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Baseball refused to grant Los Angeles third baseman Adrian Beltre free agency on Tuesday, a move that will almost certainly lead to a grievance from the players' association.

Commissioner Bud Selig admitted Beltre was 15 when he was signed, a year younger than baseball's rules permit, but said the player participated in the scheme and made the claim for free agency too late.

"You waited five years to bring your claim," Selig wrote in a five-page letter to Beltre, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press. "Your claim is more than four years too late. . . . Lack of awareness is not a valid justification or excuse. . . . It defied credibility that you were unaware of the age limits at the time of your signing and remained so for almost five years."

The Dodgers were fined $50,000, according to a high-ranking baseball official who spoke on the condition he not be identified. Los Angeles was ordered to pay Beltre $48,500, according to Selig's letter.

In addition, Selig banned the Dodgers from scouting or signing any amateur players who reside in the Dominican Republic for one year, and told the team it must close its Dominican Republic training camp for one year.

Padres get Boone, Klesko from Braves

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves sent first baseman Ryan Klesko and second baseman Bret Boone to the San Diego Padres for Wally Joyner in a six-player trade, Padres owner John Moores said.

In addition to Joyner, a first baseman, the Padres shipped second baseman Quilvio Veras and left fielder Reggie Sanders to the Braves, Moores said. San Diego also acquired minor-league pitcher Jason Shiell.

The cost-cutting Padres are relieved of just under $1 million in salary this season, but they take on Klesko's $6.5 million salary for 2001.

Klesko and Boone combined for 41 homers while Joyner, 37, and Veras combined for just 11. Although Veras had career-highs with a .280 average and 95 runs scored, his on-base percentage of .368 was just under that of Klesko's .376.

The Padres shed Joyner's $3.375 million salary and Sanders' $3.7 salary.

Sanders led the Padres with 26 homers and 36 stolen bases.

Braves' Rocker bashes New York

NEW YORK -- Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker, a favorite target of New York baseball fans, has unleashed a verbal tirade against the city, bashing gays, immigrants and people with purple hair.

The reliever, whose team beat the Mets in this year's National League championship series, made disparaging remarks about New Yorkers in this week's Sports Illustrated.

"Imagine having to take the 7 train to (Shea Stadium) looking like you're (in) Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids," Rocker said. "It's depressing."

Continuing his tirade against Mets fans, he said: "Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you" and, he said, make vulgar comments about your mother.

Around the majors

Free agent reliever Arthur Rhodes agreed to a $13 million, four-year contract with Seattle, giving the Mariners a much-needed lefty in their bullpen. And in a surprise, the Mariners said they weren't going to offer a contract to Russ Davis, their starting third baseman of the past four seasons. Rhodes, 30, won a combined 19 games for the Orioles in 1996 and 1997.

The Boston Red Sox refused to offer a contract to Butch Huskey, allowing him to become a free agent. Huskey, who made $1.5 million last season, was sent from Seattle to Boston at the trading deadline and hit .266 with seven homers and 28 RBIs for the Red Sox. The Cincinnati Reds did the same to outfielder/defensive back Deion Sanders, who didn't play baseball last season.

Pitcher Jimmy Haynes, acquired earlier this month in a four-team trade, agreed to a $900,000, one-year contract with Milwaukee. Haynes was 7-12 with a 6.34 ERA last season.

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