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Rockies release Neagle

Solicitation arrest earns a pink slip

Denny Neagle's second run-in with the law in a little more than a year cost him his job with the Colorado Rockies.

The Rockies terminated the oft-injured pitcher's contract yesterday, three days after he was cited for solicitation.

"This decision is about an organization and the fans that support it," Rockies chairman Charles Monfort said. "Denny's pattern of behavior has not been consistent with what our organization represents."

Neagle, who has not pitched in more than a year because of injuries, was pulled over Friday in Lakewood, Colo., for allegedly speeding. Police said a woman in his car told them he had paid her $40 for oral sex.

Neagle's agent, Barry Meister, declined comment. The players' association could file a grievance to overturn the team's decision and get Neagle the remaining money owed under the contract.

"We're going to have some discussions with central baseball," said Gene Orza, the union's chief operating officer.

Colorado cited a section of the Uniform Player Contract, which states the team can terminate the contract if a player shall "fail, refuse or neglect to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class physical condition."

Last October, Neagle was charged with drunken driving after he drove his sport utility vehicle into the back of another vehicle. Later in 2003, he pleaded guilty. The 36-year-old lefthander, who agreed to a $51 million, five-year contract in December 2000, is owed $19 million by the Rockies: $10 million in 2005 and a $9 million buyout of a $12.5 million team option for 2006.

He last pitched on July 20, 2003, and in the past 14 months has had elbow ligament and shoulder surgery. Neagle has a 124-92 career record with a 4.24 ERA over 11 seasons and was 19-23 with a 5.57 ERA with the Rockies.

Ledee joins Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers signed free agent outfielder Ricky Ledee to a two-year contract. The seven-year veteran split time with the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants last season, hitting .233 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 104 games. A career .242 hitter, the 31-year-old Ledee has 53 homers and 264 RBIs in 666 games. He ranked fifth in the NL with 11 RBIs as a pinch-hitter last season. He made only one error the past three years . . . Backup catcher Todd Pratt signed a one-year contract to return to the Phillies . . . The Chicago White Sox have yet to evaluate Magglio Ordonez's surgically repaired left knee, and the team appears ready to sever ties with the 30-year-old All-Star outfielder by not offering him arbitration by tonight's midnight deadline . . . Hal McRae, the former Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Kansas City Royals manager, was hired by the St. Louis Cardinals as their hitting coach, replacing Mitchell Page, who was let go in October to seek help at an alcohol-treatment site . . . Two former Red Sox pitching greats, Smoky Joe Wood and Luis Tiant, are among the players added to the ballot of 25 candidates for election to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee.

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