Pirates to talk contract with agent for Bonilla


The Pittsburgh Pirates plan to discuss a possible long-term contract with right fielder Bobby Bonilla's representative, perhaps as early as today.

Pirates president Carl Barger said yesterday that the team would be contacting Bonilla's agent, Dennis Gilbert.

"We're going to try to get the flavor of their current thinking," Barger said.

But Gilbert said he didn't believe that Barger was serious about signing Bonilla.

"If he's got an offer to make, he has my home number, he has my office number. Let him call and make it to me and I'll respond accordingly," Gilbert said.

Bonilla, who has played for the National League in each of the past three All-Star Games, is eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season.

The Pirates attempted to sign Bonilla to a four-year deal for $16 million last month, but were turned down as Gilbert countered at $17.9 million over four years with a no-trade clause.

Gilbert also turned down a one-year offer of $3.2 million prior to Bonilla's salary arbitration hearing, which the outfielder lost. He will be paid $2.4 million this season.

* EXPANSION: The National League expansion committee visits Buffalo, N.Y., Washington and Denver this week, the last step before it begins its final stage of deliberations.

The committee has visited the three Florida finalists -- Miami, Orlando and St. Petersburg, and after this week's visits it will attempt to rank the cities.

"The way I see it, Washington is one of the sites, and the other five cities are scrambling for the other one," said Washington developer John Akridge, who heads the capital's group. "Give me a fact you want to compare, and I can't find one where Washington doesn't come out on top."

The four-man expansion committee visits Washington this morning and Buffalo this afternoon before looking at Denver's facilities tomorrow.

* DODGERS: Darryl Strawberry, who had been sidelined since March 11 with a strained right hamstring muscle, returned to the lineup yesterday.

Strawberry went 1-for-3 with a third-inning single off Atlanta left-hander Tony Castillo.

"My first two at-bats I was a little too anxious," Strawberry said. "My last at-bat, I was real aggressive. It helped get my focus back where it should be.

"I didn't really feel any problems when I run. I'm looking pretty good out there and feeling pretty good. I've very pleased with the progress I've made.

"I feel like I'm healthy. The key is working to keep the leg strong."

* BREWERS: General manager Harry Dalton said he has talked " with the Dodgers about reliever Dan Plesac.

"I've talked with [Dodgers general manager] Fred Claire, and Plesac's name came up, but they did not make a firm offer and we did not make a firm offer," Dalton said.

* ARIZONA: Commissioner Fay Vincent said Tempe's decision to break off negotiations on training camp improvements for the Seattle Mariners could hurt spring training in Arizona.

"That's a very disturbing development," Vincent said. "That is not a good sign for the Cactus League and it worries me a lot."

Mariners president Gary Kaseff was quoted Friday as saying, "We don't feel there are any other viable sites in the Cactus League."

With Cleveland moving its camp to Florida in 1993, there would be only seven teams training in Arizona.

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