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Hicks suspects Gonzalez of drugs

Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks suspects that two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez may have used steroids.

"I have no knowledge that Juan used steroids. His number of injuries and early retirement just makes me suspicious," Hicks wrote in an e-mail to the Associated Press yesterday.

Hicks was responding to questions about a television interview in which he was asked about decisions he regretted since owning the team, then mentioned the oft-injured outfielder and steroids.

"Juan Gonzalez for $24 million after he came off steroids, probably, we just gave that money away," Hicks said in the interview, which aired June 10.

Jose Canseco claimed in his 2005 book he used steroids with Gonzalez, a former teammate.

Dukes tells his side
Devil Rays outfielder Elijah Dukes called a Tampa radio station and vehemently defended himself regarding his recent controversies, including estrangement from his wife, reports that he impregnated a 17-year-old girl, and issues with anger management.

Said Dukes: "Do I need guidance? Yes, I need guidance . . . [but] how many times have I ever shot someone? How many times have I stabbed someone? How many times have I ever went to jail for brutally beating somebody? Never." Dukes's estranged wife, Ni'Shea, was an earlier guest on the show.

Schmidt out for year
Dodgers righthander Jason Schmidt had shoulder surgery and is not expected to return until spring training 2008. Schmidt went 1-4 with a 6.31 ERA in six starts . . . The Cubs traded embattled catcher Michael Barrett and cash to the San Diego Padres for backup catcher Rob Bowen and minor league outfielder Kyler Burke. Barrett, batting .256 with nine homers and 29 RBIs, has been involved in two dugout exchanges this month with Cubs pitchers . . . Andy MacPhail was hired as president of baseball operations for the Orioles, two days after the last-place team fired manager Sam Perlozzo. Joe Girardi, who was interviewed Tuesday to become the manager, was in the process of attempting to work out a deal with the team, a person familiar with the talks said, speaking on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing . . . Lawyers neared an agreement that would lead to a meeting between Jason Giambi and steroids investigator George Mitchell. Sources familiar with the talks said an agreement on rules for a Giambi-Mitchell meeting would probably be reached today . . . Wilfredo Ledezma was acquired by the Braves from the Tigers for Macay McBride in a swap of lefthanders . . . Astros pitcher Chad Qualls was suspended three games and fined $3,000 by Major League Baseball, two days after he threw a baseball into the stands at the Los Angeles Angels . . . Marlins righthander Anibal Sanchez will undergo exploratory arthroscopic shoulder surgery today . . . The Indians cut righthander Roberto Hernandez, 42.