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Marlins could relocate franchise as early as 2008

MIAMI — The Florida Marlins will look into relocation as early as the 2008 season, after years of unsuccessful attempts to secure a baseball-only stadium in downtown Miami.

Marlins president David Samson said Tuesday the team has received permission from the commissioner's office to investigate its options in other cities. Samson added owner Jeffrey Loria's primary intention is to keep the team in South Florida, but added that no deal will be struck for a ballpark in Miami.

Las Vegas and Portland, Ore., which both failed to land the Montreal Expos before that franchise moved to Washington a year ago, are likely to try to lure the Marlins. Samson said another possibility is building on land near Dolphins Stadium and owned by the franchise's original owner, H. Wayne Huizenga. "No longer can baseball in South Florida be assured," Loria said in a statement read by Samson. "It is now clear to us that there will be no baseball stadium in the city of Miami. So we must begin to explore other options. Therefore, we will expand our search beyond the city of Miami."

Loria was in Europe and unavailable for further comment.

METS PURSUE WAGNER: The Mets want Billy Wagner to come to New York, and the bullpen ace sounds as if he likes their sales pitch.

After two days of meetings with the pitcher and his wife, Sarah, the Mets were set to offer Wagner a contract Tuesday as they try to improve one of their biggest weaknesses from last season. "They're not just trying to put a competitive team on the field, they're going to put a winning team on this field," Wagner said.

General manager Omar Minaya believes Wagner is the pitcher to help them do it.

Wagner was 4-3 with 38 saves and a 1.51 ERA last season for Philadelphia, which wants to re-sign him.

SOX SHARE IS $324,533: Winning the World Series for the first time in 88 years brought the Chicago White Sox vastly higher checks than for their previous title.

The White Sox set a record for World Series shares at $324,533, according to figures released Tuesday by the commissioner's office. The White Sox, who swept the Astros, split $14.7 million into 42 full shares, six partial shares and 22 cash awards.

When the White Sox last won the title, in 1917, a full share was worth $3,669.

RYAN VISITS INDIANS: Free agent B.J. Ryan visited with the Cleveland Indians, who could turn to the star closer if they decide not to re-sign Bob Wickman — the anchor of the majors' best bullpen in 2005.

The Indians did their best Tuesday to make former Orioles pitcher feel wanted. The club put a photograph of him wearing a Cleveland cap on the jumbo scoreboard at Jacobs Field, and the ballpark's other scoreboards said: "Welcome to Cleveland B.J. and Candi Ryan."

The club confirmed that Ryan and his wife were in town to meet general manager Mark Shapiro, who had dinner with the couple Monday night.

STRICKLAND DEAL: Right-handed reliever Scott Strickland, limited to five games in two seasons after reconstructive elbow surgery, agreed to terms with the Pittsburgh Pirates on a minor league contract.

Strickland, who has pitched for the Astros, Mets and Expos, would get a $650,000, one-year contract if he is added to the major league roster. He also can earn as much as $150,000 in performance bonuses.

The 29-year-old Strickland appeared in 77 games with Montreal in 2001 and 69 games with the Mets and Expos in 2002.

HARVILLE, RAYS AGREE: Relief pitcher Chad Harville and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays agreed Tuesday to a $525,000, one-year contract. The 29-year-old right-hander split last season between Houston and Boston, compiling a 4.76 ERA in 45 appearances.