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Indians start contract talks with Sabathia

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The Cleveland Indians have started
talks with the agent for C.C. Sabathia on a contract extension.

Sabathia is due to make $8.75 million this year and $9 million
in 2008. He is eligible for free agency after the 2008 World
Series.

He saw Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt and other starting pitchers get
big contracts during the offseason.

"The market was great for pitching this time," Sabathia said.
"We'll see how it goes the next couple of years."

With a 81-56 record, his .591 winning percentage ranks with
those of Zito (.585) and Schmidt. Sabathia will be 28 in 2008.

"I hope I can stay healthy the next couple years and be in the
position those other guys were in this winter," Sabathia said.

The Indians' front office could be facing some other difficult
financial decisions in the upcoming months.

Right-hander Jake Westbrook, 44-34 the last three years, can
become a free agent after the season. Designated hitter Travis
Hafner, who hit 42 homers with 117 RBIs last season despite missing
the last 29 games with a broken hand, also can be a free agent
after next season.

Considering the Indians' status as a mid-market team, singing
all three would seem unlikely.

"That doesn't mean we wouldn't be able to get something done in
the offseason with any of the three or next year with C.C. and
Travis," general manager Mark Shapiro said.

Shapiro has talked to agents for Westbrook and Hafner. It's been
Shapiro's policy to suspend contract talks if a deal can't be
completed during spring training.