In Sports from United Press International
Reliever John Rocker goes to Texas
ARLINGTON, Texas, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- John Rocker's tumultuous six-month stay with the Cleveland Indians ended Tuesday when the Texas Rangers acquired the controversial lefthanded reliever for minor league pitcher David Elder.
Rocker, who came under intense criticism for remarks on racial, ethnic and sexual minorities in a Sports Illustrated article in December 1999 while with the Atlanta Braves, will be reunited with John Hart, who resigned as Indians general manager and was named to the same position in Texas.
The move puts Rocker in the same clubhouse with volatile outfielder Carl Everett, who recently was acquired from Boston.
Last season with the Indians, Hart acquired the hard-throwing 27-year-old Rocker from the Braves for pitchers Steve Karsay and Steve Reed, a move that backfired.
Rocker struggled with the Indians, going 3-7 with a 5.45 ERA in 38 games and converting just 4-of-7 save opportunities. He was anointed as the club's closer upon the deal but wound up losing the job to Bob Wickman.
There is a clear need for Rocker in Texas, which had 18 blown saves last season while using Tim Crabtree and Jeff Zimmerman in the closer's role. Rocker, however, is expected to be used in a setup role with Texas.
Rocker is the third new addition to the Texas bullpen, joining Todd Van Poppel and Jay Powell, who recently signed as free agents.
Due to his insensitive remarks in the SI article, Rocker was suspended for two weeks and fined by Commissioner Bud Selig. The comments were directed primarily at New Yorkers but stung people across the country, including all-time home run king and Braves employee Hank Aaron, who said he was "sick and disgusted" after reading the statements.
Rocker enjoyed his best season in 1999, collecting a career-high 38 saves while posting a 4-5 record. He owns a lifetime mark of 11-19 with 87 saves and a 3.05 ERA in 248 games.
Elder, 26, the Rangers' fourth-round pick in the 1997 draft, split time last season between Class AA Tulsa and Class AAA Oklahoma, compiling a 9-10 record with a 3.98 ERA in 28 games-- including 21 starts.
Ankle has Hill out for season
ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Orlando Magic star Grant Hill will have season-ending ankle surgery Wednesday to repair a troublesome injury that has sidelined him for all but 18 games the last two years.
Hill, who signed with Orlando prior to last season, will have bone spurs removed. Dr. Mark Myerson also will reinforce the site of the original stress fracture.
"We all feel badly, as Grant was a big part of our plans this season," Magic general manager John Gabriel said. "What's most important, however, is to improve the overall health of Grant's ankle joint and allow him to return to form."
One of the NBA's most versatile players, Hill is in the second season of a seven-year, $93 million contract.
The 29-year-old Hill suffered a bone bruise in his left ankle late in the 1999-2000 season, when he was with Detroit. He played through the injury in two postseason games and later was diagnosed with a broken ankle.
Hill underwent surgery following the season, but the bone did not heal properly due to a lack of blood reaching the area. He appeared in just four games last season and was told he may not play again unless he had a second procedure.
In January, Hill had surgery to repair the medial malleous bone. The procedure required the removal of old screws and the insertion of new ones, along with a bone graft.
After five months of rehabilitation, Hill said at the outset of training camp in October that "I've got to prove that I'm healthy, which I've been doing (this summer), and that our team can rely on me."
The 1995 NBA co-Rookie of the Year and a six-time All-Star, Hill had averaged 21.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 439 games entering this season.
Flames get Buzek from Thrashers
CALGARY, Alberta, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Former All-Star defenseman Petr Buzek got his wish Tuesday when he was traded from the Atlanta Thrashers to the Calgary Flames with a conditional 2003 draft pick for left wing Jeff Cowan and defenseman Kurtis Foster.
The deal comes a month after Buzek was suspended by the Thrashers after requesting a trade. That demand came after team officials refused his request for a multi-year contract extension. He was reinstated December 7 but has just 13 penalty minutes in nine games this season.
Assorted injuries have limited the 24-year-old Czech to 14 games over the last two campaigns. Buzek was an All-Star during the 1999-2000 season, when he had five goals, 14 assists and a minus-22 in 63 games.
Cowan, 25, heads to Atlanta after registering one goal and 40 penalty minutes in 19 games this season. The 6-2, 195-pounder has 14 goals and five assists in 83 NHL games, all with Calgary.
Reds-Rockies make four player deal
CINCINNATI, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- In a deal designed to cut salary, the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday traded second baseman Pokey Reese and lefthander Dennys Reyes to the Colorado Rockies for lefhander Gabe White and minor league pitcher Luke Hudson.
Reese, who made $3.2 million last year, and Reyes are arbitration eligible.
Reese, 28, batted just .224 with nine homers and 40 RBI in 133 games for the Reds last season. During the past two years, he missed a combined 74 games with a variety of injuries but did not spend any time of the disabled list.
Reyes, 24, posted a 2-6 record with a 4.92 ERA in six starts and 29 relief appearances for the Reds in 2001. From May 30-July 1, he was on the DL with tightness in his left forearm.
White, 30, is hoping a move out of hitter-friendly Coors Field will boost his career. He was just 1-7 with a 6.25 ERA in a career-high 69 appearances last season but 11-2 with a 2.17 ERA in 67 games for Colorado in 2000.
Hudson, 24, spent all of 2001 with Class AA Carolina of the Southern League and posted a 7-12 record and 4.20 ERA in 28 starts. He held Southern League hitters to .250 and has recorded 403 strikeouts while allowing only 417 hits in his four minor league seasons.
Nuxhall has heart attack
CINCINNATI, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Joe Nuxhall, who in 1944 became the youngest player ever to appear in a major league game, has been hospitalized after having a heart attack.
The Reds said Nuxhall was in stable condition at Mercy-Fairfield Hosptial in Fairfield, Ohio, which is some two hours from Cincinnati.
Nuxhall's wife, Donzetta, said her husband was "doing very well" but would remain in the hospital for a few days for more tests. Doctors expect Nuxhall to be "fine."
Nuxhall, 73, was 15 when he pitched in a big league game for the Reds in 1944. He did not appear in another game until 1952 but enjoyed a solid career, going 135-117 with a 3.90 ERA in 526 appearances.
A native of Hamilton, Ohio, Nuxhall has been a Reds announcer for 35 years.
Carter soars in early all-star voting
New York, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Toronto's Vince Carter apparently is still the favorite of NBA fans. After leading all players in balloting the last two seasons, the high-flying forward of the Toronto Raptors broke out of the gate quickly with 471,255 votes after the first returns for the 2002 All-Star Game were announced on Tuesday.
Guard Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers--the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player--is second among Eastern Conference players in the balloting with 284,368 votes.
Michael Jordan, the most popular player in the history of the NBA, returned to play with the Washington Wizards after a three-year retirement and is third among Eastern Conference players with 271,598 votes.
Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. who have led the Los Angeles Lakers to back-to-back NBA titles, are 1-2 in Western Conference voting. O'Neal tops the centers with 408,406 votes and Bryant received 363,184 votes.
Starters for the 51st All-Star Game, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 10 in Philadelphia, is determined in fan balloting that will continue through Jan. 13. NBA coaches will vote for the remaining members of the All-Star teams in their respective conferences.
Hitchcock gets new Yankee contract
NEW YORK, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Left-hander Sterling Hitchcock signed a new two-year contract with the New York Yankees Tuesday,reportedly worth $12 million.
The Yankees may also be interested in bringing back free agent left-hander David Wells.
Re-acquired by the Yankees from San Diego last July, Hitchcock went 4-4 with a 6.49 ERA in 10 appearances and won Game Foive of the World Series.
Knoblauch gets Royal treatment
KANSAS CITY, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- The Kansas City Royals dipped into the free agent market Tuesday to sign outfielder Chuck Knoblauch, hoping he is the leadoff man they were seeking.
Knoblauch was a part of three World Series championship teams while playing for the New York Yankees the last four seasons. He also was a member of the Minnesota Twins' World Series championship club in his rookie season in 1991.
A four-time All Star and the American League Rookie of the Year in 1991, Knoblauch will try to revitalize his career with the Royals after hitting a career-low .250 last season. Throwing problems forced a shift to left field from second base where he played the first 11 years of his career.
Giants skipper has surgery
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- San Francisco Giants Manager Dusty Baker was recovering Tuesday from surgery for prostate cancer. He is expected to be at full strength when spring training begins in February.
The cancer was discovered in an early-detection screening process shortly after the regular season and was found to be in its earliest stages, the team said.
The three-hour procedure was performed Monday. A biopsy of the surrounding lymph nodes was negative.
Baker, 52, is a three-time Manager of the Year with the Giants and the winningest skipper in San Francisco history, going 745-649 in nine seasons. He also was an All-Star outfielder with Los Angeles.
Marshall, East Carolina in Alabama Bowl
MOBILE, Ala., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Marshall, ranked 25th with a 10-2 record but dethroned as Mid-American Conference champions, takes on East Carolina in the GMAC/Mobile Alabama Bowl Wednesday night.
Colorado State and North Texas got the bowl season under way Tuesday night in the inaugural New Orleans Bowl.
Toledo ended the Thundering Herd's bid for a fifth straight MAC title on Nov. 30, rallying for a wild 41-36 victory at the Glass Bowl after spotting Marshall a 23-0 lead early in the second quarter. Toledo became the first team other than Marshall to win a MAC championship.
The loss snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Thundering Herd, whose only other defeat was a 49-14 season-opening setback to Florida.
. East Carolina (6-5) must contend with Byron Leftwich, who had a spectacular game against Toledo, completing 32-of-52 passes for 421 yards and four touchdowns against the Rockets to go over the 4,000-yard mark for the season.
Calgary adds defense depth
CALGARY, Alberta, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- The Calgary Flames added depth on defense Tuesday, acquiring Petr Buzek and a conditional 2003 draft choice from the Atlanta Thrashers.
Calgary sent left wing Jeff Cowan and defenseman Kurtis Foster to the Thrashers.
Buzek, 24, was in his third season with the Thrashers, but has gone without a point while playing in just 14 games the last two campaigns. The 6-1, 220-pounder had 13 penalty minutes in nine games this season.
Cowan, 25, heads to Atlanta after registering one goal and 40 penalty minutes in 19 games this season. Foster, a 2000 second-round pick of the Flames, has nine goals and four assists in 13 games while playing for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League this season.
Norman invited back to Masters
AUGUSTA, Ga., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Greg Norman is going to get another crack at the major championship that has haunted him. He got a special invitation Tuesday from Augusta National Golf Club to play in the 2002 Masters in April.
Norman has been a runner-up at the Masters three times, including his infamous collapse in 1996 when he squandered a six-stroke lead by shooting a 78 in the final round.
The 46-year-old Australian played only 11 times on the PGA Tour last year and forfeited his membership. He had one fourth-place finish at the Bay Hill Invitational last March, but never finished higher than 25th the rest of the season and slipped to No. 113 in the world rankings. He missed the cut at the 2001 Masters.
Tino Martinez signs with Cards
ST. LOUIS, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Free agent first baseman Tino Martinez signed a three-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.
After losing in seven games to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series, the Yankees decided to go after free agent first baseman Jason Giambi, lavishing him with a seven-year contract worth more than $118 million.
Spurned by the Yankees, Martinez drew heavy interest from St. Louis, Oakland and Baltimore in the free agent market.
Martinez led the Yankees with 34 home runs and 113 RBI last season. But his .280 batting average paled in comparison to Giambi's .342 average with the Oakland Athletics.