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Astros fail to sign Beltran

The Astros failed to reach an agreement with All-Star centerfielder Carlos Beltran before the midnight deadline, meaning he probably will leave the team he helped come within a win of its first World Series appearance.

Under baseball's labor contract, Houston cannot sign Beltran until May 1, virtually assuring he will go to another team. The deadline doesn't apply to the other 29 teams.

Astros general manager Tim Purpura had said Houston made its final offer Thursday. He declined to discuss details, but Scott Boras, Beltran's agent, has been seeking more than $100-million.

"Scott called us to let us know they were going to go in a different direction," Purpura said. "I don't know if shaken is the right word, certainly disappointed."

Beltran spoke Saturday with the Mets, who dispatched a delegation to Puerto Rico to meet with Beltran and Boras on Monday.

Acquired during last season, Beltran hit .455 with four homers and nine RBIs in the first round of the playoffs. He then hit .417 in the NLCS with four home runs, five RBIs and four steals.

LA RUSSA DEAL: Tony La Russa agreed to a three-year contract extension with the Cardinals after taking them to their first World Series in 17 seasons. He also said the Cardinals are close to a new contract for general manager Walt Jocketty.

SELIG'S SCARE: After undergoing successful surgery Dec. 6 to have a Grade IV melanoma _ the most serious form of skin cancer _ removed from the right side of his forehead, commissioner Bud Selig opted not to say much publicly about his situation. He changed his mind after receiving a letter from Boston ace Curt Schilling's wife, Shonda.

Shonda Schilling underwent melanoma surgery a few years ago, and the Schillings consequently established a foundation based on prevention and awareness of skin cancer. Selig now realizes he has a chance to do a public service as well.

"You take so much in life for granted," Selig said. "I was lucky. They caught it early."

Kevin Millwood, who agreed to a $7-million, one-year deal with the Indians, has three seasons with at least 17 wins and has pitched more than 200 innings four times.

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