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Looks like these Cardinals won't be flying off to Spain

The St. Louis Cardinals may not be going to Spain in the middle of spring training after all.

A group of Cardinals was scheduled to play two games, March 14-15, against Japanese all-stars at the Olympic baseball stadium near Barcelona.

The trip was coordinated by Major League Baseball officials and announced last month by commissioner Fay Vincent.

But MLB officials did not seek permission from the players association, and there now appears to be at least a possibility the Cardinals won't be going anywhere farther from their St. Petersburg base than Fort Myers.

"It's not that there's a question, it's that they can't do it unless we say okay," said Don Fehr, executive director of the players' union.

"It cannot be done absent our agreement, and at this point there is no agreement."

Last year, when the Brewers and Dodgers played in Mexico, the players association reportedly arranged for each player to receive $5,000 as compensation.

A similar type agreement could be reached this year. But for now, the trip could be canceled.

Oh really: How do you think these comments from Hiroshi Yamauchi, the Japanese businessman backing the Seattle bid to keep the Mariners, will play with the other owners? "Let me put it this way," Yamauchi told the New York Times. "Baseball, well, baseball has never really interested me. I never even thought about a baseball team in Japan. Remember, I don't really like baseball."

Good stuff: How impressive was Dwight Gooden's first five-minute outing off the mound last week? "I was getting a little nervous," said Mets manager Jeff Torborg, who was behind the plate. "This glove doesn't have a sponge."

El Slim: Mets pitcher Sid Fernandez has made one of the biggest impressions of the new year, principally because of his smaller size. Fernandez lost 43 pounds and will report to camp this week at a svelte 218, thanks to three weeks in a Duke University behavior-modification program. How different does Fernandez look? Mets pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre swears he didn't recognize Fernandez when the two crossed paths.

Money matters: Two of the more interesting contract situations to monitor involve Baltimore shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg. Both are elite players who will be free agents at the end of this season. Their teams cannot afford to lose them but will struggle to afford keeping them. So if Barry Larkin is worth $25.6-million for five years in Cincinnati, what are Sandberg and Larkin worth.?

Money matters, part II: Is there something wrong with the pay scale? Yankees shortstop Alvaro Espinoza settles on a one-year contract for $1-million (a $350,000 raise) after a season where he hit .256 with five home runs and 33 RBI. Pittsburgh's Jay Bell lost his arbitration case and will make $875,000 after his .270, 16-homer, 67 RBI season.

He said it: Oakland GM Sandy Alderson, responding to questions about Jose Canseco's arrest after an early morning run-in with his wife's car: "Why should I have a comment? I'm not a defense lawyer, a police officer or an auto mechanic."

Miscellany: The Brewers invited former White Sox infielder Scott Fletcher to spring training. The Cardinals signed Ozzie Canseco, brother of his Jose-ness, to a minor-league contract. The Braves made a profit of $7-million last year. The Indians are thinking of switching Pete Rose Jr. from third base to catcher. The Palm Beach Post says the Marlins have four serious offers for spring-training bases: Brevard County, Lake County, Lake Wales and Naples. MLB's broadcasting director said recently afternoon playoff games could be headed to cable TV, but other baseball officials quickly denied it. The Angels acquired some depth at first base by signing former Mariner Alvin Davis.

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