The St. Paul Saints, who signed Darryl Strawberry last year, are the latest independent team to show an interest in Japanese pitcher Hideki Irabu.
In a letter faxed Friday, Saints chairman and co-owner Marvin Goldklang asked Yoshiaki Kanai, the executive secretary of Japanese baseball, whether signing Irabu would violate any contractual relationship Irabu has with the Chiba Lotte Marines or would violate the Japanese Professional Baseball Code.
Goldklang wrote that if the answer to either question was yes, the Northern League team wouldn't negotiate with Irabu.
Goldklang is a limited partner of the New York Yankees, who are one of several teams who have made trade proposals to San Diego. The Padres obtained Irabu's rights from the Marines in January, but Irabu has refused to negotiate with San Diego, saying he'll sign only with the Yankees.
A Canadian team, the Regina Cyclones of the Prairie League, made similar inquiries Wednesday of baseball officials in New York and Tokyo, and will pursue Irabu if there are no contractual holdups.
"If they suspend him, then we would request to see where there's a rule in their constitution or bylaws that states anything about an independent league, which I doubt there is," Cyclones owner Dave Ferguson said.
PINIELLA TO HAVE SURGERY: Mariners manager Lou Piniella is scheduled for minor rectal surgery Monday at a Phoenix hospital.
He was not in uniform for Seattle's 14-4 loss to Oakland. Bench coach Lee Elia managed the club.
Piniella, 53, had surgery Feb. 1 in Tampa because of an abscess in his rectum. He arrived after the start of spring training because he was not feeling well.
The second surgery will be because of an infection, the Mariners said.
Piniella is being treated with antibiotics.