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Twins will keep Hawkins

Hocking mightnot be back

Knight Ridder Newspapers

MINNEAPOLIS -- Pitcher LaTroy Hawkins will be back, even though it will cost the Minnesota Twins $3 million. And infielder Denny Hocking might not, because the Twins decided not to spend an additional $450,000.

That's the initial fallout of the first round of personnel moves by the Twins since their run to the American League Championship Series.

The club announced Monday that it has exercised its 2003 contract options on Hawkins, closer Eddie Guardado ($2.7 million) and backup catcher Tom Prince ($450,000).

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That puts nine players under contract for next season at a total of $38.2 million. The team's payroll this season was about $41 million. Next season's payroll budget has not been determined, general manager Terry Ryan said.

On the other hand, the Twins declined to pick up reliever Bob Wells' $1.8 million option, paying the $250,000 buyout instead. And in the move with the most potential for changing the face of the team next year, the club declined to exercise its $1.5 million side of Hocking's mutual option. Hocking has until Friday to decide whether he'll exercise the option for $1.05 million, which would represent a $100,000 pay cut.

Ryan said it was a business decision based on Hocking's role and that the club hopes Hocking will return at the lower salary.

"I'm not going to say I was shocked, but at some point in your professional career you realize the game is no longer a game, and it's a business," said Hocking, whose playing time has diminished the past two seasons as the Twins have developed a young core of everyday players. "That's the situation I was put in today. ... I'm going to take as much time as I need and my family needs to make a decision."

Hocking, who broke in with the Twins in 1993 and has served as the players' representative to the union the past three seasons, said he talked with Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire after the club's decision.

If anything, the contract option that seemed like a tougher choice was Hawkins', considering the struggles of the hard-throwing right-hander and the fact his option pays him more than anyone else in the Twins' bullpen and makes him the sixth-highest-paid player on the team. His contract was negotiated when he was the team's closer.

Managerial changes, Page 2D

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