Venezuelan President Chavez congratulates Guillen

Chicago White Sox: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez congratulated White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for leading his team to the playoffs.

Chavez spoke to Guillen, who's from Venezuela, by phone Sunday during his weekly program on state-run television and radio, "Hello President."

"Congratulations, Oswaldo. All of us here in Venezuela are so
proud of you," Chavez said in their live conversation, broadcast
nationwide in the South American country.

Guillen, the first Venezuelan manager in the majors, said his
spirits were raised when his team won AL Central.

"Now I want to win more than ever," said Guillen, whose team
hosts the Boston Red Sox in the opener of the first-round series
Tuesday in Chicago.

Chavez, who said he once dreamed of pitching in the major
leagues, told Guillen he has always been an example to follow.

"We are with you, always following your success," Chavez said.
"And we'll be waiting for you when you come back, hopefully as
world champion."

Cleveland Indians:
Bob Wickman hasn't decided if he has closed out
his career.

Following Sunday's loss to the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland's
robust reliever said he would like to pitch again for the Indians
if they want him back.

Wickman, who finished with a career-high 45 saves, is eligible
for free agency and plans to meet with Indians general manager Mark
Shapiro on Monday before heading home to Wisconsin to ponder his

The 36-year-old signed a one-year, $2.7 million deal with the
Indians last November, thinking 2005 could be his final season.

Now, he's not so sure.

"I really enjoy pitching," he said. "I really enjoy pitching
in the ninth inning. I really like to compete. But I've also got to
think about the family. I'll go home, watch the World Series and
then make the decision after the last out. It's just a matter of
whether I want to do this anymore."

New York Mets: Closer Braden Looper had successful
arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder and is expected
to be recovered by spring training.

The procedure to clean out Looper's arthritic AC joint was
performed by Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek at the
Hospital for Special Surgery.

Looper went 4-7 with a 3.94 ERA and 28 saves in 36 chances. The
Mets have a $5.5 million option on his contract for 2006 with a
$250,000 buyout and are expected to seek a new closer. If New York
does not exercise the option, Looper can become a free agent.

Washington Nationals: Left-hander John Halama, right-hander
Antonio Osuna and catcher Keith Osik were released by the Nationals, who added three minor league prospects to their 40-man

Infielder Kory Casto, outfielder Frank Diaz and right-hander
Armando Galarraga were promoted.

Osuna was activated from the 60-day disabled list, then
released. He had a 42.43 ERA in four relief appearances this season
before going on the DL on April 18 and having arthroscopic surgery
on his right shoulder in May.

Halama went 0-3 with a 4.64 ERA in 10 games, including three
starts, for the Nationals after signing as a minor-league free
agent Aug. 5.

The 36-year-old Osik appeared in six games for the Nationals
after being called up from Triple-A New Orleans on Sept. 5. He's
been hired to coach Farmingdale State's baseball team.

Casto hit .290 with 22 homers and 90 RBI, while Diaz hit .312
with 16 homers and 74 RBI, both at Single-A Potomac. Galarraga
went a combined 6-8 with a 3.80 ERA in 27 starts at Potomac and
Double-A Harrisburg.

Minnesota Twins: Reliever Juan Rincon had
successful surgery to clean up a bone spur in his right

The operation was performed by team physicians Dr. Dan Buss and
Dr. John Steubs, spokesman Sean Harlin said. Rincon went 6-6 with a
2.45 ERA in 75 games this season, spanning 77 innings. He struck
out 84, walked 30 and allowed 63 hits while serving as the setup
man to closer Joe Nathan.

The right-handed Rincon missed 10 days while serving a
suspension for testing positive for an undisclosed
performance-enhancing drug.

MLB picks crew chiefs for first round
Hired back by baseball after losing his job in
1999, Joe West was picked Monday as a crew chief for the first
round of the playoffs.

West was among the 22 umpires who lost their jobs in September
1999 when a mass resignation backfired. He was rehired in February
2002 and worked home plate for this year's All-Star game at

West will be the crew chief for the series between the New York
Yankees and Los Angeles Angels and would work the plate if there is
a Game 5.

Gary Darling, Jerry Meals, Derryl Cousins, Alfonso Marquez and
Jim Reynolds also are on that crew, with Cousins scheduled to call
balls and strikes in Game 3, when temperamental Randy Johnson most
likely will pitch for New York.

Ed Montague, Joe Brinkman and John Hirschbeck will be the other
crew chiefs and will work the plate in their series openers.

Hirschbeck will be at the series between the Boston Red Sox and
the Chicago White Sox and be joined by Larry Vanover, Mark Wegner,
Bill Miller, Mike Everitt and Dan Iassogna.

Brinkman has the series between the Houston Astros and the
Atlanta Braves and will be joined by Marvin Hudson, Jeff Nelson,
Gary Cederstrom, Eric Cooper and Sam Holbrook.

Montague will umpire the series between the San Diego Padres and
the St. Louis Cardinals and will work with Bill Hohn, Bruce
Dreckman, Jerry Layne, Angel Hernandez and Tim Timmons.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitching coach Spin Williams is out after being told he would not be part
of the Pirates' major league staff next season.

The other coaches -- bench coach Pete Mackanin, hitting coach
Gerald Perry, first base coach Rusty Kuntz, third base coach John
Russell, bullpen coach Bruce Tanner and infield instructor Alvaro
Espinoza -- were told the team's new manager will be allowed to hire
his own coaches.

Perry, Kuntz and Espinoza have contracts for 2006 and, unless
they join other organizations, will be offered minor-league jobs
for that season.

Former manager Lloyd McClendon was fired Sept. 6, with Mackanin
serving the rest of the season as interim manager. The Pirates were
12-14 during his time as manager, but Mackanin was told Sunday by
general manager Dave Littlefield he will not be considered for the
job next season.

The Pirates finished last in the NL Central at 67-95.

Cincinnati Reds: Infielder Aaron Holbert refused an outright
assignment to the minors , choosing instead to leave the team and become a free agent.

Holbert, 32, was promoted from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 16,
ending a 14-year wait to get to the majors. The St. Louis Cardinals
drafted him in 1990, and he spent his entire career in the minors.

Holbert appeared in 22 games for the Reds, including four
starts, and hit .222 with two RBI.