Gooden rejects Mets' offer, breaks off talks


Dwight Gooden broke off contract talks with the New York Mets yesterday and said he would file for free agency after the season.

Gooden rejected a $13 million, three-year extension offer by the club and demanded $16.2 million for three years, which would make him the highest-paid player in baseball.

"A deal couldn't be worked out, so there will be no further talks with the Mets this year," Gooden said after the first workout of spring training. "I just want the money I'm worth. I tried to get a deal worked out. So now I'm just going to go out and play."

Gooden is making $2.25 million in the final season of a three-year deal worth $6.7 million. He wanted an extension comparable to the $21.5 million, four-year contract Roger Clemens got from Boston two weeks ago.

* YANKEES: Steve Howe was assigned uniform No. 88 when he reported to New York's spring training camp as a non-roster invitee.

The high number may or may not reflect the left-hander's chances of resuming a major-league career that was once thought lost to alcohol and drug abuse.

Howe, who has been suspended six times for substance abuse and who last pitched in the major leagues in 1987, was full of optimism after he pulled on the Yankees uniform for the first time.

Howe had suggested on Thursday, when the Yankees formally invited him to camp, that he could fill the void created by the free agent departure of closer Dave Righetti. "They lost Rags, he said. "Here I come."

* INDIANS: Keith Hernandez's hopes of making a comeback from another season filled with injuries was dealt a setback when he reported to Cleveland's camp with a back injury.

The 37-year-old first baseman, who missed most of the 1990 season with a strained calf muscle, has a disk injury. Hernandez said he sustained the injury moving furniture in his apartment during the winter. He is on medication and is expected to be sidelined for two weeks.

* REDS: Pitcher Randy Myers has been excused from the first few days of training camp so that he can coach women's basketball. Myers is a volunteer assistant coach at Clark Community College in Vancouver, Wash., where he played college baseball.

* PIRATES: Right-hander Jay Tibbs has been invited to spring training camp by Pittsburgh. Tibbs began last season with the Baltimore Orioles, and was acquired by Pittsburgh on June 25. He won one game against San Francisco then spent the rest of the 1990 season with Pittsburgh's Class AAA farm team in Buffalo.

Tibbs was placed on the disabled list after developing a sore right shoulder July 25.

* ANGELS: Third baseman Jack Howell lost his arbitration case and will earn $652,500 for the second straight season.

Howell had asked arbitrator Anthony Sinicropi for $835,000 during a hearing Thursday in Chicago.

Howell, 29, played in 105 games last season and hit .228 with eight home runs and 33 RBI. Since the Angels signed new-look free-agent Gary Gaetti last month, Howell enters spring training as a reserve. He may be given an opportunity to compete for a job in the outfield.

* TIGERS: Team president Bo Schembechler said he probably will wait until after the 1991 season to name a general manager to replace Bill Lajoie.

Lajoie resigned Jan. 7 and since has gone to work as a scout for the Atlanta Braves.

Schembechler said he has to decide whether he wants a general manager who is "a talent evaluator, negotiator or a lawyer." He also said he might consider hiring separate executives to manage payroll and to get talent.

Tigers minor-league director Joe McDonald is interim general manager.

* DODGERS: Four players, most notably pitchers Ramon Martinez and Jay Howell, were missing when Los Angeles opened spring drills for pitchers and catchers.

Martinez and Howell stayed away from camp because of contract disputes, and pitcher Mike Morgan remains sidelined with a hip injury. In addition, catcher Carlos Hernandez was delayed because of visa problems in his native Venezuela.

Martinez, who won 20 games and finished second in the National League Cy Young Award voting last year in his first full season in the major leagues, is unhappy with the Dodgers' contract offer of $400,000.

Howell, who led the club in saves with 16, reportedly wants an extension of his contract, which expires at the end of this season.

Right-hander Orel Hershiser, recovering from reconstructive shoulder surgery last April, threw on the sidelines Friday and concentrated on throwing his curveball.

* CARDINALS: Joe Magrane was held out of St. Louis' first spring training workout because of tightness in his left elbow.

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