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Wagner Goes From Astros to Phillies

From Staff and Wire Reports

All-Star closer Billy Wagner was traded Monday from the cost-cutting Houston Astros to the Philadelphia Phillies for right-hander Brandon Duckworth and minor league right-handers Taylor Buchholz and Ezequiel Astacio.

Wagner goes from one of baseball’s best bullpens to one of the worst. The Phillies converted only 33 saves in 51 opportunities as Jose Mesa and Mike Williams faltered.

“I’m excited about coming to Philadelphia because they obviously have made a commitment to winning a championship,” Wagner said.

Wagner had criticized Astro owner Drayton McLane for not making a move to get another quality starting pitcher for the 2003 season and expected more of the same for next season.

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Wagner was 1-4 with a 1.78 earned-run average last season and had 44 saves in 47 chances, making a career-high 78 appearances.

The trade was only the start of Astro General Manager Gerry Hunsicker’s restructuring of the team.

“This is a major move toward regaining the flexibility in our payroll,” Hunsicker said. “We are in a situation that we have a small number of players taking up a significant part of our payroll and it causes tremendous inflexibility.”

The Astros had a payroll of about $71 million last season.

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The Chicago White Sox hired Ozzie Guillen as manager of the team where he spent 13 years of his 16-year career.

“The passion, the commitment, the energy, the game knowledge, the aggressive attitude. He bleeds White Sox baseball. There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to provide something here we desperately need. A jolt, if you will,” General Manager Ken Williams said.

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Don Mattingly is returning to the New York Yankees as the team’s hitting coach.

A six-time All-Star who was the team’s captain from 1991 until his retirement in 1995, Mattingly was persuaded by owner George Steinbrenner to take the job.

Although no announcement was made Monday, his hiring was disclosed by a baseball official with knowledge of the team’s decision. A news conference was expected today.

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Dodger third base coach and former Boston infielder Glenn Hoffman interviewed for the job as Red Sox manager as the team began its search for a successor to Grady Little.... Dodger executive Bill Bavasi, formerly the Angel general manager, is among the finalists to become general manager of the Seattle Mariners, a baseball official said.

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Catcher Ivan Rodriguez filed for free agency, nine days after helping the Florida Marlins win the World Series. Thirteen players filed in all, raising the total to 196....All-Star pitcher Russ Ortiz will be back with the Atlanta Braves for another season. The Braves exercised their $5.7-million option on Ortiz, who led the National League last season with 21 victories.

Miscellany

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Andy Roddick became the top-ranked player in men’s tennis, overtaking Juan Carlos Ferrero. Kim Clijsters of Belgium remained No. 1 among the women, with countrywoman Justine Henin-Hardenne at No. 2.

Arizona basketball player Isaiah Fox issued a public apology after admitting he stole $2.58 worth of snack food from a university student store last week.

Coach Lute Olson declined to comment on the incident.

The United States defeated Italy in volleyball in straight games, beating one of the tournament favorites and improving to 3-0 in the Women’s World Cup at Tokyo.

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A charity golf tournament to benefit the city missions of San Bernardino and Riverside will be played Dec. 8 in Oak Quarry Golf Club at Riverside. Details: (866) 274-2933.

Passings

John Patrick Conroy, one of the original Seven Blocks of Granite on Fordham’s football team, has died at Portland, Maine. He was 95.


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