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Tino forced to admit: playing career's over

Tino Martinez didn't want to make a formal announcement. If he'd had his way, he just would have not showed up for spring training and gone on with his life.

But with a new high-profile gig at ESPN about to start, he figured people might notice. So Tuesday, the Tampa native officially acknowledged that his stellar 16-year playing career, which included four World Series championships with the Yankees and a 2004 season with his hometown Devil Rays, indeed was over.

"I don't want to make this a big deal," Martinez said by phone. "I'm done. I'm not going to play anymore. I'm 100 percent decided."

Martinez, 38, said he began to realize the end was near when he was limited to part-time duty in 2005. He decided he wanted to finish his career in pinstripes, and when the Yankees declined an option to bring him back this season, he determined there was no point in going anywhere else.

"I wanted to retire as a Yankee, to have that uniform on for the last time," he said. "It's a great way to go out."

And the chance to get right in at ESPN, with duties that include the Baseball Tonight studio show, some radio work and assignment to a few games, provided a perfect transition and an exciting challenge.

"This opportunity made it a lot easier," he said. "I'm really fired up about it. And I'm going to work hard at it to get better."

After starring at Tampa Catholic and Jefferson high schools and the University of Tampa, Martinez was a 1988 first-round pick by the Mariners and a gold-medal Olympian. He made two All-Star teams during his 16 seasons with the Mariners, Yankees, Cardinals and Rays, finished second in the 1997 AL MVP voting after hitting 44 homers and piled up some impressive career numbers: a .271 average, 339 home runs and 1,271 RBIs.

"To play 16 years in the big leagues; most people dream of playing one day," Martinez said. "I gave it all I had. I definitely made the most of my opportunity. And I look back with no regrets."

Clemens heads U.S. staff

NEW YORK - Roger Clemens was among 30 players picked for the U.S. roster for next month's inaugural World Baseball Classic.

The right-hander, 43, who led the major leagues in ERA last year, still hasn't decided whether he will pitch in the majors this season. He decided to pitch for the United States after he spent time working out in the past month.

The U.S. rotation also includes left-handers Dontrelle Willis and C.C. Sabathia and right-hander Jake Peavy. Two former Devil Rays, outfielder Randy Winn and right-handed reliever Dan Wheeler, a Pinellas County resident, are on the 30-man roster.

For the complete U.S. roster, see page 9C.

One player who won't participate is catcher Jorge Posada, who though angry he was blocked from playing for Puerto Rico opted not to challenge the Yankees.

"I don't want to push it," he said. "I don't want to get the team mad. I don't want to make the team feel like I'm a hassle. If they didn't want me to play, and I go out there and get hurt, then it's even worse. I want to be healthy, I want to be strong and I want to be ready for the season."

Under the tournament's rules, teams could petition the commissioner's office and the players' association to block their players from appearing. New York's move to keep Posada from playing was accepted.

METS: Right-hander Jose Lima agreed to a minor-league contract, giving the team another option for its starting rotation.

PIRATES: Kent Tekulve, the star reliever on Pittsburgh's 1979 World Series championship team, is rejoining the club as its major-league advance scout. That role was filled in recent seasons by scouting agencies and statistical services.

REDS: Former Rays outfielder Quinton McCracken agreed to a minor-league deal and was invited to spring training. McCracken, the Rays' MVP in their inaugural 1998 season, would get a $600,000, one-year contract if he is added to the major-league roster.

Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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