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Hall of Famer signs personal services contract

2/25/2004

Houston Astros: Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan returned to the Astros on Tuesday, signing a five-year personal services contract.

"I feel like it's a homecoming for me," said Ryan, who had
worked for the Texas Rangers before his contract expired this
month. "I still have friends here. That's unusual in the game
today because of all the comings and goings, but I feel honored to
a part of it. It's an exciting time for the Astros."

Astros owner Drayton McLane said Ryan will work in all phases of
the organization, including on-field instruction.

"He pitched 27 years, and we might make it 28," McLane joked.
"but really, we do have a rotation."

Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, both Houston-area residents,
signed as free agents with the Astros during the offseason.

Ryan, the career strikeouts leader, will work with Astros
manager Jimy Williams and Pam Gardner, the president of business
operations. Ryan will go to spring training some time next month to
meet with Williams and get acquainted with the team.

Ryan began negotiating with the Astros after his deal with the
Texas Rangers expired earlier this month. He already is owner of
the Astros' Double-A farm team in Round Rock.

He first joined the Astros after the 1979 season and helped them
to division titles in 1980 and 1986. He departed unhappily after
the 1988 season and signed with the Rangers at 41. Ryan went on to
pitch two more no-hitters, giving him seven, and boost his
strikeout total to 5,714 before retiring in 1993 at 46.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Raul Mondesi is guaranteed $1.75 million
under his contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The outfielder, who signed Monday, will get $1.15 million this
year. Pittsburgh holds an $8 million option for 2005 with a
$600,000 buyout.

The 33-year-old Mondesi passed a physical Monday, and Pittsburgh
finalized the deal.

He hit .272 with 24 homers, 71 RBIs and 22 steals in 143 games
with the New York Yankees and Arizona last year.

Seattle Mariners: Seattle Mariners reliever Rafael Soriano
will be sidelined for three to four weeks after an MRI exam Tuesday
revealed a strained interior oblique muscle on his left side.

The 24-year-old right-hander was throwing off the mound Monday
when he felt a pinch in his left abdomen. The injury occurred
midway through workouts, and manager Bob Melvin immediately cut off
Soriano's pitching for the day.

"Anytime you hear three weeks, it gets your attention," Melvin
said. "The silver lining is that he has pitched deep into winter
ball. It's not a starter we're going to have to stretch out."

Soriano said he felt sore Tuesday but predicted he could be
ready to return within one week, if necessary. Melvin said team
officials expect Soriano to be available in mid to late March.

"If we get him sometime in the early 20s in March, we'll have a
couple weeks to get him ready, and that should be fine," Melvin
said.

The Mariners open the regular season April 6 against visiting
Anaheim.

Soriano, who throws in the upper 90s, was called up from the
minors last season to work from the bullpen. He went 3-0 with a
1.53 ERA and was the AL's rookie of the month in August after going
2-0 with a 1.62 ERA in 12 appearances.

Mariners catcher Dan Wilson opened the season on the disabled
list last year with a similar oblique injury that he sustained
midway through spring training. Wilson was hurt while swinging a
bat.

New York Yankees: Manager Joe Torre left the New York Yankees
in the middle of their workout Tuesday after his father-in-law
fell.

The Yankees said Ed Wolterman broke his wrist in the spill.
Wolterman is staying in the Tampa area with Torre and his wife,
Ali.

"He'll be here tomorrow," Yankees general manager Brian
Cashman said of Torre after the manager departed.

In other Yankees news, right-hander Jon Lieber will
not throw off a mound for at least five to seven days because of an
injured right groin.

Lieber first felt discomfort while throwing in the bullpen
Saturday. The groin tightened up again eight minutes into a
12-minute mound session Monday.

"We want to be safe," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman
said Tuesday.

Lieber, a former 20-game winner with the Chicago Cubs, is
projected as the Yankees fifth starter. He was limited to three
minor league starts last season following ligament replacement
surgery on his right elbow in Aug. 2002.

"I don't want to push it," Lieber said. "I don't want to
jeopardize things."

He played catch Tuesday on flat ground, but did not take part in
running or fielding drills during the first full squad workout.

"If it takes two weeks, it takes two weeks," Lieber said. "I
don't want any setbacks."

Lieber has been throwing off a mound since mid-December. He has
not experienced arm problems.

Notes
INF Tyler Houston, who never reported to camp, was released
from his minor league contract. Houston was among the potential
candidates for third base before New York obtained Alex Rodriguez
last week from Texas. ... RF Gary Sheffield called his first
Yankees' workout a memorable one. "After you finish your career,
these are the days you remember more than anything -- the first day
you put on this uniform and run on the field with the guys," he
said. ... Jason Giambi received an ovation from fans after hitting
several long homers to right during batting practice.