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Mets Acquire Hampton From Astros

From Staff and Wire Reports

In a surprising trade they hope will put them back in the World Series for the first time since 1986, the New York Mets acquired 22-game winner Mike Hampton from the Houston Astros on Thursday along with slumping outfielder Derek Bell.

In exchange, the Mets gave up Houston outfielder Roger Cedeno, rookie right-hander Octavio Dotel and minor league left-hander Kyle Kessel.

“It’s a little bit overwhelming, a little bit shocking,” Hampton said. “It seems like it all happened rather quickly.”

The 27-year-old left-hander was 22-4 with a 2.90 earned-run average last season, winning 11 consecutive decisions and finishing second to Arizona’s Randy Johnson in voting for the NL Cy Young Award.

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“We’ve waited for this opportunity for a long time to secure a starter of Mike Hampton’s ilk,” Met General Manager Steve Phillips said. “We had to step up and do this.”

The Mets had been searching for an ace to join a staff that includes Al Leiter (13-12), Rick Reed (11-5), Masato Yoshii (12-8) and Bobby Jones (3-3). New York made no effort to re-sign Orel Hershiser (13-12) and Kenny Rogers (5-1), who became free agents.

Hampton has one year left on his contract at $5.75 million and the Astros tried to sign him to a multiyear deal after the season.

But he said he wanted to test free agency next November and Houston, which has won three straight NL Central titles, concluded Hampton wanted more than the team could afford.

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Bell lost his starting job with the Astros by the end of the season after batting only .236 with 12 homers and 66 RBIs, and Manager Larry Dierker became disenchanted with him.

Bell ripped Dierker on Thursday, and said he hoped to do well to show the Astros made a mistake.

“The first time I had an off year in my career, everybody turned their back on me,” Bell said. “I’m going to try to turn it around on them.”

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Don Fehr, players’ association director, said after examining the evidence that led to Commissioner Bud Selig’s decision to deny free agency to Dodger third baseman Adrian Beltre, that it would be Monday or Tuesday before he reached a grievance determination.

In the meantime, the commissioner’s office is becoming optimistic that the zeal of the players’ union for the Beltre case has waned, and that it might not appeal after all, presumably over strong objections from agent Scott Boras.

One official said he believed it was Fehr who is resisting, though Fehr said Thursday that nothing should be read from the union’s inactivity since Tuesday, when Selig announced his decision.

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Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel is setting up a fund to help his native Venezuela survive its worst natural disaster.

Torrential rains that began Dec. 15 caused an avalanche of mud and water to crash down a mountain near Vizquel’s hometown of Caracas. Mudslides have killed 30,000 people and devastated many of the city’s poorest areas.

Vizquel contacted World Vision, a privately funded humanitarian organization based in Federal Way, Wash., to find out how he could help. World Vision is assisting him in putting together an organization to be known as the Lend a Hand to Venezuela Fund.

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Ruben Sierra, who hasn’t played in the major leagues since May 1998, agreed to a minor league contract with Cleveland and was invited to spring training. . . . The San Francisco Giants signed General Manager Brian Sabean to a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2002 season.

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Staff Writer Tim Brown contributed to this story.

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Trade Center

The New York Mets and Houston Astros completed one of the off-season’s biggest trades Thursday. A look at other top trades since the season ended:

* The Atlanta Braves acquired second baseman Quilvio Veras, first baseman Wally Joyner and left fielder Reggie Sanders from the San Diego Padres for first baseman Ryan Klesko, second baseman Bret Boone and pitcher Jason Shiell.

* The Detroit Tigers acquired outfielder Juan Gonzalez, pitcher Danny Patterson and catcher Greg Zaun from the Texas Rangers for pitchers Justin Thompson, Francisco Cordero and Alan Webb, outfielder Gabe Kapler, catcher Bill Haselman and infielder Frank Catalanotto.

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* The Colorado Rockies acquired third baseman Jeff Cirillo and pitcher Scott Karl from Milwaukee and pitchers Rolando Arrojo and infielder Aaron Ledesma from Tampa Bay for third baseman Vinny Castilla, catcher Henry Blanco and pitchers Jamey Wright and Justin Miller.

* The Toronto Blue Jays acquired outfielder Raul Mondesi and pitcher Pedro Borbon from the Dodgers for outfielder Shawn Green and second baseman Jorge Nunez.

* The Chicago Cubs acquired pitcher Ismael Valdes and second baseman Eric Young from the Dodgers for pitchers Terry Adams, Chad Ricketts and Brian Stephenson.

* The Cincinnati Reds acquired outfielder Dante Bichette and $1.9 million from the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds and pitcher Stan Belinda.

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