Little didn't land any managerial jobs

Updated: December 15, 2004, 10:27 PM ET
Associated Press

Chicago Cubs: Former Boston Red Sox manager Grady Little was promoted to special assistant in player development by the Cubs on Wednesday.

Little was interviewed for managing jobs with Seattle and Philadelphia this offseason after spending the last year as a scouting consultant and assistant to Cubs general manager Jim Hendry.

But he didn't get either job, and will instead stay with the Cubs and assist Oneri Fleita, the team's director of player development.

He'll also serve as a roving catching instructor.

"We find it hard to believe his services were not needed at the major league level in some capacity by any other club, but are very happy he's coming back to us," Hendry said. "We're thrilled he will be taking an active part in assisting our minor league players."

Arizona Diamondbacks: Craig Counsell is returning to Arizona, the latest in an offseason spree of signings designed to turn baseball's biggest losers into winners again.

Counsell agreed Wednesday to a two-year, $3.1 million contract.

Arizona traded Counsell to the Milwaukee Brewers after the 2003 season as part of a multiplayer deal that sent Richie Sexson to the Diamondbacks. The Brewers declined a $4.25 million option on Counsell, paying a $250,000 buyout, and he became a free agent.

Counsell hit .241 with two home runs and 23 RBI last season. He spent four seasons with Arizona, and was a significant part of the 2001 World Series championship team. Counsell was named the most valuable player in the NLCS that season.

Three more free agents are visiting the Diamondbacks this week. Pitcher Matt Clement came on Tuesday, pitcher Shawn Estes was there on Wednesday and right fielder Jeromy Burnitz is scheduled to visit on Thursday.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals signed free-agent catcher Einar Diaz to a $600,000, one-year contract.

Diaz will back up Yadier Molina, who became the starter after Mike Matheny signed a three-year contract with the Giants earlier this week.

Diaz, 31, batted .223 last year in 55 games with Montreal. He's a .256 career hitter with 20 home runs and 185 RBI in six-plus seasons with the Indians, Rangers and Expos.

Right-hander Al Reyes agreed to a $600,000, one-year contract. Reyes had an 0.75 ERA in 12 late-season appearances with St. Louis last season.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers agreed to an $800,000, one-year deal with third baseman Russell Branyan.

Branyan could make another $200,000 in performances bonuses.

Branyan hit .234 with 11 homers and 27 RBI in 51 games for the Brewers last season after a trade from Cleveland. Before the trade, he hit .279 with 26 home runs and 79 RBI at Triple-A Buffalo.

A power hitter prone to strikeouts, Branyan made his major league debut with the Indians in 1998. He hit a career-high 24 home runs while splitting the 2002 season with Cleveland and Cincinnati.

He has a .228 career batting average and 81 home runs over parts of eight seasons.

The Brewers also agreed to terms with left-hander Tommy Phelps on a minor league deal that includes an invitation to spring training.

Phelps, 30, appeared in 19 games for the Florida Marlins last season and was 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA.

Cincinnati Reds: Right-handers David Weathers and Ben Weber agreed to one-year contracts Wednesday with the Reds, who are trying to rebuild one of the majors leagues' worst bullpens.

Weathers and Weber, both 35, both join a bullpen that had a 5.12 ERA last season, second-worst in the major leagues ahead of only Colorado.

Weather, who is guaranteed $1.35 million, also played for the Reds in 1998. Last season, he went 7-7 with a 4.15 ERA in two starts and 64 relief appearances with the Mets, Houston and Florida.

Weber went 0-2 with an 8.06 ERA in 18 appearances for Anaheim last season. He missed nearly two months with carpal tunnel syndrome.

He was one of the Angels' best relievers from 2001-03, going 18-5 with a 2.86 ERA. He had a career-high seven saves in 2002.

Weathers' contract calls for a $1.25 million salary next season and includes a 2006 option at $1.25 million to $1.6 million, depending on appearances, with a $100,000 buyout. It can becomes guaranteed based on his 2005 appearances.

Detroit Tigers: Tigers outfielder Craig Monroe pleaded not guilty to shoplifting a belt.

Police arrested Monroe on a misdemeanor charge Dec. 3 after they say he wrapped the $29.99 belt around his waist and tried to leave without paying for it. He was released on bond the same day.

Monroe, who earned $335,000 last season, appeared Wednesday in Charlotte County Court before Circuit Judge Peter Bell.

Monroe hit .293 with 18 home runs and 72 RBI in 128 games last season for the Tigers.

New York Yankees: The Yankees are raising ticket prices for most of their top seats by $10 next season, with the best box seats going for $90.

The increase was announced Wednesday, when the Yankees released their 2005 schedule. After becoming the first major league team to waste a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven postseason series and losing the AL pennant to Boston, New York opens at home against the Red Sox on April 4.

New York's best regular seats, which include waiter service, are available only as part of season ticket plans.

The price of the top ticket usually available on a per-game basis will rise to $60, from $55. Upper deck reserved seats increase from $15 to $17, and bleacher seats rise from $8 to $10.

Chicago White Sox: New White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik has a simple explanation for the dramatic drop in his numbers last year.

"I tried to do way too much, and I simply failed," he said Wednesday. "I think that I showed up to spring training '04 clearly trying to go out and be the player that I was the season before. I tried to do way too much from an offensive standpoint. I came out of my comfort zone. When you're playing against the best, you simply can't do that."

After nine years of bouncing around the minors, Podsednik had a breakout year in 2003 with the Milwaukee Brewers. He hit .314 with nine homers, 58 RBI, 43 stolen bases and a .379 on-base percentage. He led NL rookies in nine offensive categories, reached base safely in 47 straight games and was runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting.

Last season, though, was a different story. He led the major leagues with 70 stolen bases, but his batting average dropped to .244 and his on-base percentage fell to .313.

Colorado Rockies: The Rockies have signed former Cincinnati outfielder Reggie Taylor to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Other terms were not disclosed Wednesday.

Taylor, 27, hit .274 with 20 home runs and 54 RBIs in 119 games last season with Cincinnati's Triple-A affiliate in Louisville and the White Sox's Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte.

Philadelphia made him a first-round draft pick in 1995, and he played for Cincinnati in the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Taylor is the sixth non-roster invitee to agree to terms with Colorado. The others are infielders Andy Tracy, Eddy Garabito and Tim Olson; catcher Danny Ardoin; and right-hander David Cortes.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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