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Marlins' Willis gets big win

The 100 players in salary arbitration will average $2.66-million this year, and Florida's Dontrelle Willis will get the highest percentage increase, an elevenfold raise to $4.35-million.

The average raise for the players in arbitration was 109 percent, according to a study by The Associated Press, down from 123 percent last year and the lowest percentage rise since a 92 percent hike in 2003.

It was the second straight year the average salary in arbitration dropped, with last year's average of $2.8-million down from a record $3.26-million in 2004.

Six players went to hearings, double last year's total.

Lee reaches out to Cubs

With one year left on the three-year, $22.5-million deal, Derrek Lee made it clear he'd like to stay with the Cubs. He'd also prefer to have a new contract before the season.

"As of right now, I haven't talked about it. If it comes up, yeah, I think it needs to be done before the season," Lee said. "I don't really want that burden of thought. I want to concentrate on the game."

The Chicago Tribune reported that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry and Lee's agent, Casey Close, have agreed to talk during spring training.

RED SOX: Manager Terry Francona said the reason David Wells is on a separate program than the other Boston pitchers is because he's coming off surgery, not because he requested to be traded to a West Coast team.

"That has nothing to do with it," Francona said. "We want to get him pitching as soon as we can where he can be healthy and pitch well. He's not ready to do that right now."

ORIOLES: All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts could miss the season opener because of the elbow injury that cut short his finest season in the major leagues five months ago. He expects to field grounders when the full squad practices today.

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