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IBAF BACKS CUBA: Baseball's world governing body has threatened to withdraw its sanctioning of the World Baseball Classic unless the Bush administration allows Cuba to compete.

Rich Levin, a spokesman for the commissioner's office, said Friday that a letter was faxed from International Baseball Federation president Aldo Notari, informing Major League Baseball of the IBAF's decision.

It is unclear whether the 16-team tournament, scheduled for March 3-20, would go forward without the IBAF's sanction. The tournament is being jointly administered by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Notari's letter was first reported Thursday by the Toronto Sun.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control in mid-December denied the request for a license to allow Cuba to participate. The license is necessary because of U.S. laws governing certain commercial transactions with the Fidel Castro-controlled nation.

TORONTO TRADES KOSKIE: Third baseman Corey Koskie was traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night for minor league pitcher Brian Wolfe. Koskie hit .249 with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs in 97 games last season, his first with the Blue Jays after spending the first seven years of his career with Minnesota. He was on the disabled list from May 20 to July 26 because of a broken right thumb.

BASEBALL NOTES: J.T. Snow and the Boston Red Sox reached a preliminary agreement on a $2 million, one-year contract . . . Justin Upton, the 18-year-old shortstop who was the top pick in the 2005 major league amateur draft, agreed to a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks that includes a $6.1 million signing bonus payable over five years . . . Al Leiter decided against retirement for now, agreeing to a minor league contract with the New York Yankees . . . Pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim stayed with the Colorado Rockies, agreeing to a one-year contract . . . The New York Yankees finished last year with a record $207.2 million payroll, more than $90 million ahead of any other team, according to final figures compiled Friday by the commissioner's office.


APPLEBY LEADS: The scenery suggests a vacation in paradise. The golf was all work Friday in the Mercedes Championships in Kapalua, Hawaii, where defending champion Stuart Appleby survived 35 mph gusts for a 1-under 72 to take a one-shot lead into the weekend.

The trade wind was among the fiercest since this season-opening event moved to Kapalua in 1999, but the name atop the leaderboard should look familiar. Appleby is trying to become the first player in nearly 50 years to capture the winners-only tournament three straight times.

But it hasn't been easy.

He hit his tee shot into the knee-high weeds on the 18th hole and made a bogey, finishing his two rounds at 3-under 143. He won the last two years with scores of 21 and 22 under par.

David Toms missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that could have caught Appleby, settling for an even-par 73 to join U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell (72), former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk (72) and three-time major champion Vijay Singh (74) at 2-under 144.


GAMBLING CONCERNS: The NCAA will bolster its antigambling message at this season's NCAA basketball tournaments after a study showed more than two-thirds of male college athletes and nearly half the female athletes gambled in some form. FBI agents will talk to each of the 32 teams in the regional rounds of the men's and women's tournaments. Previously, warnings were given only at the Final Fours.

"The study shows it is a problem. As such, we're trying to be proactive. Before problems happen, let's handle it," the NCAA's Rachel Newman-Baker said Friday at the start of the association's annual convention.