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NEW WHITE SOX MANAGER REACHES OUT TO BELLE

Jerry Manuel will enter his first season as a major-league manager with an open mind and a substantial phone bill.

The Chicago White Sox named Manuel their new manager on Dec. 4. During his early reaching-out-and-touching phase, Manuel made it a point to call controversial left fielder Albert Belle.

Manager and player spent more time on the phone chatting about golf than baseball. In Manuel's estimation, a little communication now should help lay the groundwork for a productive relationship with Belle down the road.

"The negative things I've heard about Albert Belle have come through the media," Manuel said. "But everyone involved with the White Sox has told me, 'Hey, you're going to love Albert Belle.' I'm looking forward to loving Albert Belle."

In Christmas Eve transactions:

Pitcher Steve Reed signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco Giants. Reed, a 31-year-old right-hander with a career record of 26-18 with 15 saves and a 3.62 ERA, returns to the Giants after having been selected in the 1992 expansion draft by the Colorado Rockies.

Outfielder Shane Mack signed a one-year contract with the Oakland Athletics. After two seasons in Japan, Mack returned to the major leagues with the Boston Red Sox in 1997. He played in 60 games for the Red Sox, batting .315 with three home runs and 17 runs batted in.

The Cincinnati Reds re-signed outfielder Melvin Nieves to a one-year contract, avoiding salary arbitration. The Reds acquired Nieves, 25, from the Detroit Tigers for pitcher Donne Wall and minor league catcher Paul Bako on Nov. 11.

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