Yankees sign Contreras
NEW YORK, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The New York Yankees Tuesday announced that they have reached an understanding with coveted righthander Jose Contreras on the structure of a four-year contract.
The completion of an agreement is subject to the approval of the Commissioner's Office, other regulatory procedures, and a physical examination.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but the deal reportedly was for over $30 million.
"Jose Contreras is most certainly the premier amateur pitcher in the world and may be the best pitcher ever in amateur play," said Gordon Blakeley, the Yankees' Vice President of International and Professional Scouting. "He has an exceptional fastball and breaking ball plus a championship makeup, and we expect him to have great success at the major league level."
Monday was the first day the free agent could begin contract talks and it was expected that Contreras, a native of Cuba, would sign with the Yankees or the American League East rival Boston Red Sox.
"This is a great Christmas present for Yankee fans everywhere and was a total team effort by our organization," said General Manager Brian Cashman.
Contreras, a star on Cuba's national team before he defected Oct. 2 while the team competed in a tournament in Monterrey, Mexico, was declared a free agent last week after establishing residency in Nicaragua a week earlier.
Contreras, 31, compiled a 117-50 career record with a 2.82 ERA in the Cuban League. He went 13-4 with a 1.76 ERA this season.
The Red Sox, with 28-year-old general manager Theo Epstein, were the Yankees' primary competition for Contreras, who recently visited the South Florida home of Boston owner John Henry. Former Red Sox ace and fellow Cuban Luis Tiant also was involved in the courtship.
Boasting a fastball in the mid-90s, Contreras is joining a crowded rotation in New York that includes Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, David Wells, Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, also from Cuba, and Jeff Weaver. The club also is close to re-signing Roger Clemens.
The 6-4, 220-pound Contreras drew widespread attention during an exhibition game in Havana in 1999, when he allowed just two hits and struck out 10 in eight scoreless innings against the Baltimore Orioles.
Reds ink three veterans
CINCINNATI, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The Cincinnati Reds Tuesday signed veteran righthanders Pete Harnisch and Jose Rijo to minor league contracts.
Harnisch, 36, signed with the Colorado Rockies last February, but missed the entire 2002 campaign with a right elbow injury. In 2001, he was with the Reds, going 1-3 with a 6.37 ERA in seven starts before going on the disabled list with elbow problems.
He spent four years with Reds, compiling a 39-26 record with a 3.89 ERA.
Rijo, 37, posted a 5-4 record with 5.14 ERA in 31 games, including nine starts, last season.
Like Harnisch, Rijo also is no stranger to elbow problems. He has had five surgeries and was out of baseball for six years before signing with the Reds in 2000.
The Reds also signed infielder Wilton Guerrero to a minor league contract.
Guerrero, 28, hit a combined .221 with the Reds and Montreal Expos. He was traded by the Reds to Florida in a deal that brought righthander Ryan Dempster to Cincinnati, then dealt by the Marlins to Montreal.
Knicks to retire Ewing's number
NEW YORK, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The New York Knicks announced Tuesday that they will retire the number 33, worn by Patrick Ewing, on Feb. 28.
The number will be retired in a ceremony at halftime of the game against the Orlando Magic.
Ewing, voted one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history, is the Knicks' all-time leader in points (24,815), rebounds (10,759), blocked shots (2,758), steals (1,061), games played (1,039), field goals (9,260), and free throws (5,26).
"I am honored to have my jersey retired by this franchise," said Ewing, who is an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. "I have spent the majority of my career in New York and I will always consider myself a Knick. I will always cherish the memories that I have made in New York."
An 11-time All-Star center in 15 years with the Knicks, Ewing turned them into perennial contenders throughout the 1990s, but was never able to deliver a championship for New York.
"Patrick was the symbol of all that was great about New York basketball over a 15-year span that includes two NBA Finals appearances and four division titles," said Knicks General Manager Scott Layden. "We feel there is no finer honor to bestow upon him that to have his number take its rightful place in the rafters with other franchise greats."
Ewing will join Walt Frazier, Dick Barnett, Earl Monroe, Dick McGuire, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere and Bill Bradley as the only Knick players to have their numbers retired. Hall of Fame Coach Red Holzman is also represented in the rafters at Madison Square Garden.
At his request, Ewing was traded by the Knicks to Seattle in 2000. He announced his retirement last September after playing sparingly for the Orlando Magic in 2001-02.
Ewing finished with career averages of 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.45 blocks in 1,183 games.
Bulger will not need surgery
ST. LOUIS, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger will miss the team's regular season finale next Monday because of a back injury.
He will not require surgery.
Bulger was hurt when he was sacked by Antonio Cochran and John Hilliard three minutes into Sunday's 30-10 loss at Seattle. A CT scan revealed no broken bones and Bulger will not require surgery, but will need to rest for 6-8 weeks.
"It's painful for him, but it's not going to hinder his career or affect him in any way," said Rams Coach Mike Martz of Bulger's injury.
On Sunday, Bulger was trying to become the first quarterback to win his first seven NFL starts since Minnesota's Daunte Culpepper in 2000, but attempted just one pass before the injury. Jamie Martin replaced Bulger and threw for 259 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted three times.
Scott Covington is the only other quarterback on the Rams roster. St. Louis lost starter Kurt Warner to a broken hand in a Dec. 1 loss at Philadelphia.
Bulger was 6-0 as a starter filling in for Warner this season, but also was sidelined for a few games with a sprained finger ligament. He has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,826 yards and 14 touchdowns with six interceptions.
The Rams (6-9), who missed the playoffs for the first time in four years, will also be without starting linebacker Tommy Polley and defensive end Grant Wistrom for the season finale against San Francisco. Polley has a high ankle sprain and Wistrom a hairline fracture in his right leg.
Athletics ink Chris Singleton
OAKLAND, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The Oakland Athletics have agreed to terms with outfielder Chris Singleton on a one-year contract with a club option for 2004.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Singleton, 30, who likely will be Oakland's centerfielder, batted .262 with nine home runs, 50 RBI, and 20 stolen bases last season for the Baltimore Orioles, who did not tender him a contract last week.
Singleton, who broke into the majors with the Chicago White Sox in 1999, has a .278 career average with 44 homers, 229 RBI and 74 steals in 556 games.
He has spent the majority of his playing time in center, and could replace Terrence Long, who is expected to be shifted to leftfield next season.
Kings lose Deadmarsh
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The Los Angeles Kings have placed right wing Adam Deadmarsh on the injured reserve list, retroactive to Dec. 16, with post-concussion like symptoms.
Deadmarsh, 27, has missed the last three games because of dizziness.
In 20 games with the Kings this season, he leads the Kings with 13 goals to go along with four assists and 21 penalty minutes.
To take Deadmarsh's spot on the roster, the Kings activated center Derek Armstrong from the injured reserve list. Armstrong, who has been out with a groin strain, has five goals and five assists in 19 games.