Indians Trying To Deal Rocker

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - John Rocker's days with the Cleveland Indians appear to be numbered, and the controversial pitcher knows it.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro was unable to deal the left-hander during the winter meetings in Boston, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

Shapiro, who rocked the meetings and Indians fans by dealing second baseman Roberto Alomar to the New York Mets this week, said he has spoken with several teams about Rocker (pictured, above).

"They (the talks) are active and they're ongoing," Shapiro said as the meetings adjourned.

The Indians reportedly talked to Texas, Los Angeles and the Chicago Cubs about Rocker.

If Cleveland isn't able to work out a trade with another team for Rocker, they have to decide by Dec. 20 whether to offer him a new contract.

With a deal from the Indians, Rocker could take them to arbitration and probably get a raise to his $1.9 million salary.

But if the Indians don't offer him a contract by Dec. 20, Rocker, who lost his closer's job in Cleveland to Bob Wickman, will become a free agent and would forfeit his right to go to arbitration with another team for a year.

Rocker, who was traded to the Indians from Atlanta last June, is in Puerto Rico pitching winter ball with the Bayamon Cowboys. He's working on a new pitch but said he wouldn't be surprised if he never gets to use it for the Indians.

"With all that's going on, I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up somewhere else," Rocker told the San Juan Star. "I enjoyed my time with the Indians, but unfortunately, I might not be getting the ninth-inning save situations."

Shapiro was asked why Rocker would think he wasn't coming back.

"I told him that if we signed Wickman (we wouldn't have room for him)," Shapiro said. "So that's probably why he said that. He was just using his logic."

The Indians signed Wickman to a three-year contract last month.

Former Indians GM John Hart -- now with the Rangers -- traded relievers Steve Karsay and Steve Reed to the Braves for Rocker, who was fined and suspended for two weeks in 2000 after making disparaging remarks about gays, minorities and others in his infamous Sports Illustrated interview.

Hart thought getting Rocker could help bring the Indians a World Series. Instead, it only brought them problems.

Rocker pitched poorly, going just 3-7 with four saves and a 5.45 ERA in 38 games. He was handed the closer's job, but ended up giving it back to Wickman.

Rocker never fit in with his Indians teammates. And after saying he was thankful for a fresh start with the Cleveland media, he rarely granted interviews.

Rocker became a distraction in the clubhouse during the AL playoffs. First, he threw water on fans taunting him in Seattle and compounded problems by clashing with Wickman over some remarks he made.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)