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Twins begin face lift

All-Star Pierzynski is dealt to Giants

All-Star catcher A.J. Pierzynski was traded yesterday by the Minnesota Twins to the San Francisco Giants for righthanded pitcher Joe Nathan and minor league pitchers Boof Bonser, a righthander, and lefthander Francisco Liriano.

The Twins will give up either a player to be named or cash to complete the deal.

Pierzynski, 26, hit .312 with 35 doubles, 11 homers and 74 RBIs in 137 games for the Twins last season. An All-Star in 2002, Pierzynski will earn a significant raise through salary arbitration from the $365,000 he made in 2003.

"It's one of those things that was eventually going to happen," Pierzynski said, reached on a golf course in Hawaii. "I was one of the first guys people had talked about. And they've got the guy coming behind me."

Joe Mauer, the top pick in the 2001 amateur draft, is waiting to take over as Minnesota's catcher. Mauer was the Twins' minor league player of the year, hitting .335 with Single A Fort Myers and .341 for Double A New Britain.

Owner Carl Pohlad wants to keep Minnesota's $56 million payroll about the same, so general manager Terry Ryan might have to make more moves to keep the core of his roster intact.

First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz and lefthanded pitcher Johan Santana are among four other players eligible for arbitration, and relievers Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins and outfielder Shannon Stewart are free agents.

Nathan, 26, went 12-4 with a 2.96 ERA in 78 appearances for San Francisco last season. He led NL relievers in victories.

Suspect missing

The Arizona Republic is reporting that one of four men linked to the murder of Reds outfielder Dernell Stenson was a member of the federal witness protection program. Robert Lee Maye has disappeared after posting bail and being charged with hindering the murder investigation of the former Red Sox farmhand. Federal authorities are looking for the suspect. Maye testified for the prosecution in a case against key members of a Chicago gang, top-level investigators, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the newspaper. "I cannot confirm or deny that any individual is in witness protection," US Marshal David Gonzales told the Republic . . . Pitcher Danys Baez's $5 million option was declined by the Cleveland Indians. Baez, 26, gets a $500,000 buyout and would be eligible for salary arbitration if he is offered a contract by the Dec. 20 deadline . . . The Tampa Bay Devil Rays added experience to a young pitching staff when they agreed to one-year contracts with lefthander John Halama and righthander Paul Abbott. Both played for Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella when he was with the Seattle Mariners . . . The Pawtucket Red Sox don't just send players to the majors, they groom broadcasters, too. Dave Flemming, who was a play-by-play voice in Pawtucket for the past three seasons, is moving to San Francisco where he'll call all 162 Giants broadcasts in 2004, working with Jon Miller on KNBR radio (680-AM). Flemming filled in on seven Giants games last season. "I'm joining quite a team in more ways than one," said Flemming yesterday from Pawtucket. "This is a dream come true." With the PawSox, Flemming teamed with Andy Freed. At 27, he'll be the youngest full-time broadcaster in the major leagues next season. Present NESN play-by-play man Don Orsillo came through Pawtucket, as did Mets radio voice Gary Cohen, and NBA broadcasters Eric Reid (Miami) and Matt Pinto (Dallas), past NESN broadcaster Bob Kurtz, and present NESN broadcasters Dave Shea and John Rooke.

Bill Griffith of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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