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A’S Sign Eckersley To First Poststrike Contract

Associated Press

Spring training

Getting back to the business of baseball, the Oakland Athletics re-signed relief ace Dennis Eckersley on Monday.

The signing of the 40-year-old Eckersley, who needs six saves to become just the sixth pitcher to reach 300 saves, left pitchers Steve Ontiveros, Bobby Witt and Bob Welch as the team’s remaining unsigned free agents.

Eckersley’s one-year deal is believed to be worth $2 million to $2.5 million with an option for a second year.

He became the first player to agree to a major league contract since Dec. 22, the day before owners attempted to implement a salary cap. The union boycotted signings through Feb. 5, and owners then refused to bargain individual deals.

White Sox look to add Grace to lineup

Chicago Cubs first baseman Mark Grace said the cross-town White Sox have shown interest in him. But the White Sox already have a first baseman - two-time American League MVP Frank Thomas.

And Thomas doesn’t like the implication - that he would be at least a part-time designated hitter to the better fielding Grace.

“I don’t think the Sox signed me to all that money for me not to play first base,” Thomas, 26, said. “I wouldn’t be the same player as a DH.”

Grace, who is an unrestricted free agent, said he would prefer to remain with the Cubs but that the White Sox would be his second choice.

“The Sox have called me a couple times since the court order and they have shown a lot of interest in me,” Grace, 30, told Chicago’s WGN radio. “What a great baseball team they have on the South Side. If you could plug me into the lineup, it’s a pretty good fit for me.”

Dodgers look to cut payroll

Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Brett Butler will not be offered salary arbitration, a move which almost certainly ends Butler’s career with the team.

“I have spoken to both Brett and his agent Dick Moss and informed them that we will not be offering salary arbitration to Brett as a re-entry free agent,” Dodgers general manager Fred Claire said. “I thank Brett for his four outstanding years with the Dodgers. He has made many contributions to the Dodger team and we appreciate all his efforts.”

In January, the Dodgers made Butler a qualifying offer of $3.5 million for the 1995 season - under the owners’ implemented system, which was later determined illegal by the National Labor Relations Board. Later, the Dodgers said that offer was removed from the table.

Cardinals reward replacement players

The St. Louis Cardinals became the second team to pay $25,000 bonuses to replacement players who didn’t quite make it to the big leagues.

All spring, Cardinals president Mark Lamping said he had a soft spot in his heart for the replacements.

“We feel we had an obligation to those players,” Lamping said. “It was our feeling that these guys did everything they were asked to do. It was a very easy decision to do this.”

The Cardinals joined the Florida Marlins in paying the full amount to the 32-man replacement roster.

Anderson returns to Tigers’ helm

First it was Michael Jordan. Then it was baseball. Now Sparky Anderson is back.

Anderson, on unpaid leave since refusing to manage replacement players, was reinstated by the Detroit Tigers after a latenight phone conversation Sunday with team president John McHale.

Anderson, 61, lost about $150,000 of his $1.2 million salary during his absence and said McHale made no mention of restoring any lost pay. Interim manager Tom Runnels will now manage the Toledo Mud Hens.

Mariners’ season-opener undetermined

The Seattle Mariners will open the season April 26, but the time, place and opponent remain undetermined.

If the latest schedule holds, the Mariners would open in the Kingdome against the Cleveland Indians at 7:35 p.m. PDT.

American League officials are adjusting the schedule to give each team 72 home and 72 road games in the new shortened season.

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