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Saturday, March 30, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Major League Baseball

MLB notebook: Royals keep Sweeney with $55M extension

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HAINES CITY, Fla. — Mike Sweeney, the power-hitting first baseman the Kansas City Royals hope to make the cornerstone of their future, agreed yesterday to a $55 million, five-year extension through the 2007 season.

Sweeney, who was eligible to become a free agent after the World Series, gets $8 million this year, the final season of a $13 million, two-year contract.

"My representatives said on the free market I'd probably be worth $14, $15 (million a year), somewhere around there," Sweeney said. "But to me, it's not about the money. It's about being fair, not trying to get the most.

"For me this is the right place. I wrote on a piece of paper the pros and cons, and the pros outweighed the cons to stay in Kansas City. It's not about money, but having peace in your heart. I have peace in my heart to sign this contract."

The new deal can be terminated by Sweeney if the Royals do not have a .500 or better record in either the 2003 or 2004 season. It contains a limited no-trade clause, and if Sweeney does accept a trade, the average yearly salary for the remainder of the contract would increase to $12.5 million.

Signing Sweeney, 28, the Royals' best and most popular player since Hall of Famer George Brett, enables the Royals to avoid an image problem. Fans have already been suspicious of new owner David Glass' commitment after two other stars, outfielders Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye, failed to sign long-term deals and were traded to Oakland.

"This is big," Royals General Manager Allard Baird said. "Ownership really made a strong commitment. ... We need to keep him. He is our cornerstone. We need somebody to build around."

Suspensions reduced

Baseball reduced suspensions by one game for San Diego's Ryan Klesko and Anaheim's Scott Spiezio for their roles in a spring-training brawl and rescinded Philadelphia Manager Larry Bowa's one-game suspension for arguing with an umpire.

Bob DuPuy, baseball's new chief operating officer, let stand Padres pitcher Bobby Jones' seven-game suspension and Angels third baseman Troy Glaus' two-game ban.

Klesko will have to sit out the first four games of the season and Spiezio will miss the first five for the Angels. Jones' suspension also begins on Opening Day, while Glaus' won't start until April 7.

Notes

• San Francisco Superior Court Commissioner Arlene Borick said the trial over who owns Barry Bonds' record 73rd home-run ball will start Oct. 7, exactly one year after he hit it at Pacific Bell Park. The ball is being kept in a safe deposit box until the trial.

• The Boston Red Sox purchased the contracts of Rickey Henderson, Rey Sanchez and Carlos Baerga from Pawtucket.

• One-time Mariner Dave Hollins, an All-Star third baseman the last time the Philadelphia Phillies went to the World Series in 1993, earned a roster spot yesterday when the team released infielder Kevin Jordan. Among other moves, the Phillies purchased the contract of former Mariner John Mabry.

• Even though the Pittsburgh Pirates have yet to officially say goodbye to him, Derek Bell said goodbye to the Pirates yesterday, leaving the clubhouse with bags packed. Bell all but assured himself of not being on the team when he threatened in mid-March to go into "Operation Shutdown" if he wasn't handed the right fielder's job. He hit .148 with just four hits and seven strikeouts in 27 at-bats this spring before being sidelined with a groin injury March 18.

• The Baltimore Orioles added right-handed pitcher Rodrigo Lopez to the 40-man roster and placed Albert Belle on the 60-day disabled list with osteoarthritis of his right hip. Belle ended his career last year because of the injury but hasn't formally retired because that could void the Orioles' insurance policy on the five-year, $65 million contract he signed in December 1998.

• Yankees outfielder Rondell White played seven innings in left field and went 2 for 4 with a homer in a Class AAA game. It was just White's second day playing defense and fifth game overall after being sidelined Feb. 25 by a strained left rib cage.

"Right now, I'm inclined to say let's go," Manager Joe Torre said. "The only thing he needs are at-bats."

• The Texas Rangers purchased the contract of left-handed reliever Rich Rodriguez from Class AAA Oklahoma. Rodriguez was obtained from Atlanta on Monday for a player to be named. Texas also placed right-hander Jovanny Cedeno (shoulder) on the 60-day DL.

• The Cincinnati Reds placed utility infielder Juan Castro on the 15-day DL and recalled shortstop Gookie Dawkins from Class AAA.

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