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BASEBALL / DAILY REPORT : AROUND THE MAJORS : Eckersley Re-Signs to Break the Ice

April 04, 1995| Associated Press

Getting back to the business of baseball, the Oakland Athletics on Monday re-signed relief ace Dennis Eckersley in the industry's first post-strike deal.

Eckersley, 40, needs six saves to become the sixth pitcher to reach 300 saves. Terms of Eckersley's one-year deal were not immediately available. He became the first player to agree to a major league contract since Dec. 22, the day before owners tried to implement a salary cap. The union boycotted signings through Feb. 5, and owners then refused to bargain individual deals.

Eckersley's agent, Ed Keating, and Oakland President Sandy Alderson had come to a meeting of the minds on a new contract late last year, so when owners lifted their signing ban, completing the deal became a formality.

The New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians also had expressed interest, but Eckersley, who became one of the game's dominant closers after joining Oakland in 1987, preferred to stay with the A's.

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Lou Whitaker, tired of watching the O.J. Simpson trial and sitting around the house, arrived at spring training in Lakeland, Fla., in a Rolls-Royce with a gold hood ornament.

"I could just wake up out of bed and play," Whitaker said. "Of course, these days, I have to try to steal a step or two."

Whitaker, who will turn 38 on May 12, has been playing second base for the Tigers since 1977.

"This was supposed to be opening day in Detroit," he said. "I'd be up there right now, freezing my little tail off."

Whitaker was wearing an open vest over an ample tummy--but no shirt, a pair of baggy shorts, and well-worn running shoes.

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Montreal Expo General Manager Kevin Malone said his first order of business is to try to trade Marquis Grissom, John Wetteland or Ken Hill--or all three.

The team also will not try to re-sign free agent outfielder Larry Walker. At 74-40, the Expos were the best team in baseball last season.

Malone said the payroll won't be more than last year's $18.7 million and could be as low as $12 million.

Grissom (whose 1994 salary was $3.56 million), Wetteland ($2,225,000) and Hill ($2.55 million) all are eligible for salary arbitration, and the team doesn't have the money to pay all three.

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The St. Louis Cardinals became the second team to pay $25,000 bonuses to their replacement players. Major league owners decided to release all replacement players Saturday to avoid paying $25,000 bonuses, but the Cardinals joined the Florida Marlins in paying the full amount to the 32-man replacement roster.

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