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PITCHERS A PREMIUM IN FLURRY OF LATE TRADES

Baseball's version of musical chairs sent a number of pitchers to new addresses.

In a flurry of deals before the trading deadline, Bret Saberhagen, David Wells, Andy Benes, Mike Stanton, Kevin Tapani and Mark Guthrie changed teams Monday night.The final-hour trades capped a wild week in which the New York Yankees obtained pitcher David Cone from the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles gained some power by obtaining Bobby Bonilla from the New York Mets. Two first-place AL teams - California and Cleveland - also picked up starters, the Angels getting Jim Abbott from the Chicago White Sox and the Indians getting Ken Hill from the St. Louis Cardinals.

While trades can still be made, players now involved must clear waivers.

Cincinnati, trying to protect its NL Central lead, got left-hander Wells from the Detroit Tigers for its top pick in last year's draft.

"When you get to this point in July and you have a chance to improve your team, you have to go out and do it, even if it means giving up a top prospect," Reds general manager Jim Bowden said after sending C.J. Nitkowski, minor league pitcher Dave Tuttle and a player to be named later to Detroit.

Wells, 32, was 10-3 with the Tigers this season - including 8-0 in his last nine starts - with a 3.04 earned run average in 18 starts. In eight big-league seasons, Wells is 73-56.

"David Wells is having an outstanding season and we trust will continue to succeed with Cincinnati," Tigers general manager Joe Klein said. "But we feel with the amount of good young arms we are developing in our system with the addition of two more, we are putting together what could turn out to be an outstanding young pitching staff within the very foreseeable future."

Saberhagen, a two-time Cy Young award winner, was dealt from the Mets to the Colorado Rockies, who have a 31/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, for minor league pitchers Juan Acevedo and Arnold Gooch. Saberhagen was 5-5 with a 3.35 ERA this season, his fourth with the Mets.

"I'm going to play with a club that's in first place in the division, and maybe I can help them make the World Series," said Saberhagen, who's expected to be on the mound Thursday night in the finale of Colorado's key three-game series against Los Angeles.

Colorado, who will also receive a minor leaguer to be named from the Mets, also obtained left-hander Bryan Hickerson from the Chicago Cubs for future considerations. Hickerson, 31, was 2-3 with a 6.82 ERA with Chicago, all in relief.

The Rockies have two starters on the disabled list - David Nied and Joe Grahe - and Bill Swift is bothered by a sore shoulder.

The Rockies led the NL with a .282 batting average going into Monday's game, but were second-to-last with a 4.75 ERA.

Benes went from the San Diego Padres to the Seattle Mariners, who are 11 games behind California in the AL West. They are in the running for a wild card, which would be their first postseason appearance.

Benes, 27, was 4-7 with a 4.17 ERA in 19 starts with the Padres and was second in the NL with 126 strikeouts. In seven years with the Padres, he was 69-75 with a 3.57 ERA in 187 games.

Seattle gave up left-hander Ron Villone and outfielder Marc Newfield, both former No. 1 draft picks, and will also receive a minor leaguer to be named.

Saberhagen had been rumored to be going to Boston. Instead, the Red Sox, leaders in the AL East by 4 1/2 games over the Yankees, obtained Stanton, a 28-year-old left-hander, from the Atlanta Braves.

The Red Sox will give up a player to be named for Stanton, who was 1-1 with one save and a 5.59 ERA in 26 appearances this year. Stanton, who saved 27 games in 1993 and has 55 career saves and a 4.01 lifetime ERA, will step into the setup role for recently acquired closer Rick Aguilera.

The Dodgers sent three minor leaguers - pitchers Jose Parra and Greg Hansell and infielder Ron Coomer - to the Minnesota Twins for Tapani and Guthrie.

Tapani, a right-handed starter, was 6-11 with a 4.92 ERA for the Twins, while Guthrie, a left-handed reliever, was 5-3 with a team-leading 4.46 ERA.