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Leyland is NL Manager of the Year

Jim Leyland, who turned the Pittsburgh Pirates into contenders and guided them through the pressure of a pennant race, was selected the National League Manager of the Year on Wednesday. Leyland, 45, took a team that went 74-88 and was fifth in the NL East in 1989 and molded it into a division champion at 95-67. The Pirates overcame the New York Mets and all the odds in the stretch to finish with the second-best record in baseball.

The Pirates had Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla for offense, but did not have a set starting rotation or a relief ace. Leyland juggled his staff and wound up with 18 different pitchers getting victories.

Leyland got 17 of the 24 first-place votes and finished with 99 points. Lou Piniella, who led Cincinnati to the World Series championship in his first season with the Reds, got three first-place votes and was second with 49 points.

Montreal's Buck Rodgers also got three first-place votes and was tied for third with 32 points with Los Angeles' Tom Lasorda, who got the other first-place vote.

No manager was named on all 24 ballots. Two members of the Baseball Writers Association of America in each NL city vote, and voting was completed before the start of the playoffs, in which Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh.

Bell, Valenzuela among

latest free-agent signees

NEW YORK _ Outfielder George Bell of the Toronto Blue Jays and pitcher Fernando Valenzuela of the Los Angeles Dodgers filed for free-agency Wednesday while catcher Darren Daulton signed the first big deal of the off-season, a $6.75-million, three-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Alan Hendricks, Bell's agent, said the outfielder was prepared to leave Toronto.

"I already talked to several teams and we plan to talk to all of them," Hendricks said.

Tony DeMarco, Valenzuela's agent, also said there's an excellent chance his client could play for another team.

Daulton, 28, will get a $500,000 signing bonus, $1.75-million in 1991 and $2.25-million in each of the following two seasons.

Pitcher Greg Harris, who was eligible to file, re-signed with the Boston Red Sox for $2.8-million over two years. Meanwhile, Cincinnati declined to exercise its 1991 option on infielder Ron Oester and Pittsburgh declined to exercise its option on pitcher Ted Power.

Oester and Power immediately filed for free-agency, as did Pirates first baseman Sid Bream.

World Series managers

to attend Tampa banquet

TAMPA _ World Series managers Tony La Russa and Lou Piniella are expected to attend an awards banquet Saturday in Tampa as part of a week of sporting activities sponsored by the Florida Diamond Club.

La Russa of the Oakland Athletics and Piniella of the Cincinnati Reds will be honored at the Holiday Inn-Busch Gardens at 6:30 p.m., along with New York Mets first baseman Dave Magadan and several area baseball personalities.

Today is the final day to purchase tickets for the banquet. The cost is $25 for club members and $40 for non-members. To order tickets, call the hotel at 971-4710.

Around the league

Royals: The team announced that it would not offer 35-year-old centerfielder Willie Wilson a contract for next season.

Reds: Gene Orza of the Major League Baseball Players Association said the union is ready to file a grievance on behalf of Eric Davis in order to recover the $15,000 cost of Davis' medical airlift from Oakland to Cincinnati.

Pirates: Outfielder and free agent R.J. Reynolds said he will play elsewhere next year.

Padres: Jack Maloof was fired as batting instructor, and Athletics hitting coach Merv Rettenmund was hired to replace him.

Phillies: Johnny Podres was hired to succeed Darold Knowles as pitching coach.

Winter meetings: Baseball's annual joint winter meetings were called off while negotiators for the major leagues and minor leagues again met in New York in an attempt to reach a new player development contract.

The meetings were scheduled for the first week of December in Los Angeles. The leagues will likely hold separate meetings at a time to be announced later.

_ Information from staff writer Darrell Fry and the Cincinnati Post was used in this report.