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Marlins pick 6 potential park sites

The Marlins launched their campaign for a new ballpark Saturday by announcing six sites under consideration, and owner John Henry said he'll pay for the entire project if necessary.

Henry said the location chosen this year will depend on which community most strongly supports a stadium, which would cost an estimated $400-million.

Henry repeated a pledge to build a ballpark even if no tax money is forthcoming. But the expense of financing the project entirely with private money would mean a small player payroll for years and prevent the last-place Marlins from becoming competitive, he said.

"I don't think that's what this community wants," Henry said.

The plan is for a baseball-only stadium with a retractable roof that would open in April 2003.

The Broward County sites are near Fort Lauderdale City Hall and in the suburbs of Lauderhill, Miramar and Davie. The Miami sites are near the Miami River and alongside Biscayne Bay.

CUBAN UNEMPLOYED: The Cuban pitching coach who defected in Baltimore two months ago still is waiting for permission to work in the United States.

The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has granted Rigoberto Betancourt Herrera political asylum, but under INS rules he has to wait until October to apply for a work permit.

Betancourt, 55, slipped out of the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel and hid beneath a row of bushes for six hours downtown before seeking asylum at a police station.

GWYNN DAY: California Gov. Gray Davis formally declared Saturday "Tony Gwynn Day" to honor the Padres' star who reached his 3,000th hit against the Expos Friday.

CUBS OPEN TO JAPAN TRIP: Chicago players are willing to open the 2000 season with a two-game series against the Mets in Japan if an agreement can be worked out with the union. "There wasn't a vote, but the team has agreed we want to go," player representative Steve Trachsel said.

ASTROS: 3B Ken Caminiti, sidelined with a strained left calf, is set to begin a rehab assignment Monday at Triple-A New Orleans.

BRAVES: C Eddie Perez dropped his appeal of a four-game suspension for his role in a July 30 brawl with the Phillies. Keith Lockhart, hurt in a collision at first, received a couple of stitches in his lower lip. X-rays showed no major damage.

GIANTS: OF Barry Bonds, who had back spasms Friday night, was available for pinch-hitting duty but wasn't used.

_ TIMES WIRES

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