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Sports Today / News, notes & quotes

Damon meets with new Boss

George Steinbrenner quickly had a chat with his empire's newest star.

A day after leaving the Boston Red Sox to accept a $52 million, four-year contract with the New York Yankees, center fielder Johnny Damon had a conversation with the Boss, who hopes his latest acquisition will help the Yankees win the World Series for the first time since 2000.

"Steinbrenner spoke to Johnny Damon today for about 15 minutes and he indicated it was a good conversation," Steinbrenner spokesman Howard Rubenstein said. He said The Boss didn't want to say anything else publicly.

Damon is expected to have his physical today and the deal is likely to be finalized on Friday, when a news conference would be held at Yankee Stadium.

New York reached a preliminary agreement with longtime center fielder Bernie Williams on a $1.5 million, one-year contract with incentives.

In other baseball news, the San Francisco Giants acquired outfielder Steve Finley from the Los Angeles Angels for third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo in a swap of former All-Stars who dropped off dramatically last season.

Pitcher Brett Tomko has agreed to terms on a two-year, $8.7 million contract with the Dodgers that includes a club option for a third year and a $1 million buyout.

The Chicago White Sox are shopping right-hander Jon Garland and seeking top pitching prospects. Garland posted an 18-10 record and 3.50 ERA but is on the trading block because he turned down a three-year offer.

Pitcher Sidney Ponson agreed to a one-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, three months after the Baltimore Orioles and released him. The Orioles are mourning Elrod Hendricks, who died Wednesday of unknown causes. He was 64. He had spent nearly 40 years with Baltimore as a catcher and a coach, playing in three World Series with the Orioles and one with the New York Yankees (1976) during a 12-year career.

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Leinart reinstated

USC quarterback Matt Leinart had his eligibility temporarily revoked after appearing in a promotional segment on ESPN earlier this month, a violation of an NCAA rule.

The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner was reinstated Tuesday after Southern California petitioned the NCAA.

The school declared him ineligible after the segment aired on the cable network. It was recorded after the Trojans' victory over UCLA in the final game of the regular season. USC plays Texas on Jan. 4 in the Rose Bowl.

NCAA spokesman Kent Barrett said Leinart's actions were "unintentional and inadvertent."

In the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Bruce Gradkowski threw five touchdown passes and Trinity Dawson rushed for 132 yards, leading the Rockets (9-3) past UTEP (8-4), 45-13.

Wes Phillips, the son of former Bills coach Wade Phillips, was hired as Baylor's quarterbacks coach. Phillips was a quarterback at UTEP and Williamsville North.

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Rapids to play at Gow

The Buffalo Rapids will host the Rochester RazorSharks on Friday at the Gow School, 2491 Emery Road in South Wales in the second game of a home-and-home series. Starting time is 7 p.m.

Rochester (9-3) routed Buffalo, 114-65, Wednesday at Blue Cross Arena. Demond Stewart led the RazorSharks with 17 points and held Buffalo's Tim Winn to eight. Winn scored 29 points in the previous meeting, an 89-88 victory by Rochester.

The Rapids also have announced that their Dec. 28 game against Maryland will be played at 7 p.m. at the Park School, 4625 Harlem Road.

Compiled from News and wire service reports.

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