Gardenhire going with longest-tenured Twin


Minnesota Twins: Although Twins manager Ron Gardenhire never likes to look too far ahead, he already has selected Brad Radke to start the opener against Cleveland on April 5.

While Johan Santana became the ace by September after moving
into the rotation at midseason, Radke is the longest-tenured Twin
following the offseason departures of Eddie Guardado, Denny Hocking
and LaTroy Hawkins.

Radke made the team out of spring training during the strike-delayed 1995 season. The next closest guy, Torii Hunter, played in one game as a pinch-runner in 1997.

"I would never want to jinx anybody by saying too much too early. Radke's my opening-day starter," Gardenhire said Monday, breaking into laughter.

This would be Radke's sixth straight opening-day start and his
eighth overall. It also would be his eighth start in a home opener.

Seattle Mariners: Reliever Rafael Soriano winced and dropped into a crouch after throwing a pitch Monday.
Moments later, he propped a hand on his left side and walked into the clubhouse.

Soriano strained a muscle on the left side of his abdomen about
halfway through an eight-minute throwing session. The extent of the
injury wasn't immediately known, and he'll be re-evaluated Tuesday.

"I'll be all right, maybe in a couple of days," Soriano, 24, said. "I'll have to see the trainer again tomorrow before I know more."

The injury didn't appear serious, but coaches cut short Soriano's workout to ensure it wouldn't worsen. The hard-throwing right-hander is expected to be a key member of the bullpen this season.

Atlanta Braves: Catcher-outfielder Eli Marrero was signed to a one-year contract extension through the 2005 season.

Financial terms were not disclosed. Marrero will make $3 million this season and would have been eligible for free agency after the season.

Acquired along with outfielder J.D. Drew as part of a
five-player trade with the Cardinals, Marrero will split time behind the plate with Johnny Estrada and serve as a reserve corner outfielder.

"We are excited to have a player of Eli's ability and
versatility on our roster," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

The 30-year-old Marrero is coming off a season that limited him
to just 41 games due to a severe right ankle injury and batted
.224 with two homers and 20 RBI. In 2002, he hit .262 with 18
home runs, 66 RBI and 14 stolen bases.

New York Yankees: Right-hander Jon Lieber will miss his next scheduled mound session because of an injured right groin.

Lieber first felt discomfort while throwing Saturday and he
stopped a bullpen stint Monday eight minutes into a scheduled
12-minute session. The injury is not considered serious.

"It tightened up on me again," Lieber said. "I know what
these injuries can do. I didn't want to push it any further."

Lieber, the Yankees' No. 5 starter, did not pitch in the major
leagues last season after elbow replacement surgery in August 2002.
He started three minor league games in August.

Houston Astros: The club will announce Tuesday at Minute Maid Park that it has agreed to a five-year
personal services contract with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

The deal was first reported as imminent Feb. 16 by Houston TV station KRIV. A baseball source who spoke to The Associated Press on condition on anonymity confirmed the announcement.

Ryan's began negotiating with the Astros after his personal
services deal with the Texas Rangers expired earlier this month.
His duties under the new deal with owner Drayton McLane Jr. are
expected to include some sort of baseball advisory role, though not
with a formal coach's title.

Ryan owns the Astros' Class AA affiliate in Round Rock, Texas.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals claimed left-hander Luis Martinez off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers.

Martinez, recently cleared in a shooting in the Dominican Republic, was the Brewers' minor league pitcher of the year last season after combing to go 12-5 with a 2.13 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 160 2-3 innings in 27 games for Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Indianapolis.

He made his major league debut last September, and went 0-3 with 9.92 ERA in four starts for the Brewers.

Martinez, 24, was arrested earlier this month in the shooting, but authorities in Santo Domingo determined he had acted in self-defense during what began as a traffic dispute.

Atlanta Braves: Eli Marrero agreed
to a contract extension through the 2005 season.

The catcher/outfielder, obtained from St. Louis in December, makes $3 million this year and would have been eligible for free agency after the season.

"We are excited to have a player of Eli's ability and versatility on our roster," Braves manager Bobby Cox said.

Marrero, 30, batted .224 with two homers and 20 RBIs in just 107 at-bats last season, missing 101 games because of a torn ligament in his right ankle. He had the best season of his career in 2002, when he hit .262 with 18 homers and 66 RBIs, both career highs.

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report.