Venezuelan President Chavez congratulates Guillen

Updated: October 3, 2005, 9:07 PM ET
Associated Press

Chicago White Sox: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez congratulated White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for leading his team to the playoffs.

Chavez spoke to Guillen, who's from Venezuela, by phone Sunday during his weekly program on state-run television and radio, "Hello President."

"Congratulations, Oswaldo. All of us here in Venezuela are so proud of you," Chavez said in their live conversation, broadcast nationwide in the South American country.

Guillen, the first Venezuelan manager in the majors, said his spirits were raised when his team won AL Central.

"Now I want to win more than ever," said Guillen, whose team hosts the Boston Red Sox in the opener of the first-round series Tuesday in Chicago.

Chavez, who said he once dreamed of pitching in the major leagues, told Guillen he has always been an example to follow.

"We are with you, always following your success," Chavez said. "And we'll be waiting for you when you come back, hopefully as world champion."

Cleveland Indians: Bob Wickman hasn't decided if he has closed out his career.

Following Sunday's loss to the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland's robust reliever said he would like to pitch again for the Indians if they want him back.

Wickman, who finished with a career-high 45 saves, is eligible for free agency and plans to meet with Indians general manager Mark Shapiro on Monday before heading home to Wisconsin to ponder his future.

The 36-year-old signed a one-year, $2.7 million deal with the Indians last November, thinking 2005 could be his final season.

Now, he's not so sure.

"I really enjoy pitching," he said. "I really enjoy pitching in the ninth inning. I really like to compete. But I've also got to think about the family. I'll go home, watch the World Series and then make the decision after the last out. It's just a matter of whether I want to do this anymore."

New York Mets: Closer Braden Looper had successful arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder and is expected to be recovered by spring training.

The procedure to clean out Looper's arthritic AC joint was performed by Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Looper went 4-7 with a 3.94 ERA and 28 saves in 36 chances. The Mets have a $5.5 million option on his contract for 2006 with a $250,000 buyout and are expected to seek a new closer. If New York does not exercise the option, Looper can become a free agent.

Washington Nationals: Left-hander John Halama, right-hander Antonio Osuna and catcher Keith Osik were released by the Nationals, who added three minor league prospects to their 40-man roster.

Infielder Kory Casto, outfielder Frank Diaz and right-hander Armando Galarraga were promoted.

Osuna was activated from the 60-day disabled list, then released. He had a 42.43 ERA in four relief appearances this season before going on the DL on April 18 and having arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in May.

Halama went 0-3 with a 4.64 ERA in 10 games, including three starts, for the Nationals after signing as a minor-league free agent Aug. 5.

The 36-year-old Osik appeared in six games for the Nationals after being called up from Triple-A New Orleans on Sept. 5. He's been hired to coach Farmingdale State's baseball team.

Casto hit .290 with 22 homers and 90 RBI, while Diaz hit .312 with 16 homers and 74 RBI, both at Single-A Potomac. Galarraga went a combined 6-8 with a 3.80 ERA in 27 starts at Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.

Minnesota Twins: Reliever Juan Rincon had successful surgery to clean up a bone spur in his right elbow.

The operation was performed by team physicians Dr. Dan Buss and Dr. John Steubs, spokesman Sean Harlin said. Rincon went 6-6 with a 2.45 ERA in 75 games this season, spanning 77 innings. He struck out 84, walked 30 and allowed 63 hits while serving as the setup man to closer Joe Nathan.

The right-handed Rincon missed 10 days while serving a suspension for testing positive for an undisclosed performance-enhancing drug.

MLB picks crew chiefs for first round
Hired back by baseball after losing his job in 1999, Joe West was picked Monday as a crew chief for the first round of the playoffs.

West was among the 22 umpires who lost their jobs in September 1999 when a mass resignation backfired. He was rehired in February 2002 and worked home plate for this year's All-Star game at Detroit.

West will be the crew chief for the series between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels and would work the plate if there is a Game 5.

Gary Darling, Jerry Meals, Derryl Cousins, Alfonso Marquez and Jim Reynolds also are on that crew, with Cousins scheduled to call balls and strikes in Game 3, when temperamental Randy Johnson most likely will pitch for New York.

Ed Montague, Joe Brinkman and John Hirschbeck will be the other crew chiefs and will work the plate in their series openers.

Hirschbeck will be at the series between the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox and be joined by Larry Vanover, Mark Wegner, Bill Miller, Mike Everitt and Dan Iassogna.

Brinkman has the series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves and will be joined by Marvin Hudson, Jeff Nelson, Gary Cederstrom, Eric Cooper and Sam Holbrook.

Montague will umpire the series between the San Diego Padres and the St. Louis Cardinals and will work with Bill Hohn, Bruce Dreckman, Jerry Layne, Angel Hernandez and Tim Timmons.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitching coach Spin Williams is out after being told he would not be part of the Pirates' major league staff next season.

The other coaches -- bench coach Pete Mackanin, hitting coach Gerald Perry, first base coach Rusty Kuntz, third base coach John Russell, bullpen coach Bruce Tanner and infield instructor Alvaro Espinoza -- were told the team's new manager will be allowed to hire his own coaches.

Perry, Kuntz and Espinoza have contracts for 2006 and, unless they join other organizations, will be offered minor-league jobs for that season.

Former manager Lloyd McClendon was fired Sept. 6, with Mackanin serving the rest of the season as interim manager. The Pirates were 12-14 during his time as manager, but Mackanin was told Sunday by general manager Dave Littlefield he will not be considered for the job next season.

The Pirates finished last in the NL Central at 67-95.

Cincinnati Reds: Infielder Aaron Holbert refused an outright assignment to the minors , choosing instead to leave the team and become a free agent.

Holbert, 32, was promoted from Triple-A Louisville on Aug. 16, ending a 14-year wait to get to the majors. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in 1990, and he spent his entire career in the minors.

Holbert appeared in 22 games for the Reds, including four starts, and hit .222 with two RBI.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press