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Unhappy Sosa may find new home in Baltimore

Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs were close to agreement on a trade to send unhappy slugger Sammy Sosa to the Baltimore Orioles, several high-ranking baseball officials told the Associated Press on Friday.

Medical tests and approval from commissioner Bud Selig and the players’ association remain unresolved, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Cubs would pay a substantial part of Sosa’s $17 million salary this season, the executives said. Sosa would agree to void his salary in 2006, they also said.

In exchange, Chicago would receive second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. and at least two prospects.

Sosa’s contract gives the Cubs an $18 million option in 2006 with a $4.5 million buyout. But the contract says that if he is traded, his 2006 salary would become guaranteed and a 2007 club option would be added at $19 million with a $4.5 million buyout.

The players’ association previously told Sosa’s agent, Adam Katz, that voiding the 2007 option would not be a problem if Sosa is traded.

Lucky Red Sox ball goes home

The baseball Doug Mientkiewicz caught for the out that ended Boston’s 86-year championship drought is going back to the team – for one year, anyway.

The club and its former first baseman announced that while no decision has been made on who owns the ball, it will be encased in a special plaque and join the World Series trophy on its victory tour.

Mientkiewicz recorded the final putout of the clinching 3-0 World Series win over St. Louis when Edgar Renteria hit the ball back to pitcher Keith Foulke, who threw to first.

Mientkiewicz, who was traded to the New York Mets Wednesday, clutched the ball and kept it as a souvenir.

The team asked for it back this month and the decision was made to let the Red Sox display it.

“There was never a fight, there was never words exchanged” over ownership of the ball, Mientkiewicz said this week. “It was very cordial, and we worked something out.

“I want the fans to see it, and that’s what both the Red Sox and I agreed on. They waited a long time to see that ball and to live it.”

The statement issued by the Red Sox and Mientkiewicz said that at his suggestion, proceeds directly derived from exhibiting the ball will be donated to the Red Sox Foundation, the team’s charity organization.

The team said the decision to trade Mientkiewicz for minor league first baseman Ian Bladergroen was a baseball decision, not a decision about a baseball.

Mets ready for spring training

After missing out on Carlos Delgado and acquiring Doug Mientkiewicz this week to play first base, New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya said his team is ready to steam ahead into spring training.

“I’m very happy with where we are today with our club and really feel this past winter we’ve accomplished a lot of the goals,” he said during a conference call.

New York did make a move, agreeing to a minor league contract with left-hander Mike Matthews. He would get a $500,000, one-year contract if he’s added to the major league roster and have the chance to earn $100,000 more in performance bonuses.

Clearing the bases

Right-hander Paul Shuey agreed to a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians. He would get a $600,000, one-year contract if he is added to the roster and have the chance to earn about $1.2 million in performance bonuses. … The Tampa Bay Devil Rays settled two salary arbitration cases, agreeing to a $3.35 million, one-year contract with shortstop Julio Lugo and a $1.95 million, one-year deal with catcher Toby Hall. … Anderson Machado had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left knee, leaving former All-Star Rich Aurilia and Felipe Lopez to compete for the starting shortstop job for the Cincinnati Reds.

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