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The ol' ball game is back. But the baseball season that begins Tuesday will look quite a bit different from the one that ended last October.

The game has changed dramatically since Edgar Renteria lined his 11th-inning single to give the Florida Marlins a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the World Series.

Take the Marlins. Please. The world champs look like potential 100-game losers after an epic salary purge that cost them 12 of their Series players, including pitchers Kevin Brown and Robb Nen and outfielder Moises Alou.

The game's two newest franchises have brighter outlooks. The free-spending Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays both debut Tuesday.

The Diamondbacks, who will play in the NL West, acquired Matt Williams, Andy Benes, Jay Bell, Devon White and Willie Blair through trades and free agency. The Rays grabbed Tampa Bay natives Fred McGriff and Wade Boggs, who is 200 shy of 3,000 career hits.

To accommodate the Devil Rays' wish to be in the AL East, the Milwaukee Brewers agreed to move to the NL Central, becoming the first team this century to change leagues. Milwaukee may have been Cleveland's chief competitor in the AL Central, thus giving the Tribe a clear path to its fourth straight division title.

Out for now is Davey Johnson, fired as Orioles manager and not rehired by anyone. Also out is the O'Malley family, which sold the Los Angeles Dodgers to media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Gone to that great ballpark in the sky is legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray.

Chuck Knoblauch left the Twins for the Yankees. The Orioles got Joe Carter from Toronto and lost Randy Myers to the Blue Jays. Colorado got Darryl Kile (why would anyone really want to pitch at Coors Field?) and lost Andres Galarraga to the Braves. Kenny Lofton is back in Cleveland.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bisons are still 11 days from their opener. The Herd's first International League season since 1970 begins April 9 against Rochester in North AmeriCare Park. The News will preview the Bisons April 6.
(Baseball preview begins on Page D7.)

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