The Boston Red Sox learned they will be without All-Star Nomar Garciaparra for at least two weeks, while the St. Louis Cardinals and Cleveland Indians kept their stars for two more years.
On a day that Mark McGwire and Omar Vizquel agreed to two-year contract extensions, the biggest news Wednesday came from Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla., where Garciaparra is out with an injured right wrist.
The two-time defending AL batting champion hopes to be ready for opening day. But if rest doesn't fix the problem, he didn't rule out surgery.
"If (the doctors) were thinking about it, they didn't tell me and I didn't want to hear it right now," he said. "Hopefully, this works, even if there has to be rehabilitation."
The frustrating thing for the All-Star shortstop is the puzzling nature of the injury, which dates back to September 1999. But Garciaparra played all of 2000 with only mild discomfort in the wrist and led the AL with a .372 average.
Garciaparra is expected to wear a removable cast for one to two weeks and take anti-inflammatory medication.
"There's no need of fearing the worst right now," said Garciaparra. "If there's anything that happens, it's better now in spring training than if it were in September."
McGwire and the Cardinals agreed to a two-year extension worth about $30 million, two baseball officials familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on the condition they not be identified.
The new deal runs through 2003, the season McGwire could be approaching Hank Aaron's home-run record of 755.
McGwire, 37, missed most of the second half of last season with a knee injury and had surgery during the offseason, but has been healthy this spring.
St. Louis called a Thursday news conference at its training camp in Jupiter, Fla., to announce the deal.
McGwire is seventh on the career home-run list with 554, just 201 behind Aaron, and would have to average 67 homers in the next three seasons to tie the mark.
In Winter Haven, Fla., Vizquel agreed to a $15 million, two-year contract extension that will keep him in Cleveland through 2004.
"I feel like Alex Rodriguez," Vizquel said.
The deal includes a mutual option for 2005 with a $1 million buyout and a $1 million personal services contract.
"Not only is Omar a very special player on the field," Indians general manager John Hart said. "He's one of the good guys in the game and this contract gives us the ability to retain him a little deeper into his career."
Vizquel, who signed a six-year contract in 1995, had grumbled in the past about being underpaid. He arrived at camp four days after the voluntary reporting date, fueling speculation he was upset after seeing Rodriguez and Derek Jeter sign their colossal deals and other lesser shortstops pass him on the pay scale.
But Vizquel said his tardiness had nothing to do with money and he was confident he and the Indians would work something out.
"They didn't have to do this," Vizquel said. "But the market situation made me feel like I could talk about my contract and they wanted to listen to me."
In Vero Beach, Fla., Gary Sheffield is still waiting for his contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I haven't softened my stance, and I won't," Sheffield said.
Last week, he criticized Dodgers chairman Bob Daly and again said he'd prefer a trade.
When asked Wednesday if he would mind staying with the Dodgers without an extension, Sheffield wouldn't give a direct answer.
"Anything is possible," he said. "I'd rather be surprised that I'm traded than disappointed that I'm not. It's in their court."
Frank Thomas and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf denied they had made any changes to the slugger's contract, one day after he reported to camp in Tucson, Ariz.
The two issued a statement Wednesday denying they'd reached a verbal agreement to change the "diminished skills" clause in Thomas' contract. There were no agreements on any other clauses, either.
"There is not a gentleman's agreement between us," the statement read. "In fact, no promises have been made and no expressed or implied agreement exists, and Frank intends to honor his contract as written."
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