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Published: Monday, 7/7/2008

Tribe's Sabathia likely to land in Milwaukee

ASSOCIATED PRESS

MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Brewers are extremely close to a deal to acquire Cleveland Indians ace C.C. Sabathia in a trade that bolsters their rotation for a playoff push, a person with direct knowledge of the deal told the Associated Press.

The person requested anonymity because the trade has not been finalized and said there were a few remaining issues to work out.

Sabathia went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA to win the AL Cy Young last season and would give the Brewers another power pitcher to pair with Ben Sheets as Milwaukee tries to make the playoffs for the first time since 1982.

The big lefty is 6-8 with a 3.83 ERA for the Indians but has also been plagued with a lack of run support. In 11 of his 18 starts, Cleveland has scored two runs or less for him.

"I'm good, excited," Sabathia wrote in a text message posted on ESPN.com. "It's weird leaving these guys."

The trade was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

To get Sabathia, Milwaukee will have to part with a package of prospects including Matt LaPorta, a power-hitting left fielder selected in the first round last year who was scratched from a Double-A game in Huntsville last night.

LaPorta was hitting .288 with 20 homers and 66 RBIs in 84 games for Huntsville.

"It's kind of flattering to have your name brought up for one of the best pitchers in the game," LaPorta told the Huntsville Times. "There would be no hard feelings one way or another. This is a business, and I understand that."

The Indians, who were one win from the World Series last year, have quickly fallen out of contention.

Milwaukee wants Sabathia now to make as many starts as possible.

Sabathia, who was slated to start for Cleveland tomorrow at Detroit, rejected a $72 million, four-year extension from the Indians during spring training and announced he wouldn't negotiate any deal until after the season.

Cleveland doesn't want to see another star leave town without getting anything in return after Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Albert Belle all left for free agency. In 2002, the Indians traded popular starter Bartolo Colon to Montreal for prospects Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and Brandon Phillps.

The Brewers' starting pitching has been thin ever since Yovani Gallardo went on the disabled list on May 2 with a torn knee ligament that required surgery. His rehab was supposed to take four months, which gives him an outside chance of returning before the end of the season.

Sheets (10-2, 2.77 ERA) is off to the best start of his career, but the all-star righty is in the final year of a $38.5 million, four-year contract and hasn't wanted to talk about his upcoming free agency.

If Sabathia is acquired and both pitchers leave via free agency, the Brewers would likely receive four first-round picks as compensation. Milwaukee had six of the top 62 picks this past season after relievers Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink left and has 10 all-stars named to the Southern League game in Double-A Huntsville alone.

Milwaukee, which hasn't been in the postseason since the days of Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, fell two games short of the division title last year. The Brewers are percentage points ahead of St. Louis for the second-best record in the NL, and both teams are chasing Chicago.



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