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GRIFFEY TALK BEING KEPT UNDER COVER

At least from the perspective of Cincinnati General Manager Jim Bowden, the Reds and Mariners have resumed discussions about a trade for Ken Griffey Jr.

But while Bowden was revealing this at a Reds fanfest in Cincinnati, and admitting the stalemate situation "has not changed," the Mariners were reluctant to admit even that they had been on the phone.

Asked if he had talked with Bowden, as his Cincinnati counterpart had said, Seattle GM Pat Gillick responded, "That's not right."

Gillick reiterated his statement of last Tuesday in which he said the only contact of late between the clubs had been on salary arbitration matters.

No matter who has talked or has not, indications are that Brian Goldberg, Griffey's agent, has established a deadline for Griffey, who has said his hometown Reds are the only team to which he will accept a trade.

Goldberg said this week, "If they're going to work something out, it better be by the start of spring training; we don't want Kenny to have to pull up stakes in the middle of training camp."

Gillick said he had not heard that from Goldberg, who had spoken with Mariner President Chuck Armstrong, who could not be reached for comment.

"I don't know what they discussed," Gillick said. "But from our standpoint, yeah, I guess a trade before training camp started would be best."

Part of Gillick's stance may be a refusal to acknowledge any discussion that are as one-sided in favor of another club as the M's-Reds talks are thought to be now that Bowden knows he holds all the aces in this game.

While Bowden told Cincinnati writers that he had been talking with the Mariners in response to fans' questions at the fanfest, he said he would not trade top shortstop prospect Travis Dawkins or outfielder Mike Cameron, both of whom were thought to be included in trade talks before Bowden broke off negotiations in early December.

As far as picking up talks again, Bowden said, "You never know what will change between now and Opening Day, so you leave the door open or at least cracked."

"Money is an issue," Bowden said Friday. He implied that to do the Griffey deal, Seattle would have to put in some of Griffey's $8.5 million salary.

Garth headed to Mets camp

NEW YORK -- While distractions are nothing new to the New York Mets, this one sings a different tune.

The Mets have reached an agreement in principle with Garth Brooks, allowing the country singer to participate in spring training with New York.

"We are part of the entertainment industry, and I think this will add some excitement to our spring," Mets General Manager Steve Phillips said. "I don't know what sort of impact it will have on crowds, but it will add excitement."

Brooks, who hit .045 for the San Diego Padres last spring (1 for 22), will sign a minor-league contract and train with the team in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Brooks likely will report Feb. 20 with the Mets' position players and begin training the next day.

Brooks, 37, created little controversy when he was with the Padres last spring, signing autographs every day and singing after some exhibition games.

Even if he does create a distraction, the Mets aren't concerned. This is, after all, a team that went through a season where Bobby Bonilla and manager Bobby Valentine nearly came to blows in the dugout and Valentine returned to a game in disguise after being ejected.

"The most obvious question is what sort of distraction does it cause," Phillips said. "I talked to quite a few of our players and our view is the positives outweighs the negatives. If there is a distraction, it might be a positive distraction. The press attention that usually falls on the players may fall to Garth a bit."

One of the players Phillips talked to was third baseman Robin Ventura, who had positive reports about his spring training with Michael Jordan while he was with the Chicago White Sox in 1994.

Brooks, who considered training with the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, wanted to train in Florida instead of Arizona this spring.

Wendell rescued in mountains

DECKERS, Colo. -- New York Mets reliever Turk Wendell was rescued Saturday after spending the night stranded in the snowy Rocky Mountain foothills 30 miles outside of Denver.

Wendell and his guide, Jeff Parise, were dehydrated but in good condition when found by a search team, police said.

"At any time I was in the woods, I wasn't in any physical danger," Wendell said in a statement through the Mets. "My only concern was for my wife, Barbara, because I left my cell phone in my car several miles away and I had no way of contacting her. I was really concerned she might go into labor worrying about me."

Barbara Wendell is eight months' pregnant with the couple's second child. Kim Stuckenscheider of the Douglas County Sheriff's office said the two men had been mountain lion hunting west of Cheesman Reservoir. When they failed to return, Parise's wife called authorities late Friday.

Wendell told the Mets he had ventured too far, and by the time he was ready to return it was nearly dark. So the pitcher, who calls himself an avid camper, built a fire in the minus-10 temperatures and waited until morning to head back to his car.

Rescuers found the men about 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Pike National Forest.

Wendell added that he bagged a 180-pound lion.

Indians sign pitchers

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians have signed pitchers Alan Newman, Steve Falteisek and Curtis King to minor-league contracts.

Newman, 30, split last season between Triple-A Durham and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, posting a 10-0 record with an ERA of 2.24 in 50 relief appearances in Durham. The left-hander finished 2-2 with a 6.89 ERA in 18 relief appearances in Tampa Bay.

A 28-year-old right-hander, Falteisek spent the majority of '99 with Triple-A Louisville, where he went 5-11 with a 6.84 ERA. He also appeared in 10 games (all in relief) with the Milwaukee Brewers last season.

King, 29, appeared in 27 games for Triple-A Memphis last season, finishing 2-2 with seven saves and a 2.61 ERA. The right-hander spent parts of the last three seasons in the majors with St. Louis, combining for a 6-2 record with two saves and a 3.43 ERA.

Around the horn

Catcher Scott Hatteberg and the Boston Red Sox agreed to a $695,000, one-year contract, nearly double his $350,000 salary last year. Hatteberg, 30, hit .275 last season with 80 at-bats in 30 games.

Pete Rose Jr. will be back at spring training, this time with the Philadelphia Phillies. Rose, who signed a minor-league contract on Nov. 3, has been invited to camp by the Phillies. He is expected to play third base for Double-A Reading this year.

Right after a knockout, Mike Tyson took a jab at Jim Gray -- about Pete Rose. Gray, criticized for grilling Rose at the World Series, interviewed Tyson on the Showtime cable network after the former heavyweight champion flattened Julius Francis in the second round Saturday night.

Told by Gray that he should wipe his nose, Tyson answered: "I'm a big enough man to squash you and be your friend, and I'm a fan of Pete Rose."

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