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Associated Press

After getting hurt so many times chasing line drives in the outfield, Rondell White welcomes the idea of becoming an everyday designated hitter.

White agreed Thursday to a contract with the Minnesota Twins that guarantees him $3.25 million for one year and could be worth up to $8.5 million over two seasons if he plays regularly.

"He's at a point in his career where the DH is suited to his ability," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "Our main objective is to keep his bat in the lineup."

The 33-year-old White, who spent the last two seasons in Detroit, should help make up for the loss of right fielder Jacque Jones, who agreed to a three-year deal with the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday.

White hit .313 with 12 homers and 53 RBIs in 97 games for the Tigers last season, but the outfielder missed most of the year with shoulder ailments. White was on the DL eight times from 1996-2001 and didn't play much during the final two months in 2004 because of a hip injury.

His deal calls for a $2.5 million salary next year and includes a club option for 2007 with a $750,000 buyout. The option would become guaranteed if White has 400 plate appearances next year, with the price of the option depending on his plate appearance total. If he has 650 plate appearances each year, he would get the full $8.5 million.

Tomko switches to Dodgers

Brett Tomko became the third former San Francisco player to switch to the Los Angeles Dodgers, agreeing Thursday to an $8.7 million, two-year contract.

His deal calls for salaries of $3.6 million next year and $4.1 million in 2007. The Dodgers must decide within five days of the end of the 2007 World Series whether to exercise a $4.5 million option for 2008. If the option is exercised, Tomko has 72 hours to reject it. If the Dodgers decline or Tomko rejects, he gets a $1 million buyout.

The right-hander, who went 8-15 with a 4.48 ERA for the Giants last season, passed his physical Thursday. He became the sixth free agent signed by Ned Colletti, a former San Francisco assistant general manager who became the Dodgers' GM on Nov. 15.

"Brett will provide us with a proven major league starter who is capable of pitching 200 innings," Colletti said. "He has been one of the more durable pitchers in the National League over the last four years and will be a great addition to the staff."

Tomko has an 81-73 record and 4.52 ERA in nine major league seasons. With a fastball in the low 90-mph range, he has made at least 30 starts and pitched at least 190 innings each of the past four years.

Kenny Lofton and Bill Mueller are the other former Giants who recently have joined the NL West rival Dodgers.

Lawton agrees to deal with Mariners

The Mariners took a chance on Matt Lawton, agreeing Thursday to a $400,000, one-year contract with a player who will start next season under suspension because of steroid use.

The commissioner's office announced Nov. 2 that Lawton tested positive for steroids, a substance identified as boldenone, which is used by veterinarians.

"I made a terrible and foolish mistake that I will regret for the rest of my life," Lawton said at the time of his suspension.

Because he tested positive under the 2005 program, Lawton will miss the first 10 days of next season instead of 50 games, the penalty called for under the toughened agreement players and owners adopted under pressure from politicians.

Williams re-signs with Yankees

The Yankees announced Thursday that they had agreed to a $1.5 million, one-year contract with the popular outfielder, who has been in pinstripes since 1991 and compiled statistics that put his name alongside the team's greatest players.

"He ranks right there with the Gehrigs and the Berras and the Ruths and the Mantles," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.

Williams' playing time will be reduced following this week's agreement with Johnny Damon, who takes over as the starting center fielder. Damon had his physical Thursday, and the Yankees called a Friday news conference to finalize his $52 million, four-year contract.

Boston nabs catcher from Yankees

Two days after losing Johnny Damon to the Yankees, the Red Sox took a player from New York.

Backup catcher John Flaherty and the Red Sox reached a preliminary agreement Thursday on a $650,000, one-year contract.

Flaherty's agreement was disclosed by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because Boston had not announced the deal.

In addition to his salary, Flaherty would get a $100,000 payment if he is on Boston's opening day major league roster.

Bellhorn agrees to deal with Padres

Second baseman Mark Bellhorn agreed to an $800,000, one-year deal with San Diego on Thursday, giving the Padres another member of the 2004 Boston Red Sox team that won the World Series.

Bellhorn likely will replace Mark Loretta, who was traded to Boston this month for catcher Doug Mirabelli. Other candidates to play second base for the NL West champs are Josh Barfield and Bobby Hill.

Also on the Padres from the 2004 Red Sox team is leadoff batter Dave Roberts, who will move from center field to left field to make room for Mike Cameron.

Bellhorn lost his starting job last season and was released on Aug. 26 after declining an assignment to Triple-A. He was picked up off waivers by the New York Yankees. In 2004, he batted .264 with 17 homers and 82 RBIs.

Baseball reapplies for Cuba permit

Baseball officials reapplied Thursday for a permit that would allow Cuba to join next year's inaugural World Baseball Classic as Puerto Rican athletic officials said San Juan should withdraw as a host city if the Cubans aren't allowed to participate.

In Miami, a congressman who opposes Fidel Castro's communist government met with several major league players, hoping to form a team of Cuban defectors that could play in the 16-team tournament.

The U.S. Treasury Department last week denied a permit request from Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The permit is required because of U.S. laws and regulations governing certain transactions with Cuba.

Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney said a new application was submitted Thursday. The commissioner's office and the union had said they planned to address government concerns and ensure that no money would go from U.S. entities to the Cubans.

Israel Roldan, president of the Baseball Federation of Puerto Rico, and Hector Cardona, president of the U.S. island territory's Olympic Committee, opposed the decision by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

"What we are saying is that we should renounce our position as host if Cuba is not permitted to compete," Roldan said.

Roldan sent a letter on Wednesday to International Baseball Federation president Aldo Notari saying the island would decline to be a venue because of the U.S. government's decision.

"We have not heard that directly from the federation," Courtney said.

Antonio Munoz, a businessman who agreed to pay millions of dollars to bring the games to Puerto Rico, would not comment on Roldan's announcement, but said he was not part of the decision.

Notari said he sympathized with Roldan's view but said it was up to Major League Baseball to move the games out of Puerto Rico, which is scheduled to host games during the first and second rounds.

"I won't enter into a problem with the national committee," Notari said. "The position of Roldan is very good and very clear."

Cardona said he was talking to other Latin American athletic officials to enlist their support in persuading the U.S. government to change its position.

Cuba is set to play Puerto Rico, Panama and the Netherlands in Puerto Rico in the first round of the tournament. Each of the 16 teams in the classic are to receive 1 percent of the earnings and the champion is due up to 5 percent, according to Roldan.

In Miami, former Boston bullpen coach Euclides Rojas spoke at an announcement by a group that included Osvaldo Fernandez, Eddie Oropesa and Rene Arocha, the first Cuban defector to play in the majors.

"We would like to represent the team of free Cuba," Rojas said.

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican who was born in Cuba, backed the new group, which hopes to recruit pitchers Jose Contreras of the Chicago White Sox, Livan Hernandez of the Washington Nationals and Orlando Hernandez of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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