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Rockies awaiting word from Johnson on trade to Dodgers

| Saturday, July 31, 2004

DENVER -- A deal that would send catcher Charles Johnson from the Colorado Rockies to the Los Angeles Dodgers is being held up while Johnson decides if he wants to waive his no-trade clause.

The Rockies would probably get a minor leaguer and possibly a player to be named from the Dodgers. The teams agreed to the deal Thursday night, but Johnson was still weighing his options Friday.

Citing family concerns, learning a new pitching staff, moving and the chance to get more playing time in Los Angeles, Johnson said he probably wouldn't make a decision until today.

The deadline for deals without waivers is 4 p.m.

"They've asked me about it, and I still haven't decided what I want to do," said Johnson, who didn't start against Arizona last night. "I'm not leaning one way or the other. Obviously, I have to make a decision shortly."

Los Angeles could be in need of a catcher if a deal that sends Paul Lo Duca to Florida goes through.

The Rockies were looking to deal Johnson, so they could unload his hefty salary and give J.D. Closser a chance to play in the majors.

Johnson is due $14 million over the next two seasons and Closser, who's at Triple-A Colorado Springs, is considered the Rockies' catcher of the future.

Although Johnson said just a few weeks ago that he wouldn't waive his no-trade clause, he's at least going to give it some thought.

"I'm a professional ballplayer, and it's not like I'm not going to listen to what is being brought up and what is being said," Johnson said. "I definitely will listen to them, and I'll tell them I'll let them know."

Johnson came to Colorado from Florida with center fielder Preston Wilson in a 2002 trade for left-hander Mike Hampton and outfielder Juan Pierre. Johnson set a Rockies record for a catcher with 20 homers last season, but hit just .230 and struck out 84 times.

Johnson, 33, is hitting .258 with 11 homers and 41 RBI this season.

Phillies deal Ledee

The Philadelphia Phillies traded outfielder Ricky Ledee and a minor-league pitcher to the San Francisco Giants for right-handed reliever Felix Rodriguez.

Ledee is batting .285 with seven homers and 26 RBI, and he'll be expected to provide the Giants' outfield with some much-needed pop. With a dearth of good left-handed hitters behind Barry Bonds, San Francisco has struggled against right-handed pitching during an otherwise successful season.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean drafted Ledee 14 years ago, when the outfielder was a 16-year-old prospect and Sabean was the New York Yankees' director of scouting. In addition to three seasons with the Yankees, Ledee also has played for Cleveland and Texas.

"I think we all know we need some help in the outfield, (and) we've seen a lot of him in his career," Sabean said. "Quite frankly, we're below .500 against right-handed pitching, so hopefully this will help."

Mets stay busy

Pitcher Victor Zambrano was traded to the New York Mets, boosting a rotation that had relied all season on three aging starters.

A day before the non-waiver trading deadline, the Mets got busy in a big way -- and took a huge gamble.

To get Zambrano and minor-league pitcher Bartolome Fortunato from Tampa Bay, the Mets sent their best pitching prospect -- Scott Kazmir -- and minor-league pitcher Jose Diaz to the Devil Rays.

"In my new home, they're waiting for me," Zambrano said before the Devil Rays hosted Toronto. "I'm just going to go and do my 200 percent I can do there. I'll be happy to go there."

"All I can say, I appreciate the opportunity that they gave me. I'm just waiting to get to New York," he said.

"We're getting younger and transforming our roster that a year ago or two years ago was one of the oldest in baseball," Mets general manager Jim Duquette said.

The Mets, led by starters Al Leiter, Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel, entered the day trailing the Braves by six games in the NL East. New York, which started a weekend series in Atlanta, also are in the wild-card race.

Zambrano, who turns 29 next week, is 9-7 with a 4.43 ERA. The right-hander also is 10-1 lifetime in interleague play, having pitched well against NL teams.

Kazmir was the Mets' first-round pick in the 2002 draft, and was pitching at Double-A Binghamton. He has struck out 259 batters in 2031/3 innings during his minor-league career.

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