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Mauer Twins, top pick near deal

Published Sep. 10, 2005

Joe Mauer, the top pick in the June amateur draft and a Florida State quarterback recruit, agreed Tuesday on most points of a minor-league contract with the Twins that calls for a signing bonus of just over $5-million.

Twins spokesman Brad Ruiter said the team has scheduled a news conference for this afternoon regarding Mauer's contract.

Mauer, a left-handed hitting catcher who grew up less than 10 miles from the Metrodome, was a three-sport standout at Cretin-Derham Hall High School.

He went to the same school as Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke, who won the Heisman Trophy last year with the Seminoles.

"Selfishly, we wanted to have him, but speaking for the benefit of Joe, I certainly hope we never see him," FSU recruiting coordinator John Lilly said. "I think his heart is with baseball."

UMPS GRIEVANCE: Players union executive director Donald Fehr said he's looking into umpires' claims that Major League Baseball is pressuring them to call more strikes and said he might file a grievance as well.

The umpires union filed a grievance Saturday saying commissioner Bud Selig's office directed them to "be aggressive" and "hunt for strikes." The umpires claim the directive threatens the integrity of the game by putting improper influence on them.

Meanwhile, a STATS Inc. study found that umpires union head John Hirschbeck has 272 pitches per nine innings, fewest among umps who have worked five or more games behind the plate. Scott Higgins has the highest average at 305. There were 17 increases and 54 decreases from last season, and three stayed essentially the same.

BRAVES: First baseman Rico Brogna, who announced last week he would retire after the season to coach high school football in Connecticut, instead announced his retirement before the game against the Rays... Right-hander John Smoltz struck out two and threw 14 of 18 pitches for strikes in one inning to begin his three-game rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Greenville.

BREWERS: Outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds' strained right shoulder felt sore after his first rehabilitation game Sunday in the Arizona Rookie League.

EXPOS: An MRI on right-hander Tony Armas revealed no structural damage to his sore left knee.

INDIANS: Right-hander Bob Wickman has replaced struggling left-hander John Rocker as closer, manager Charlie Manuel told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Left-hander Chuck Finley went to California to seek medical advice on recurring spasms that have put him on the disabled list twice.

MARINERS: Outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and right-handed closer Kazuhiro Sasaki are talking to reporters from Japan again, saying their vow of silence "wasn't going to solve any problems."

METS: Notre Dame right-hander Aaron Heilman, the 18th overall pick in the draft, signed. Terms were not disclosed.

PADRES: Outfielder Tony Gwynn said he should be ready to play tonight after missing his second game with swelling in his right knee. First baseman Ryan Klesko, removed from Monday's game with soreness caused by a loose bone chip in his right elbow, was rested and expects to return today.

REDS: Right-hander Pete Harnisch, out since May 11 with elbow tendinitis, expects to throw off a mound this week.

RED SOX: Left-hander Pete Schourek (elbow tendinitis) likely will pitch for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.

YANKEES: Claiming New York stopped paying Cuban defector Andy Morales in violation of his contract, the union filed a grievance. The team voided Morales' $4.5-million, four-year deal, claiming the third baseman is 29, three years older than he says.