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Lopez recharges Orioles battery

The Baltimore Orioles took another step yesterday toward rebuilding a team that's finished fourth in the AL East for six consecutive seasons, agreeing on a $22.5 million, three-year deal with Javy Lopez.


The deal is contingent on the All-Star catcher passing a team physical today.

"Javy was the targeted guy that we were looking at in the process, and he's thrilled to be aboard," Orioles vice president Mike Flanagan said.

Lopez joins Miguel Tejada, the 2002 AL Most Valuable Player, in trying to revive the franchise. The shortstop agreed eight days earlier to a $72 million, six-year contract.

Flanagan said negotiations will continue through the holidays with the agent of outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. Flanagan called Guerrero "an important piece we want to consider."

McCourt review

Boston real estate developer Frank McCourt spoke with baseball's ownership committee about his pending purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Some of the committee members attended the meeting in New York, others participated by telephone.

"It was a very productive meeting and call," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer. "Frank explained his [financing] philosophy and answered questions."

McCourt announced Oct. 10 that he had agreed in principle to buy the team from News Corp. for $430 million, and his contract contains a Dec. 31 deadline for completion of the financial documents and a Jan. 31 date for closing the deal.

A vote on the sale could take place when baseball owners meet Jan. 14-15 in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Yankees win in court

The state of New York's highest court ended a case in which a New York Yankees' clubhouse worker accused the team and some of its players of gay bashing, physical abuse, and playing cruel practical jokes.The Court of Appeals declined to hear an appeal sought by Paul Priore, who sued the Yankees and three players in state Supreme Court in the Bronx in 1998, each for $50 million. His suit named the Yankees and relief pitchers Mariano Rivera, Jeff Nelson, and Bob Wickman as defendants.The Yankees had said Priore was fired largely because they believed he stole players' worn T-shirts, baseballs, and broken bats that were to be thrown away . . . The A's finalized a $9.2 million, three-year contract with free agent reliever Arthur Rhodes, a deal that had been in the works for more than a week. Rhodes, 34, replaces Keith Foulke, who signed a $24 million, three-year free agent contract with the Red Sox . . . Reliever Paul Quantrill, who has been on New York's roster since Dec. 17, finally got around to signing his $6.4 million, two-year contract with the Yankees. He broke into the major leagues with the Red Sox in 1992 and got a taste of what the rivalry is like between the Red Sox and the Yankees. He's watched Boston and New York gear up to go against each other next year. "It wasn't that much fun being on the Boston side as a young player coming into Yankee Stadium," he said from his home in Port Hope, Ontario, during a conference call. "It almost sounds like it's going to be a playoff-type atmosphere from game one with those guys." . . . Righthanded reliever Scott Strickland returned to the Mets, agreeing to a $650,000, one-year contract . . . Outfielder Ben Grieve, a former AL Rookie of the Year, agreed to a $700,000, one-year contract with the Brewers. In addition, catcher Gary Bennett agreed to a $600,000, one-year contract . . . Catcher Todd Greene and the Colorado Rockies agreed to a $550,000, one-year contract.

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