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After seven hours of conferences Tuesday, the attempt by umpires to get a federal court injunction that would save 22 of their jobs was put off until today.

Nearly two dozen lawyers were in a courtroom, ready for the hearing to start in early afternoon, but Judge J. Curtis Joyner summoned the top lawyers for each side to his chambers, three floors below.

After meeting with the judge for 1 hour, 15 minutes, the umpires' lawyers caucused with their clients for about a half-hour, then went back for a meeting that lasted more than 2 1/2 hours. Just before 7 p.m., 5 1/2 hours after the scheduled start of the hearing, the sides met for another 90 minutes in chambers.

"Today was devoted to the judge asking both sides to consider some issues," management lawyer Rob Manfred said. "We'll consider them overnight and come back in the morning."

Several umpires were at the court house, some of them missing games they had been assigned to Tuesday night. Among them were union president Jerry Crawford and several of the umps scheduled to be let go after Wednesday: Richie Garcia, Joe West, Eric Gregg and Bob Davidson.

Umpires want Joyner to issue a court order preventing baseball from letting the 22 go. Baseball claims it accepted their resignations, but umpires now say they never really intended to quit, that the letters they sent to the American and National leagues were merely symbolic.

It appeared Joyner wanted to first try to help the sides settle their differences rather than start the injunction hearing.

In a brief filed with the court Tuesday, owners said all the umpires' legal arguments were meritless.

Cubs send Houston to Tribe

CHICAGO -- The Cubs traded closer Rod Beck to the Boston Red Sox and catcher Tyler Houston to the Cleveland Indians as clubs in the pennant race tried to beef up their rosters.

The Cubs, long out of the chase for a spot in the playoffs, got reliever Mark Guthrie, who is a Buffalo native, and a player to be named for Beck, and minor-league pitcher Richard Negrette for Houston.

Beck, 31, signed with the Cubs as a free agent in January 1998 after spending seven seasons in San Francisco. He is 26-36 with 257 saves and a 3.23 ERA in 528 major league games, all in relief.

The Indians, facing the possibility that Sandy Alomar's left knee may keep him out of the playoffs, acquired insurance in Houston, who is hitting .233 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs in 100 games.

The versatile, left-handed hitter has appeared in 18 games at catcher and 63 games at third base. He has a career major league average of .260 with 23 home runs and 115 RBIs in 346 games with Atlanta and the Cubs.

Around the horn

The Arizona Diamondbacks acquired utility infielder Lenny Harris from the Colorado Rockies for 20-year-old minor-league second baseman Belvani Martinez. Harris, who has played all four infield positions and the outfield in his 12 years in the major leagues, is hitting .297 this season. He has a major league-best 20 pinch hits this year.

Houston Astros outfielder Moises Alou, recovering from major knee surgery, will be out for the season, general manager Gerry Hunsicker said. The team hoped Alou, who fell off a treadmill before spring training and underwent major knee surgery that has kept him out all season, would be able to return to the team in September. A biking accident on Sunday caused another setback. Earlier Tuesday, the Astros improved their depth in the outfield by acquiring Stan Javier from the San Francisco Giants for 24-year-old right-hander Joe Messman. Javier is a switch hitter who can play all three outfield positions. In 112 games this season, he has made 45 starts in left field and 29 in right while hitting .276 in 333 at-bats.

Baltimore's Cal Ripken, who has been frozen on 399 career homers and 2,968 hits since July 31, is expected to return from the disabled list today. He has been sidelined for the past month with nerve irritation in his lower back.

Kevin Mitchell, the 1989 NL MVP, was arrested for investigation of felony battery after being accused of hitting his father during a dispute, San Diego police said. The 37-year-old Mitchell was said to have slapped or punched Earl Mitchell, who suffered a one-inch cut to his head, police spokesman Dave Cohen said.

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