The Pittsburgh Pirates confirmed yesterday they've talked to the Atlanta Braves about a trade involving Barry Bonds, although general manager Ted Simmons said a deal isn't near.
Talks between the two teams began at the winter meetings in December, when Larry Doughty was the Pirates' general manager. The Braves discussed moving left-hander Kent Mercker and infielder Jeff Blauser, a deal that didn't interest Doughty.
There is speculation the Braves may be offering hard-throwing reliever Mark Wohlers and Brian Hunter, who hit the decisive homer in the Braves' 4-0 victory over Pittsburgh in Game 7 of the National League playoffs.
Bonds can become a free agent after this season. The Pirates have indicated there is little chance of signing him to a long-term contract.
Meanwhile, right-hander Doug Drabek rejected a four-year contract that would have paid him slightly more than the Pirates' initial offer of $18.25 million.
Drabek's agent, Randy Hendricks, said he would negotiate only until the start of the season, then not again until the season ended. Drabek can become a free agent after this season.
In another development, Pirates center fielder Andy Van Slyke returned to Pittsburgh for tests to determine the cause of lower back pain that has bothered him since the end of last season.
Van Slyke will be examined today by team orthopedist Dr. Jack Failla, who will study a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test performed in January.
* BREWERS: The judge who had freed Julio Machado ruled that the relief pitcher must stay in Venezuela for the time being.
Machado, charged with unintentional murder in the shooting death of a Venezuelan woman, must stay near his home in Maracaibo until Judge Rimer de Orellana rules on a prosecution motion that he not be allowed to leave the country until after his trial. Similar rulings can take months in Venezuela.
Lawyers representing the family of the dead woman, Edicta Vasquez, asked that Orellana deny Machado permission to go to the United States to play baseball.
* YANKEES: Pascual Perez says he was set up by the team and commissioner Fay Vincent to fail the recent drug test that resulted in his one-year suspension, a charge Yankees general manager Gene Michael strongly denied.
Perez questioned the tests taken Feb. 26 and Feb. 28 because he didn't learn he tested positive until March 5, the day before his suspension.
"They have ways of manipulating things. I have no way to manipulate anything. You tell me why it took so long. It never has before. Something was wrong, I tell you, and it wasn't me," Perez was quoted as saying in yesterday's editions of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sun-Sentinel.
Perez, in a separate interview with Newsday, accused baseball officials of racism.
"Look at the color of my skin, that's it," he was quoted as saying. "They'd look for a solution if I was white. They'd find a way around it."
"He's got to blame himself, number one," Michael said. "That's where it starts. I never said anything bad about him. I had compassion for him. I feel badly for him and his family. I have no compassion for him ripping the organization. That's a cop-out."
Perez, 34, said he was considering a lawsuit challenging the test results and insisted that he would never play for the Yankees again.
"If Steinbrenner was in charge, the Yankees would have fought for me," he said. "They didn't fight. They just let me go. They didn't care about me as a human being."
* RANGERS: Brian Bohanon, who has a history of arm problems, received an injection to reduce swelling in his left bicep and was ordered not to throw for five days.
dTC Bohanon, who felt his biceps tighten during yesterday's game against St. Louis, also can't appear in a game until March 19, doctors said.
* The baseball commissioner's office is close to completing an agreement for a line of credit worth at least $300 million with Citibank and other lenders in an effort to get better rate and repayment terms for the clubs.
Deputy commissioner Stephen Greenberg said the deal "presumably replaces individual loans negotiated by individual clubs with their individual banks." He said he expected about half of the 26 clubs to participate.
The collateral for the loan would be baseball's central fund, which receives national broadcasting and licensing payments. If a team was unable to make a loan repayment, the commissioner's office could withhold central fund payments. Teams average $14.2 million per year under the current contracts with CBS and ESPN, aside from radio rights and licensing money.
* American League president Bobby Brown agreed to a one-year contract extension through Dec. 31, 1993. Brown, who succeeded Lee MacPhail as AL president on Jan. 1, 1984, said he made the decision following a unanimous request from the 14 clubs at last week's owners meetings.