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37-YEAR-OLD GREENWELL NOT DONE PLAYING YET

Mike Greenwell has surprised the Cincinnati Reds with his decision to make a comeback attempt.

Greenwell, 37, accepted a job as batting coach for the Reds' Double-A team in Chattanooga last December, but was secretly hoping to get a chance to play again.

The outfielder hit .303 for the Boston Red Sox from 1985-96 and played in Japan in 1997. He got into shape in the offseason, showed up for spring training and talked to the Reds about a comeback.

"Coaching was always something I wanted to do," Greenwell said. "But after I got here, I discovered that my body felt great."

Former Red Sox teammate Tim Naehring is the Reds' player development director, but Greenwell didn't tell him of his plan. He went to general manager Jim Bowden, who was open to having Greenwell be a player/coach at Double-A.

"I really didn't want him to make any decisions based on our friendship," Greenwell said. "I kind of left him out of the loop, and I think that was the right thing to do even though I kind of blind-sided him with it."

Greenwell hopes to make the Reds' opening-day roster.

"I still think I can hit," he said. "If I don't, I'll have a lot of fun and maybe I can help some of these guys along the way."

Greenwell hasn't decided whether he would try to play and coach in the minors if he doesn't make the Reds' roster out of spring training.

"I'm not looking to affect some young kid who's knocking on the door," he said. "But if it's a situation where you're going to look down that bench and say, 'Man, I could use a guy who's going to give me a quality at-bat,' I wouldn't mind being that guy."

Vizquel close to new deal

Perennial Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel, who has grumbled in the past about being underpaid compared to other shortstops, said he is close to signing a contract extension with the Cleveland Indians.

"The deal is almost done," he said. "I think in the next week or two something will get done. I'm real happy about it."

Vizquel, who has won eight straight Gold Gloves, is signed through the 2002 season at $3 million a year.

The salaries of other shortstops have skyrocketed since the contract Vizquel signed in 1995.

During the offseason, Alex Rodriguez signed a $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers and Derek Jeter signed a $189 million deal to stay with the New York Yankees.

"Mine looks like a minor league deal compared to those," Vizquel said. "It's not like I'm making three cents. I get a good check, but it looks small compared to the others."

Lesser shortstops, such as Alex Gonzalez ($19 million over four years with Toronto), Mike Bordick ($9.5 million over two years with Baltimore) and Deivi Cruz ($3.525 million for this season with Detroit) even make more money than Vizquel.

"It's not like it bothered me, but I'd like to have a fair contract," Vizquel said.

Brewers' young guns back

Young sluggers Geoff Jenkins and Richie Sexson, the cornerstones of the Milwaukee Brewers' rebuilding efforts, each have signed four-year contracts.

Financial terms weren't revealed, but both were seeking about $20 million.

Jenkins, a left fielder who made $282,000 last season, and Sexson, a first baseman who made $247,000, are both 26 and would have been eligible for arbitration for the first time next year.

They traded in the chance to hit the jackpot in year-to-year arbitration hearings for the security of knowing a bad season or an injury won't hurt their earning potential.

Jenkins, a first-round draft pick by the Brewers in 1995, led the team with 34 homers last year despite missing three weeks with a broken finger. He also hit .303 with 94 RBIs.

Sexson hit 30 homers with 91 RBIs between Cleveland and Milwaukee last season. The Brewers went 30-27 after Sexson's arrival via a trade with the Indians.

Thompson roots for Florie

Ryan Thompson is rooting for Bryce Florie's comeback.

Last Sept. 8, while playing for the New York Yankees, Thompson hit a line drive that struck Florie in the face and threatened to end the Boston reliever's career.

Florie pitched batting practice this week at the Red Sox camp. Thompson, trying to earn a job in Toronto's outfield, was glad to hear about the outing.

"I'm glad he's OK," Thompson said. "I pray for him every day."

Thompson said he was hit in the face by a pitch while playing for Dunedin in the Florida State League in 1990.

"It broke my nose and fractured my eye socket. I was lucky. I was playing again in a week and a half," he said.

American and National League Baseball Schedules on page C8 and C9.

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