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Cubs send prospect Hill to Pirates to complete trade

Posted: Friday August 15, 2003 4:10 PM
Updated: Saturday August 16, 2003 1:33 AM

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired second baseman Bobby Hill from the Chicago Cubs on Friday, adding yet another middle infielder in a deal that threatens shortstop Jack Wilson's future with the team.

The Pirates chose Hill from a list of prospects agreed upon by the two teams as the player to be named in the July 22 trade that sent third baseman Aramis Ramirez and outfielder Kenny Lofton to the Cubs. Pittsburgh also got third baseman Jose Hernandez and minor league pitcher Matt Bruback.

Hill was the Cubs' starting second baseman early last season, hitting .253 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 59 games. He has a .288 average with 23 doubles, six homers and 40 RBIs in 92 games at Triple-A Iowa this season.

The Pirates have added two infielders in trades during the last month, also landing Freddy Sanchez from the Red Sox in the Jeff Suppan trade on July 31. Sanchez has played both second base and shortstop while Hill has mostly played second base, although he was a shortstop in college at Miami.

"This gives us more competition looking toward next year," Pirates general manager Dave Littlefield said Friday. "We've acquired some good players [with value] in the industry. ... This points to some of the things we're trying to do, acquire more talent. It's nice to have more options."

The deals could result in a new middle infield for the Pirates next season, though manager Lloyd McClendon is a strong supporter of Wilson and his defensive abilities.

Pokey Reese began this season as the starting second baseman, but has been out since May 14 with a torn thumb ligament. It is almost a certainty that the Pirates won't pick up his $5 million option.

Wilson, their starting shortstop since 2001, is excellent defensively but has yet to hit above .252 in a season.

Wilson is arbitration-eligible next year and, with the Pirates expected to cut their payroll by as much as $20 million next season, might not figure into their long-term plans.

Sanchez was expected to join the Pirates as one of their September callups, but has been limited to one game at Nashville because of tenderness in a foot.

The Pirates added Hill to their 40-man roster and assigned him to Triple-A Nashville, while the right-handed Bruback was taken off their 40-man roster and designated for assignment. Bruback, now eligible to be claimed on waivers, is 8-10 with a 4.10 ERA in Triple-A this season and 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA with Nashville.

The Pirates made the move with Bruback even though several pitchers still on their 40-man have performed ineffectively during callups this season, including Mark Corey and Pat Mahomes.

Asked why the Pirates appeared to be giving up on Bruback so soon, Littlefield said, "It was a decision of how we evaluated the players. He was a guy we felt was the 41st player [on a 40-man roster]."

If the Pirates lose Bruback, a trade that already was wildly unpopular with their fans is likely to generate even more criticism. Hundreds of fans have sent letters and e-mails to the team and newspapers decrying the loss of Ramirez in a deal they interpreted as being nothing more than a salary dump.

Ramirez will make $6 million next season, a large sum for a team that says it has lost tens of millions of dollars since moving into PNC Park in 2001.

Gonzalez might have surgery on injured right calf

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Texas Rangers outfielder Juan Gonzalez has a pocket of fluid near his injured right calf muscle and might have surgery to speed up his recovery.

Gonzalez has been on the disabled list since July 23 with the calf injury. An ultrasound Friday revealed the fluid.

Dr. Jamie Reed said after Texas' win over the Chicago White Sox on Friday night that Gonzalez wants a couple of days to weigh his options before making a final decision.

Gonzalez had an MRI on the calf Tuesday, but needed additional diagnostic tests to determine the problem.

"The results of the MRI didn't show us anything," Texas head trainer Reed said. "The ultrasound revealed a little pocket of fluid. Juan wants to take some time before he makes a decision."

Reed added the team could schedule the procedure as early as Monday and surgery would help speed up his recovery.

The two-time MVP has struggled with injuries since rejoining the Rangers before the 2002 season.

He missed a month early in 2002 with torn muscle fibers in his right thumb, then missed the last two months of the season with a torn ligament in that same thumb.

Gonzalez missed 10 games in a 16-game stretch in June with a sore right elbow, a tight left groin and a sore right quadriceps muscle.

In June, Gonzalez invoked his no-trade clause and rejected a trade that would have sent him to the Montreal Expos.

Gonzalez was hitting .294 with 24 home runs and 70 RBIs this season.

Beinfest gets three-year extension

MIAMI -- With the Florida Marlins surprisingly in the thick of the National League wild card race, senior vice president and general manager Larry Beinfest was rewarded with a three-year contract extension through 2007.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria made the announcement on Friday before the team's game against the San Diego Padres.

Florida trails NL East rival Philadelphia by a half-game in the wild card race.

"Larry has done a tremendous job putting this organization into the position we're in today," Loria said. "Having Larry overlook baseball operations for at least four more years brings needed continuity as we move ahead to another important phase in franchise history."

Beinfest took over as senior vice president and general manager in February 2002 after Dave Dombrowski left to become general manager of the Detroit Tigers. Beinfest was under contract through 2004 before signing the extension.

"Our success has been the result of a total team effort," Beinfest said. "Everyone in our baseball operations department has worked extremely hard the past two years and I look forward to our continued success as the organization moves forward."

Beinfest remodeled the Marlins with numerous moves, acquiring All-Star Dontrelle Willis, Carl Pavano and Mark Redman for the rotation and everyday outfielders Juan Pierre and Juan Encarnacion.

Beinfest also signed perennial All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez to a one-year contract and acquired then-American League saves leader Ugueth Urbina from the Texas Rangers on July 11.

Prior to joining the Marlins, Beinfest served as interim general manager of the Expos.

Orioles give up on Helling, promote Parrish

BALTIMORE -- Rick Helling was designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles on Friday, a move predicated by his recent struggles on the mound and the team's commitment to youth.

Helling went 7-8 with a 5.71 ERA in 24 starts. His main problem was the longball -- he yielded 30 home runs, including 10 in his last three starts.

The Orioles have 10 days to trade or release him. If no move is made Helling could opt to pitch in the team's minor league system, but it's evident that the right-hander is headed out of the organization.

"I wish them nothing but the best," Helling said.

The Orioles filled his place on the roster by purchasing the contract of left-hander John Parrish from Double-A Bowie. Parrish will work out of the bullpen in place of Eric DuBose, who will replace Helling in the starting rotation.

DuBose, 27, is five years younger than Helling and arguably a better fit for a team in a rebuilding mode.

"The situation we're in right now, it makes more sense to let a young pitcher pitch the rest of the season," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "It was pretty obvious, but that doesn't mean it was easy."

Being called into the manager's office was a new experience for Helling, who signed a one-year contract with Baltimore in February.

"I've never had it happen to me before," Helling said. "He just said they wanted to go with young guys the last six weeks of the season, which is completely understandable. I knew that might be the case when I signed here, so it wasn't really surprising."

Helling was undone by a shortcoming that has plagued him since he broke into the majors in 1994 with Texas: the home run. He's allowed 238 in 255 career games, and he never really adjusted to pitching in cozy Camden Yards.

"I wish I had pitched better. Regardless of the young guys, if I had pitched better this probably wouldn't have happened," he said.

Helling hopes to latch on with another team this season, and if that doesn't happen, then he will simply start getting ready for next year.

"Kevin Appier got released not too long ago and he got picked up right away by a playoff contender. It happens a lot," he said. "I expect to be pitching somewhere, but you never know. It's late in the season and they may already have their own plans, like we did here. We'll just see how the next few days go.

"Anytime this happens, it's disappointing," Helling said. "But there have been a lot of good pitchers and players who have been designated or released before, and gone on and had the best years of their careers afterward. By no means do I look at this as the end of my career, or anything of that fashion."

Parrish pitched parts of two seasons with Baltimore, going 3-6 with a 6.79 ERA in 24 games, including nine starts. He was 3-3 with a 2.00 ERA with six saves in 49 games with Bowie this season.

Padres sign first-round pick Stauffer

SAN DIEGO -- Richmond right-hander Tim Stauffer agreed to terms Friday with the San Diego Padres, who selected him with the fourth overall pick in the June draft.

Stauffer signed for just $750,000 due to an injured shoulder that could require surgery if it does not respond to a rehabilitation program.

Stauffer won't pitch professionally this summer. Instead, he will work out with Single-A Lake Elsinore while continuing treatment on the shoulder.

The Padres' early bonus offer was $2.65 million, but Stauffer revealed during negotiations that he has a shoulder injury.

Stauffer visited team doctors before the final deal was done and pitcher said he has fraying of his rotator cuff and labrum.

Stauffer said he felt "a little stiffness" in his final college game.

Credit card company sues Gooden

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Former New York Mets and Yankees pitcher Dwight Gooden is being sued by American Express, which says he failed to pay $18,417 on a credit card bill.

American Express filed a lawsuit in state Circuit Court, claiming Gooden has owed the money since February. There were no details on what was purchased with the card.

In addition to the unpaid amount, the suit -- filed Tuesday -- seeks interest, court costs and attorney fees.

Gooden couldn't be reached Friday at the New York Yankees' minor league complex.

Gooden, the 1985 NL Cy Young Award winner, went 194-112 with a 3.51 ERA before retiring in 2001. He is now a pitching coach for the Yankees' rookie ball club in the Gulf Coast League.

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