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Vow not to count pitches ends ump grievance

Umpires dropped their grievance Wednesday when the commissioner's office said it wouldn't use pitch counts to evaluate umpires' performance.

"As far as we're concerned the matter is now closed and umpires can get back out of the press, where they prefer to be," union lawyer Larry Gibson said.

The grievance was filed Saturday, with the umpires saying the commissioner's office violated their new labor contract by tracking the pitches per game for each home-plate umpire and using that to rank the umps.

MAUER HAPPY WITH CHOICE: Joe Mauer had several options, but his heart always was headed in one direction. "I'm just happy the Minnesota Twins took me, and that I'm a baseball player," Mauer said after signing with the team that took him with the first pick in the June draft.

Mauer, a three-sport star at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, chose baseball over a scholarship offer to play quarterback at Florida State when the Twins offered a signing bonus of $5.15-million, spread over five seasons.

FLOYD, VALENTINE RECONCILE: A feud between Mets manager Bobby Valentine and Marlins outfielder Cliff Floyd seems to have been settled. "It's over. I'm glad it's over," Floyd said. "It's been a long month and a half." In May, a hostile series prompted Floyd to call Valentine "a stupid manager." Valentine later passed over Floyd for the All-Star team, though Floyd got on as an injury replacement.

BLUE JAYS: Left-hander Chris Michalak, who has lost four of his past five decisions, was removed from the starting rotation and replaced by right-hander Esteban Loaiza.

D'BACKS: The team has hit an impasse in negotiations with first-round draft pick Jason Bulger, a right-handed pitcher out of Valdosta State. General manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said the Bulgers rejected a bonus offer that the East Valley Tribune reported as $900,000.

DODGERS: Veteran knuckleballer Dennis Springer, who pitched for the Rays in their inaugural 1998 season, will start Friday at Coors Field, manager Jim Tracy said. Outfielder Marquis Grissom dropped his appeal of a six-game suspension for his actions in an argument with an umpire.

MARINERS: Left-hander John Halama was sent to the bullpen after an ineffective start in his return from the minors. Right-hander Joel Pineiro is scheduled to start Saturday against the Twins.

RANGERS: Outfielder Rusty Greer (hamstring) was assigned to Double-A Tulsa for rehabilitation.

REDS: Manager Bob Boone plans to drive to Louisville to watch right-hander Jose Rijo make his second start at Triple A tonight. Rijo, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 1995, is trying to come back from four major elbow operations.

RED SOX: Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra joined the team in Toronto to continue his rehabilitation from wrist surgery. He plans to take batting practice this weekend.

WHITE SOX: Left-hander David Wells had back surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the season.

BAERGA GOES EAST: Former All-Star second baseman Carlos Baerga is heading to the Samsung Ducks of the Korean Baseball League after the Long Island Ducks sold his contract.

BRAVES: Right-hander John Smoltz passed another important test in his comeback, pitching a dominating inning in relief for Double-A Greenville. Smoltz needed eight pitches, seven strikes, to get through the second of back-to-back appearances. He struck out two.

_ TIMES WIRES

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