Agent: Give Bonds multiyear deal soon

BASEBALL NOTES

February 02, 1992

If the Pittsburgh Pirates don't sign Barry Bonds to a multiyear contract by the end of spring training, he will file for free agency after the World Series, the outfielder's agent said.

Bonds, who lost in arbitration in 1990 and 1991, agreed with Pittsburgh on Friday to a $4.7 million, one-year contract. The sides said they would continue to talk.

"I'll certainly listen, and I know Barry will listen," agent Rod Wright said. "But we don't want to go beyond spring training. That doesn't help anybody."

Bonds intends to top the $29 million, five-year contract Bobby Bonilla got when he left the Pirates last fall to sign with the New York Mets. Pirates interim general manager Cam Bonifay said he hopes Bonds will stay in Pittsburgh beyond this season.

"I do believe we are now in good standing with Barry Bonds, and this puts everyone into a good frame of mind going into spring training," Bonifay said.

Wright said the situation improved when Bonifay replaced Larry Doughty, who was fired.

"It appears there's a change in strategy and heart that never existed there in the last two years," Wright said.

* MARLINS: Three Tampa-area lawmakers have threatened Florida Marlins owner H. Wayne Huizenga with the loss of a $60 million state tax break if he thwarts St. Petersburg's efforts to lure the Seattle Mariners.

The three Pinellas County lawmakers said they would push for a change in the law to limit the tax break for the Marlins, which are owned by Huizenga, chairman of Blockbuster Video.

"There have been some rumblings from South Florida that they want to operate as the only team in Florida," said state Sen. Curt Kiser, R-Palm Harbor. "They say they support our efforts, but their actions don't indicate that. It's fair to say that if we're going to have any interference, we're just going to have to take a look at the law."

State Reps. Peter Rudy Wallace, D-St. Petersburg, and Jeff Huenink, R-Clearwater, said Marlins officials appear to be interfering with St. Petersburg's effort to lure the Mariners.

Wallace, chairman of the House panel in charge of redistricting, led the drive to establish the program that gives stadium owners $2 million a year for up to 30 years.

* ASTROS: Nolan Ryan said he has been contacted by a new group interested in buying the team, and would think about joining Houston management if the group buys the club.

"They contacted me because they have an interest in my involvement from the management aspect of it," the Rangers pitcher said Friday night. "I've stated all along that if the right group were to purchase the Astros, I certainly would give some consideration to it."

Ryan declined to name any of the members of the new investment group. There has been little public discussion of a sale since Oct. 2, when owner John McMullen broke off negotiations with a group headed by Ben Love and Jeff Love.

Ryan said he was not sure how far along the new group is.

Ryan will pitch for the Rangers again this year and the team has an option for 1993. He also signed a 10-year personal services contract with the Rangers last July that goes into effect upon his retirement.

* METS: Howard Johnson will play only center field this season.

Johnson and manager Jeff Torborg have discussed it and agreed, so now it's official. In a city that has had its share of switch-hitting center fielders -- Mickey Mantle, Lee Mazzilli and Mookie Wilson -- Johnson will be the latest entry. "It's definite," Johnson said. "And Howard likes it. Howard likes it."

So does Torborg, if only because putting Johnson in center allows Bobby Bonilla to remain in right and Vince Coleman to move to left, his position for the first six years of his seven-year career. Torborg said it is not an experiment; it is an assignment.

"I have to stretch out my arm, learn how to find the ball, go back to a spot and wait for it to come down, and not to play too deep," Johnson said. "Those are the big things. I'm very willing to put the time in and learn the position. I'll take a lot of balls out there in BP and I'll get acclimated. I love the idea of being in the middle. I was getting tired of being called off balls last year when I moved to right. Now I'll be in a position to run."

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