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PIRATES SIGN BACKMAN TO A ONE-YEAR CONTRACT

Wally Backman found a new team Wednesday, agreeing to a one-year, $400,000 deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Meanwhile, five players who had been scheduled for arbitration
BASEBALL
agreed on one-year deals. Right-hander Mike Bielecki got a seven-fold salary increase when the Chicago Cubs agreed to $875,000, a raise of $752,500. Left-hander Juan Agosto and the Houston Astros settled at $850,000, a raise of $330,000.

Outfielder Chris James and Cleveland agreed to $560,000, also a $330,000 raise. First baseman Franklin Stubbs and Los Angeles agreed to $450,000, a $105,000 raise. Outfielder Henry Cotto and Seattle settled at $425,000, a $175,000 raise.

There are 104 players remaining in arbitration. Hearings begin Friday, with two cases: outfielders Bo Jackson of Kansas City and Glenn Braggs of Milwaukee.

Backman, who became a free agent after last season when the Minnesota Twins said they were not interested in re-signing him, will get a $150,000 signing bonus and a $250,000 salary. He can make an additional $500,000 in incentive bonuses.

Backman, who was with the New York Mets before he was traded to Minnesota, batted .231 with one home run and 26 RBIs in 87 games last season.

Bielecki, 30, was 18-7 last season with a 3.14 ERA. Agosto, 32, was 4-5 with one save and a 2.93 ERA in 71 relief appearances. James, 27, batted .243 for Philadelphia and San Diego with 13 homers and 65 RBIs. He came to Cleveland in the Joe Carter trade.

Stubbs, 29, hit .291 with four home runs and 15 RBIs before undergoing knee surgery Aug. 29. Cotto, 29, acquired in 1987 from the New York Yankees in an off-season trade, batted .264 in 1989 with nine homers and 33 RBIs.

No progress in talks

NEW YORK -- Negotiators for players and baseball owners met for three hours without progress and union head Donald Fehr said he was beginning to get frustrated.

Union proposals were discussed but management continued to insist the Major League Baseball Players Association agree to its revenue-sharing proposal. Fehr said the union received no "meaningful" response to its proposal.

Owners will meet in Chicago Feb. 9 to discuss the labor situation and presumably decide whether to go ahead with baseball's second-ever lockout. They shut down camps in 1976 until then-Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered them open March 17.

"It's only Feb. 1 tomorrow," Fehr said. "We're not at July 12. The season is not going to be canceled tomorrow. I hope."

Rochester hires Lunetta

ROCHESTER -- Dan Lunetta, former traveling secretary for the Montreal Expos and Cincinnati Reds, has been named general manager of the Rochester Red Wings.

Lunetta has signed a one-year agreement with the Triple A team, replacing Bob Goughan, who resigned in September.

A 1980 graduate of Brockport State who worked as GM of the Jamestown Expos and director of operations for the Buffalo Bisons, Lunetta said he left the Reds last season because of a "difference in philosophy with ownership."

Brett is contrite

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- George Brett says he was frustrated when he talked to a West Coast reporter about wanting more money from the Kansas City Royals and wishes he had kept his mouth shut.

Brett, whose contract pays him a base salary of $1.5 million a year through 1991, with options for two more years after that, found himself at the center of controversy after his remarks were printed Tuesday by the Spokane, Wash., Spokesman-Review. He had been interviewed by Howie Stalwick last Friday while in Spokane on business, and admitted a lot of things were eating away at him.

But, Brett said, he got a call Monday from John Schuerholz, the Royals' GM, with whom he said he had a "very good session."

After that talk, Brett said he began to feel better about his situation with the Royals and had second thoughts about his comments to the Spokane reporter.

"I called the guy the day that happened to come out in the paper," Brett said. "I said, 'Please don't put that article in the paper.' It was too late. It went in that day. Now I have to live with it."

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