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SOSA AMONG THE OPTIONS AS DODGERS CONSIDER SHEFFIELD'S TRADE DEMAND

The explosion in salaries threatens to scatter stars throughout the major leagues.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have much to consider before dealing Gary Sheffield, who demanded to have his six-year, $61 million contract renegotiated or to be traded.

One of the options for general manager Kevin Malone is a deal that would land them a player just for this season, freeing a significant amount of money that would allow them to make a strong run at signing free agent-to-be Johnny Damon next winter.

Damon was acquired by the A's this winter from the Kansas City Royals, who feared losing him to free agency.

Malone has had contact with every major-league team. Devon White has also asked the Dodgers to trade him.

There are a number of scenarios being discussed that would bring Sammy Sosa to the Dodgers through a straight-up trade or via a third team, the most prominent being the New York Mets. In that scenario, the Mets would send center fielder Jay Payton, outfielder Alex Escobar and pitching prospects, to the Cubs for Sosa, then trade Sosa for Sheffield.

Sosa has spurned a four-year extension from the Cubs worth $70 million, and he has told club officials he will play out his contract.

The Bergen Record reported that Sheffield was to meet with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in Tampa late Tuesday.

The purpose of the summit was to find a way to squeeze Sheffield's $10 million salary into the Yankees' payroll structure.

The Dodgers are said to be asking for Bernie Williams, whom the Yankees would never relinquish.

Sheffield -- who is Dwight Gooden's nephew -- is a Tampa native and speaks fondly of The Boss for personally transporting Sheffield's Little League team during a national tournament in the early Eighties.

It appears the Mets are out of the picture in dealing directly with the Dodgers since they already asked for Mike Piazza or second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo. That's not happening. The Braves are reluctant, since Malone wants Javy Lopez, and not Brian Jordan, whom Atlanta is trying to move.

The Yankees will trade Alfonso Soriano in the package but the Dodgers want a right-handed power hitter in return. Jorge Posada, therefore, becomes a logical addition to the trade.

Barry Bonds is wondering about his future.

The three-time MVP opened spring training by asking the San Francisco Giants to begin negotiations on a contract extension or to consider a trade.

Bonds will make $10.3 million this season and is eligible for free agency after the season. He would like an answer before the season begins.

"If there's dead silence, then I've got an answer," the 36-year-old outfielder said in Scottsdale, Ariz.

GM Brian Sabean said the Giants "unequivocally" want to keep Bonds, and wouldn't consider trading him during the season unless they were hopelessly out of the pennant race.

Jones sets pay record

Andruw Jones set a salary arbitration record with a win when a panel selected his $8.2 million request over the Braves' $6.4 million offer.

Jones' salary eclipsed the previous arbitration high of $7.25 million set last year by New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera -- who requested $9.25 million, but lost his hearing.

Fernandez gets trial

Sid Fernandez, out of baseball since 1997, caught a redeye flight to Florida, showed up at the Yankees' spring training camp Tuesday and headed to the mound.

And after a 15-minute audition at Tampa, the 38-year-old lefty got what he came for -- a uniform and a minor league contract.

"It's win-win for me," Fernandez said. "It's exciting to come here. It's not a guarantee. At least I got a shot."

Around the horn

Baltimore Orioles outfielder Albert Belle passed a physical, but his arthritic right hip hindered his ability to run and forced him to perform at less than full speed during a workout.

Los Angeles pitcher Kevin Brown returned to camp, one day after having an irregular heartbeat checked out.

Bill Rigney, the first manager of the Giants after they moved from New York to San Francisco, died at 83, one year after he was diagnosed with lymphoma.

Bob Buhl, who helped pitch the Milwaukee Braves to the 1957 World Series title, died at 72.

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