Sat, Jul 17, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Arizona wants to unload the `Big Unit'

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL The Yankees, White Sox, Boston and Anaheim are expected to make a pitch for Cy Young winner Randy Johnson of the Diamondbacks

AP , NEW YORKAP, CINCINNATI, OHIOAP, DETROIT, MICHIGAN

Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson after getting an RBI single during the sixth inning against the Dodgers at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona, Thursday. Arizona appears anxious to trade the aging five-time Cy Young award winning All-Star.

PHOTO: AP

The Randy Johnson sweepstakes are heating up, with the Arizona Diamondbacks calling teams to see who -- besides the New York Yankees -- is ready to trade for the star pitcher.

The Yankees officially told Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. on Wednesday that they'd like to have him.

Boston, Anaheim and the Chicago White Sox are among the other clubs expected to make a pitch for the five-time Cy Young winner.

After Garagiola gauges interest around the majors, he'll call back those GMs and make trade proposals, a source familiar with the process said Thursday on the condition of anonymity.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said he held a team meeting before Thursday night's game at Detroit, discussing the second half but avoiding trade talk.

"I don't really want to plant that seed," he said. "If I sense that there's a lot of smoke and steam and I sense somebody is distracted, then we'll address it."

The Yankees have the best record in the major leagues. But with pitchers Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina and Jon Lieber all hurt at some point this season and starter Jose Contreras still inconsistent, the rotation is the team's biggest question mark.

The deadline to make trades without waivers is July 31. After that, given the competition between the Yankees and Red Sox, it would be hard to imagine Johnson slipping through waivers without being claimed.

Johnson is making US$16 million this season and has a US$16 million contract for 2005, the last year of his deal.

Johnson was 10-7 with a 2.99 ERA and leading the majors with 145 strikeouts going into Thursday night's start against Los Angeles. He pitched a perfect game at Atlanta on May 18.

Earlier this week, the 40-year-old lefty said he would consider waiving his no-trade clause if Arizona wants to send him to a contender.

At 31-58, the Diamondbacks had the worst record in the majors at the All-Star break.

"Obviously, it would have to be a situation as such that it's going to work for me. That's the only way," Johnson said Monday.

"I'm not going to leave to go somewhere else to theoretically have a chance to win. It's going to have to be somewhere that ... teams that have a chance to win, that's the only way," he said.

Chances are, the Diamondbacks would want young, promising players -- guys who do not cost too much -- for Johnson.

The Angels might have the most to offer, though owner Arte Moreno does not sound eager to trade his future for Johnson.

Johnson and Curt Schilling were co-MVPs of Arizona's win over the Yankees in the 2001 World Series.

Getting Johnson would push the Yankees' payroll to around US$200 million. The Yankees are never shy about spending money, though their minor league system is not stocked with top talent.

National League

Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen hit two-run homers to lead the St. Louis Cardinals to a 7-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds Thursday.

Matt Morris (10-6) allowed eight hits in six innings to beat Jesus Sanchez (0-2). He allowed just two base runners until the Cardinals scored four runs in the fourth, when Edgar Renteria led off with a single and Pujols followed with his 23rd homer.

"It's a big tribute to the way the guys play behind me," Morris said. "They see me scuffling. They show me each time I'm out there that they're willing to do the little things necessary to win the ballgame."

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