did not address whether Strek himself made the
alterations, which included repainted areas and trimmed and glued
edges, only that he should vouch for his wares or return the money.

Yankees-Red Sox to open 2005 season April 3
Major league baseball's season opener between the Yankees and Red Sox in New York will be played Sunday night, April 3. The game, originally scheduled for Monday, will start at 8:05 p.m. ET and be televised on ESPN2.

Against the Yankees in the ALCS, Boston became
the first major league team to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a
best-of-seven postseason series. The Red Sox went on to sweep the Cardinals and win the World Series for the first time
since 1918.

Although the dates for the remainder of the opening three-game
series haven't been finalized, the Yankees and Red Sox probably
will play Tuesday and Wednesday. The following week, New York is at Boston for the Red Sox home opener on April 11 at Fenway Park.

Information from SportsTicker and The Associated Press was used in this report.