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RODGERS GETS CANNED BY LAST-PLACE EXPOS

Buck Rodgers' phone rang at 6:30 a.m. and Dave Dombrowski made it short and sweet.

"He said, `We've decided to make a change and we have to let you go,' " Rodgers said Monday after he was fired as manager of the Montreal Expos."I said, `OK, that's fine,' and I hung up and went back to sleep."

The seven-year reign of Rodgers, the most successful manager in Expos history, ended when Dombrowski, the team's general manager, replaced him with Tom Runnells. The 52-year-old Rodgers was in the final year of a contract that will pay him about $500,000. His record with the Expos was 520-499.

But victories were hard to come by this season. When Rodgers was fired, the Expos had lost 10 of their last 11 games and dropped to 20-29 - last in the NL East and 13 games behind first-place Pittsburgh.

Rodgers was the fifth manager fired this season and the third in the NL East. In April, Philadelphia fired Nick Leyva and on consecutive days late last month, the Cubs fired Don Zimmer, the Royals canned John Wathan and the Orioles dropped Frank Robinson.

Dombrowski decided Saturday night to replace Rodgers and offered the job to third-base coach Runnells on Sunday. Dombrowski said the main reason for the move was because "I want to get the focus back where it should be, which is winning ballgames.