h0353 BC-BBO-FreeAgents 2ndLd-Writethru 11-14 0845


Yankees to court Sabathia

NEW YORK — Joe Girardi said this week he’d enjoy showing free agents around the new Yankee Stadium. CC Sabathia is one of the players the New York manager has in mind for a tour of the spacious clubhouse, players lounge, indoor batting cage and underground hot tub.

Free-agent season opened Friday with the Yankees planning to give Sabathia a record offer for a pitcher.

The Yankees formulated a proposal to the big lefty that would exceed Johan Santana’s $137.5 million, six-year contract with the New York Mets both in total and average, a baseball official familiar with the negotiations said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to divulge details.


Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was to make the offer to Sabathia’s agents, Greg Genske and Scott Parker, either on Friday or in the next few days, the official said.

New York, whose streak of 13 consecutive playoff appearances ended, also plans to make offers to pitchers A.J. Burnett and Derek Lowe, the official said.

Cashman and Genske did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Sabathia went a combined 17-10 for Cleveland and Milwaukee this year after winning the 2007 AL Cy Young Award, and is considered the best starting pitcher in this year’s free-agent class.

On Friday morning, the Yankees gave a media tour of the new ballpark, scheduled to be substantially completed by Feb. 17.

Quentin says wrist is fine

CHICAGO — White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin said his surgically repaired right wrist has responded well and he’s been able to do some light hitting without any problems.

"Just kind of going through the normal routine in the offseason where I’ve just gotten back into hitting and I really haven’t felt much of it during the swing," Quentin said Friday during a conference call.


Quentin was leading the AL with 36 homers on Sept. 1 when he broke his wrist in a fit of frustration in Cleveland. After fouling off a pitch from Cliff Lee, he slapped his bat with his right hand while holding it with the left.

He ended up with a broken bone that needed surgery and a screw was inserted. Quentin worked hard to rehab and said he would have been able to play if the White Sox had made it past the first round of the playoffs, where they lost in four games to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Martial arts

Title fight tonight for Lesnar

Brock Lesnar’s career in mixed martial arts only began about 18 months ago. Randy Couture stepped away from the sport around the same time, fed up with contract squabbles and his inability to land the big fights he really craved.

Their unlikely meeting tonight in Las Vegas for the UFC heavyweight title might be the most-watched event in the history of their sport. Yet it’s more than a clever publicity grab by MMA’s dominant company, which seized the chance to match its 45-year-old champion against the sport’s fast-rising new star.

It’s also a tantalizing contrast of styles, temperaments and resumes, matching a respected pioneer of the sport against a crowd-pleasing former pro wrestler who brought a leather coat and a lasso to the octagon last time out.

When it’s all added up, UFC president Dana White expects his canny matchmaking will create the biggest pay-per-view audience in the still-nascent sport’s history, exceeding the 1.05 million buys from Chuck Liddell’s fight with Tito Ortiz in December 2006.


Lesnar also realizes he’s on this stage after just three pro fights because of his accomplishments in NCAA wrestling, his showmanship in the WWE and even his attempt to make the Minnesota Vikings. Each step in his path through the various legal outlets of aggression has built the fan base that followed the South Dakota native into the UFC.

"You can see the evolution of the monster," the thick-necked wrestler with a mean streak said. "We just try to make him more scary and make him more threatening, polish him in just about every angle that we can polish."

But Lesnar knows he still hasn’t convinced everyone he’s a serious athlete, so he spent eight weeks in a training camp in rural western Minnesota.


Lightning fire Melrose

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning have fired coach Barry Melrose just 16 games into the season.

Assistant Rick Tocchet was appointed interim head coach.

The announcement Friday came less than five months after Melrose was hired. The Lightning have a record of 5-7-4.


General manager Brian Lawton says it was a tough decision, but the team’s results were unacceptable.

The Lightning have lost three straight games, dropping to fourth in the Southeast Division. Despite the presence of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay ranks last in goals in the NHL.

Figure skating

Canadians Chan, Rochette shine

PARIS — Teenager Patrick Chan enjoyed his best performance of the season and Joannie Rochette overcame a spill as the Canadian skaters led after the men’s and women’s short programs in the Trophee Bompard on Friday.

Rochette fell attempting a triple flip-triple toe loop combination, but recovered well to score 59.54 points and push world champion Mao Asada of Japan into second place with 58.12.

The Japanese skater failed to complete the same jump as Rochette, executing the first part perfectly but managing only one toe loop when the minimum for a combination was two.

The top three all looked shaky, with Caroline Zhang pulling out of her double axel attempt but still scoring enough with 51.76 to head off fellow American Beatrisa Liang at 49.60.


Earlier, skating to "Tango de los Exilados" by Walter Taieb, Chan hit near-perfect landings on a triple axel, a triple flip-triple toe loop and a triple lutz in quick succession for 81.39. Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka was second with 77, and 2006 champion Brian Joubert of France was third with 73.75.


Bowden suspends 5 in brawl

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Five Florida State wide receivers will miss tonight’s homecoming game against Boston College for their roles in a midweek campus fight, coach Bobby Bowden said Friday.

Taiwan Easterling, Bert Reed, Corey Surrency, Cameron Wade and Richard Goodman will sit Saturday’s crucial Atlantic Coast Conference contest.

"The police report has not been concluded but from the information that I have gathered, I’m suspending five players who were apparently involved," Bowden said.

Maj. James Russell of the Florida State University Police Department said Bowden’s decision was based on independent information obtained by the coach.

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