Originally created 06/26/04

Boone to sign with Indians



CLEVELAND -- Free agent third baseman Aaron Boone has reached a tentative agreement on a two-year contract with the Cleveland Indians, The Associated Press learned Friday.

Boone, whose 11th-inning homer in Game 7 of the ALCS last season put the New York Yankees in the World Series, hasn't played since injuring his left knee during a basketball game in January.

The Indians, who outbid several other teams for Boone, plan to announce the signing this weekend if Boone passes his physical, according to two baseball sources who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro confirmed that the team was having contract talks with Boone. He also said the 31-year-old infielder was in Cleveland for medical tests.

"We are in the midst of negotiations, which are progressing," Shapiro said before the Indians played Colorado.

Cleveland needs to make sure Boone's knee is sound before finalizing the deal.

Last winter, the club came close to trading shortstop Omar Vizquel to Seattle, but the deal fell through when Vizquel failed his physical for the Mariners.

"If there's anything we should have learned in the last year is to be diligent," Shapiro said.

The GM would not comment when asked when Boone might be ready to play.

The Indians (35-36) could use Boone's bat for a playoff push. They have won 17 of 27 since May 27 and entered the weekend four games out of first place in the AL Central.

Boone went from hero-to-goat in a New York minute.

Just two months after beating the Boston Red Sox with his homer off Tim Wakefield, Boone tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in a pickup basketball game.

Boone's injury led the Yankees to pursue and eventually trade with Texas for All-Star Alex Rodriguez.

Boone had surgery before being released in February by the Yankees. He agreed in December to a one-year $5.75 million deal with New York, but the contract prohibited him from playing basketball. So, the Yankees only had to give Boone 30 days termination pay - $917,553.

The Indians will benefit from Boone's versatility. He can play third base, second base and shortstop. With Vizquel in the final year of his contract, Boone gives Cleveland some depth and options for 2005.

"He's a good person and a good player who can make this team better," said third baseman Casey Blake, who may have to move to first when Boone arrives. "I'll play wherever they want and I know Aaron will, too."

Boone batted .254 with six homers and 31 RBIs last year for New York, which acquired him from the Reds last July for left-handers Brandon Claussen and Charlie Manning.

Overall, Boone hit .267 with 24 homers and 96 RBIs last season and was named an NL All-Star.

Associated Press Ron Blum contributed to this report.