Former star Nomo designated for assignment

Updated: July 16, 2005, 11:36 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: The Devil Rays designated struggling right-hander Hideo Nomo for assignment on Saturday.

Nomo said he won't pitch in Japan if he doesn't get signed by another major league team.

"I want to keep playing in the majors so I'm going to wait for somebody to call,"' Nomo said through an interpreter.

Nomo lasted just 2 2/3 innings in Friday's 11-6 loss to Toronto, allowing seven runs and nine hits with three walks. It was the third time in the past five starts that Nomo allowed at least six runs, and dropped him to 1-7 with a 10.32 ERA in road games this season.

After the game, manager Lou Piniella said someone would be removed from the rotation if starter Doug Waechter was ready to return from tendinitis in his right index finger.

Nomo went 5-8 with a 7.24 ERA in 19 starts. The first Japanese-born player to play in the majors has a record of 123-109 in a career that began when he was the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tampa Bay has 10 days to trade Nomo or put him on waivers.

The Devil Rays also activated infielder Alex Gonzalez from the 15-day disabled list. He was sidelined with a neck strain.

Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox signed outfielder Gabe Kapler, who was released by his Japanese team, and placed him on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back strain.

Kapler was a backup outfielder with the Red Sox in 2004. He was the first player to leave the World Series champions when he signed a one-year contract with the Yomiuri Giants last November, taking more money and the chance to play every day.

But he struggled in Japan and re-signed with Boston on Friday night.

Kapler hit .272 for Boston last season, with six home runs and 33 RBI in 136 games.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Billionaire Mark Cuban told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Friday he would be interested in buying the Pirates.

The sometimes-controversial owner of the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA also said he would also join the Pirates' current ownership group -- if asked -- if there were a risk of the team leaving Pittsburgh.

Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy said in a statement, "There's no chance of the Pirates moving away, so it's really a nonissue."

Cuban made his comments at the Pirates' game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, where he led the crowd in the traditional singing of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" after the top of the seventh inning.

"It absolutely killed me to sing 'Root, root, root for the Cubbies,' " Cuban said. "I asked the broadcasters later if anybody had ever put in the other team."

Detroit Tigers: The end may be near for Troy Percival's career.

Percival told the Detroit Free Press on Friday his right arm got "progressively worse" over the All-Star break. He was placed on the disabled list Thursday, and on Monday he'll have an MRI exam that could clarify his odds of pitching again. Percival has already decided he would retire at the end of the 2006 season.

"This was going to be my last two years playing," said the 35-year-old Percival. "I've got kids at home and I'm tired of dragging them all over the place. My body is too beat up to think I could go beyond this two years."

Percival had already decided not to have surgery after an arm injury in May.

"Now I'm going to have to listen to what the doc tells me," Percival said, referring to orthopedist Lewis Yocum.

He might need surgery, and if it's like the surgery he declined earlier this season, it could knock him out for 10 to 12 months. A 12-month absence would take him into the second half of next season.

Percival hasn't ruled out postponing his retirement so he could pitch after surgery.

Washington Nationals: Nick Johnson's bruised right heel will be examined again on Monday, the Washington Post reported. Team officials hope the exam will finally help determine when Johnson will be able to come back.

Johnson has been out since suffering the bone bruise on June 26, He had an MRI exam this past Monday that confirmed there is no further damage, said Tim Abraham, the Nationals' head trainer. The exam in Washington will center largely on how much pain Johnson is in. Johnson is wearing a boot to protect the heel.

"He'll be reevaluated on Monday, and then we'll make a decision, one, whether he comes out of the boot, and then, two, how long he's out," Abraham told the Post on Friday. "We really can't even guess until we see him out of the boot."

The Nationals are struggling to score runs in Johnson's absence.

"We need Nick back," right fielder Jose Guillen said. "I'm not getting as many pitches to hit. We need him back to help the whole lineup."

Johnson was batting .320 with eight homers and 42 RBI when he got hurt.

Texas Rangers: The Dallas Morning News reported pitcher Juan Dominguez is testing the Rangers' patience again.

The coveted prospect is AWOL from Triple-A Oklahoma and has been placed on the restricted list.

Rangers assistant general manager Jon Daniels told the Morning News that Dominguez is in the Dominican Republic and the Rangers have been speaking with his agent about getting him back to the U.S.

The Rangers optioned Dominguez back to Oklahoma after Sunday's game. A day earlier, he failed to retire a batter and was charged with five runs on four hits and a hit batter as he nearly blew a 12-3 ninth-inning lead. He was supposed to report to Oklahoma by Thursday afternoon and was to be worked into the RedHawks' rotation.

Dominguez's behavior has disappointed the Rangers before. He didn't show up for a game while with Oklahoma and was demoted to Double-A Frisco. Dominguez was scheduled to start against the Angels late last year but asked not to. Dominguez left a hotel room trashed in 2003 after a brief call-up to the Rangers.

Houston Astros: The Astros activated catcher Humberto Quintero from the 15-day disabled list Saturday.

To make room for Quintero, Houston outrighted catcher Raul Chavez to Triple-A Round Rock. Chavez has 72 hours to decide whether to accept the assignment.

Quintero was on the disabled list since June 23 and missed 23 games.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins optioned second baseman Luis Rivas to Triple-A Rochester, the first time he has been in the minors since being called up in 2000.

Once thought of as the Twins second baseman of the future, Rivas has yet to develop into the type of consistent hitter that the team could build the infield around.

With utility player Michael Cuddyer set to return from a rehabilitation assignment on Sunday, the team had to send somebody down, and Rivas was the odd man out after the team traded for second baseman Bret Boone during the All Star break.

"He needs to go play right now," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Luis needs to go down and get himself back on track. He's still a young player."

Rivas appeared to be coming around just before the break. He was hitting .417 (5-for-12) in his last 10 games to raise his average to .250.

But the Twins need Cuddyer's versatility -- he can play third base, first base, second base and in the outfield -- and want to see if Boone can snap out of his funk and more closely resemble the dangerous hitter he was in Seattle a few years ago.