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Cuban star sees Marlins' new digs

MIAMI — Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes toured the Marlins' new downtown ballpark Wednesday, the first leg of what's expected to be his tour of interested clubs.

Cespedes, 26, played for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and is projected to be ready for the majors. Cespedes says six teams are interested in signing him, including the Marlins, Orioles, Tigers, Indians, Cubs and White Sox.

The Marlins are considered a favorite, but they're not tipping their hand.

"It was good to see him again," team president David Samson said on his weekly segment of "The Dan LeBatard Show." "We hadn't seen him since he was in the Dominican. He's still not a free agent officially.

"But he was able to be in town for some appointments, I guess. He wanted to come and see the ballpark, and we're always happy to show people the ballpark."

Cespedes donned a hard hat for his walkthrough at the almost-completed park in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. In Spanish, he said he believes the Marlins "can compete for a World Series" as early as this season.

"It would be good (to play here)," Cespedes told reporters at Miami International Airport on Tuesday. "There are a lot of Cubans and they would support me a lot. Hopefully I can play for the Marlins."

Major League Baseball says Cespedes cannot finalize a contract until he obtains an unblocking license from the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

In other Marlins news, infielder/outfielder Emilio Bonifacio became the second player to defeat the team in arbitration this year and will receive a $2.2 million salary. Right-hander Anibal Sanchez won his case Monday and will make $8 million.

DRUG EDUCATION: The Baseball Hall of Fame is starting a drug education program for students and young adults, and in the same year that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa will appear on the ballot for the first time after careers marked by steroid accusations.

While adding PEDs to RBIs and ERAs among its interests, the Hall emphasized Wednesday that its new initiative wasn't tied to the former stars up for election or the people who will choose them.

"It is not intended to cast a directive to voters about Hall of Fame worthy candidates," shrine president Jeff Idelson said.

Mark McGwire, 10th on the career home run list, has never come close to election after admitting he used steroids and human growth hormone. Neither has Rafael Palmeiro, who was suspended for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs.

ASTROS: Shortstop Jed Lowrie avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $1.15 million, one-year contract.

ORIOLES: First baseman Nick Johnson, 33, is close to agreeing to a minor-league deal.

PADRES: Right-hander Jeff Suppan, 37, agreed to a minor-league contract.

RANGERS: Shortstop Elvis Andrus finalized a $14.4 million, three-year contract that avoided arbitration.

REDS: Outfielder Ryan Ludwick, 33, signed a one-year contract, and left-hander Jeff Francis, 31, signed a minor-league deal.

RED SOX: Australian left-hander Daniel McGrath, 17, signed a professional contract. He'll join the team for spring training then return to Australia to finish high school.

YANKEES: Infielder Russell Branyan agreed to a minor-league contract and will try to win a bench job. Branyan, 36, spent part of the 2006 season with the Rays.

Cuban star sees Marlins' new digs 02/08/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 9:14pm]
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