Originally created 03/15/03

Pirates finally sign outfielder



BRADENTON, Fla. - Not long ago, most major-league teams would have loved starting Kenny Lofton in center field and Reggie Sanders in right. The Pittsburgh Pirates hope it's still a winning combination.

Lofton and Sanders, teammates with the National League champion San Francisco Giants last season, were reunited in Pittsburgh when Lofton reached terms Friday on a $1,025,000, one-year contract.

The Pirates had tried to sign the 35-year-old Lofton since spring training started, finally making the deal after sweetening their initial offer of $500,000 in base salary and $500,000 in performance bonuses.

The base salary matches Lofton's 2002 contract, with $525,000 deferred until the end of the season. He can make an additional $475,000 in performance bonuses.

Lofton also was negotiating with the Rangers, but they offered him only a minor-league contract.

The deal means Brian Giles moves back to left field - he has been playing in center this spring - and Sanders shifts to right field. Matt Stairs and Craig Wilson, who were to platoon in right field, almost certainly will get fewer outfield starts.

A-ROD UPDATE: Alex Rodriguez will miss at least a few days with a small herniated disc in his neck but the Texas Rangers are confident their $252 million shortstop will be healthy by opening day.

"From everything we've been told about the injury, we sit here today very confident that Alex will be back any day," general manager John Hart said Friday. "There's no reason to think he won't. We just want to hold Alex back, get him 100 percent over the next day or two and ease him back in. There's plenty of time.

Rodriguez complained of stiffness and fatigue in his left shoulder after playing Tuesday and Wednesday. He was scheduled for a day off Thursday and went back to Dallas for additional tests after an examination by team physician Dr. Drew Dossett.

A CT scan revealed a small herniated disc in one of the vertebrae in his neck and an irritated nerve. Rodriguez received a cortisone injection Friday to relieve the swelling and is expected back in Rangers' camp Sunday or Monday.

SUSPENSIONS: Montreal outfielder Vladimir Guerrero was suspended for three games Friday, and Florida pitcher Brad Penny was suspended for five games for their roles in a bench-clearing brawl this week.

Montreal infielder Jose Macias was suspended two games. All three players were also fined by baseball disciplinarian Bob Watson.

The suspensions for Guerrero and Penny are scheduled to start on opening day unless the players appeal them. Macias' suspension is scheduled to start April 4.

On Monday, Penny hit Guerrero high in the chest in the first inning. Guerrero, still holding his bat in his left hand, said a few words to Penny as catcher Matt Treanor tried to restrain the All-Star outfielder.

After Penny got closer, Guerrero swung his right fist around the catcher at the pitcher, missing. Penny retaliated with punch that missed, and the benches emptied.

Macias joined the fight and was punished for his role.