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YANKEES ARE HOPING TO BRING LIEBER BACK

After watching their starting pitchers struggle for much of the season, the New York Yankees would like to bring Jon Lieber back for 2005.

In his first season following reconstructive elbow surgery, Lieber went 14-8 with a 4.33 ERA, finishing with a strong final two months and going 1-1 with a 3.43 ERA in three starts in postseason, when he was New York's No. 2 starter behind Mike Mussina.

"We'd like to have Jon back, in theory," Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said.

Lieber earned $5.3 million this year, including performance bonuses, and the Yankees have an $8 million option with a $250,000 buyout.

In their first offseason decisions, the Yankees declined their 2005 option on first baseman Travis Lee and their 2006 option on reliever Paul Quantrill.

Nomar files the papers

CHICAGO -- Nomar Garciaparra filed for free agency, starting the bidding process for the All-Star shortstop.

Garciaparra has said he'd consider returning to Chicago, and General Manager Jim Hendry has already spoken with his agent, Arn Tellem. But Garciaparra also wants to test the free-agent market for the first time in his career.

Until he was traded to the Cubs on July 31 as part of a four-team trade, Garciaparra had spent his entire career -- 8 1/2 years -- with the Boston Red Sox.

Around the majors

The Reds picked up first baseman Sean Casey's contract option for 2006.

Rangers reliever Frank Francisco pleaded not guilty in Oakland to a misdemeanor assault charge for breaking a woman's nose after tossing a chair into the stands at an Athletics game.

Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria filed for free agency.