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RAINES GIVEN CHANCE TO RETURN TO YANKEES

Tim Raines, whose 1999 season was cut short by Lupus, is set to return to the New York Yankees, the New York Times reported today.

Raines, who played in New York from 1996-98, would be invited to spring training with the chance to make $400,000 if he made the team, the paper said.

Raines, who played in Oakland last season, went on the disabled list July 19 with kidney inflammation. Less than a week later, he was diagnosed with Lupus, a connective tissue disease in which the immune system turns against a person's own body.

Once Raines' medical reports were good, he instructed his agent to work out a deal with the Yankees. If Raines makes the team, he would primarily be used as a pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder.

The Colorado Rockies avoided the first salary arbitration hearing in the team's seven-year history by agreeing with shortstop Neifi Perez to a one-year contract worth $2,212,500.

Perez had asked for $2.45 million in arbitration, while the Rockies had offered $2.1 million. Perez, 24, is seeking a long-term deal comparable to the $16 million, four-year contract Tony Batista received from Toronto this month.

In other baseball news:

The Anaheim Angels signed infielder Carlos Garcia, a former Buffalo Bison, to a minor-league contract. Garcia, 32, hit .182 in 11 games with San Diego Padres last season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates will play newly acquired Wil Cordero in right field rather than third base, according to manager Gene Lamont, thus clearing the way for Aramis Ramirez to start at third.

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