Around the Horn: The NL West

The NL West, and the San Diego Padres in particular, are breathing a sigh of relief that they will not have to deal with Curt Schilling in their division anymore. He was simply dominant, especially against the Friars. Sexson landing in Arizona has hurt the Dodgers who are still seeking a first baseman. Bonds had his day in court and the Rockies have a new second baseman.

Arizona Diamondbacks:

Curt Schilling gone, Richie Sexson in. San Diego Padres fans are thrilled that Curt Schilling has been traded out of town. Over the last three years, Schilling is 8-2 with a 1.66 ERA against the Friars. He was 26-12 against the NL West since 2001.

They moved $12 million in salary to take on the $8.6 million Sexson is due next season. Schilling had to pass a physical early this week -- a technicality -- before the deal with the Red Sox could be declared official. The Diamondbacks acquired left-handers Casey Fossum and Jorge De La Rosa and reliever Brandon Lyon for Schilling.

The Diamondbacks spun that around quickly and got Richie Sexson from Milwaukee in a nine-player deal Monday that sent infielder Craig Counsell and second baseman Junior Spivey to the Brewers. First baseman Lyle Overbay, catcher Chad Moeller and left-handers Jorge De la Rosa and Chris Capuano also were dealt to Milwaukee. In addition to Sexson, Arizona received left-hander Shane Nance and a player to be named.

"I'm pretty excited," Sexson said in a conference call. "I enjoyed my time in Milwaukee, but as a player, we obviously play to win, and it got tough in Milwaukee."

"It's only taken us eight years, but he's finally a Diamondback," Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. joked about landing Fossum, whom they drafted in 1996 but couldn't sign. Fossum, 25, was 6-5 with one save and a 5.47 ERA in 19 games last season. Lyon, 24, was 4-6 with a 4.12 ERA last season.

Chad Moeller could be dealt as soon as this week, perhaps to Oakland. The Athletics need a catcher after dealing Ramon Hernandez to San Diego.

The Diamondbacks are close to an agreement with Rod Barajas, who is expected to share the catching duties with Robby Hammock, a favorite of manager Bob Brenly. Barajas will earn less than $1 million in the first year he's eligible for salary arbitration, but Moeller isn't expected to make more than $500,000. The Diamondbacks don't intend to keep three catchers even though Hammock can play six defensive positions.

The Diamondbacks are searching for another left-handed reliever even after signing 46-year-old Jesse Orosco to a minor league contract. Orosco will wear jersey number 47 -- the same number as his age on April 21, 2004 -- if he makes the Opening Day roster.

Colorado Rockies:

Jason Jennings and Shawn Chacon are the definites in the rotation although Chacon's arbitration potential has led to teams making trade inquiries. Chin-hui Tsao, Aaron Cook, Denny Stark, Adam Bernero and Scott Elarton would be the candidates for the three other spots. Elarton has been working out regularly at Coors Field and is expected to re-sign with the Rockies. General manager Dan O'Dowd will be looking for another Darren Oliver type. The lefty signed for $350,000 last winter and wound up leading the Rockies in victories. Lefties Brian Fuentes and Javier Lopez would be definites in the bullpen with Bernero likely to wind up working relief. Stark is a possibility, too, if Cook bounces back from his struggles of last year. Matt Miller already was added to the 40-man roster with the expectation he will assume the role that Steve Reed had filled. Justin Speier is a potential co-closer with Fuentes, but he does have to work out a contract by Dec. 20. The Rockies aren't going to risk arbitration. This is where O'Dowd will be the most patient and will seek a couple of veterans who look like inexpensive gambles, such as Jay Powell or Todd Van Poppel.

The Rockies continue to talk to the agents for Jay Payton but will be challenged to work out a deal. Payton could wind up non-tendered on Dec. 20. There are more than a dozen outfielders on the open market, and the Rockies have shown initial interest in Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi.

There is a growing hope that the Rockies will be able to bring back 3B Vinny Castilla, an original member of the Rockies.

"We've talked to Vinny's agent," general manager Dan O'Dowd said. "We have a lot of interest in Vinny, and we hope we can creatively figure something out."

Aaron Mills, acquired in the trade for Juan Uribe, will likely start at second base for the Rockies. Unless a veteran is signed to give him more time that is. With budget constraints, that does not appear likely at this time.

Los Angeles Dodgers:

One first baseman dropped off the board when the Cubs acquired Derrek Lee from the Marlins. Lee was one of the players the Dodgers had pursued in trade talks, but they could not give the Marlins a young first baseman in return. Richie Sexson soon followed and the Dodgers still have nothing to show for their efforts.

The Dodgers took a look at top Korean first baseman Seung-Yeop Lee but consider him a backup option and hope to sign him to a minor league contract. The team would not feel comfortable starting the season with Lee at first base because no player has made the direct jump from the Korean Baseball Association to the majors. The eight-team league is roughly on par with Double-A ball.

"The Dodgers have always been international pioneers. We want to continue that legacy." -- GM Dan Evans, after meeting with Korean first baseman Seung-Yeop Lee.

RHP Hideo Nomo is progressing in his rehab from shoulder surgery to clean out scar tissue from his labrum. Nomo is expected to be fully recovered when he reports to spring training. He threw 218 1/3 innings this year to trigger a $9 million option for 2004.

Four Dodgers prospects from the Class A South Atlantic League were named on the SportsTicker Top Prospects List: 2B Delwyn Young, SS Joel Guzman, C Mike Nixon and RHP Jonathan Broxton.

San Francisco Giants:

Barry Bonds is closing in on baseball's most cherished record, yet a cloud continues to hover over his road to home-run heaven. He has 658 homers, trailing Willie Mays (660), Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755). Suspicions of steroid use lingered as Bonds made his appearance Thursday (Dec. 4) before the grand jury in the investigation of a Bay Area nutritional supplement lab (BALCO) and its owner, Victor Conte. Bonds was the most recognizable BALCO client, and the home of one of his personal trainers, Greg Anderson, was raided by federal officials shortly after Conte's lab was raided. It was recently reported that the Sept. 5 raid of Anderson's residence in Burlingame, Calif., uncovered suspected anabolic steroids as well as information detailing which athletes used which steroids. Anderson was a childhood friend of Bonds and often occupied one of Bonds' four lockers in the Giants' clubhouse at Pacific Bell Park. In fact, Bonds made sure Anderson received an NL championship ring after last season.

"We are friends and we've always been friends since we were kids, but I don't know what a person does after they leave me," Bonds said during his MVP conference call. "He's a wonderful person, a very, very giving person, but I associate with a lot of people."

Bonds has denied using steroids, and his attorney, Michael Rains, warned that Bonds' relationship with Anderson and BALCO -- which has been linked to the previously undetectable steroid THG -- doesn't mean he uses performance-enhancing drugs.

"I'm aware that Greg trained a number of other athletes other than Barry, a lot of non-athletes and bodybuilder types, as well," Rains told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Whatever they found, if they did find steroids, doesn't worry me so far as any relation to my client."

Nevertheless, Bonds was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.

Shortstop Rich Aurilia, a free agent, doesn't know if he'll return to the Giants next season. "When you're there for so long and you lose so many guys whom you became friends with and played with over the years, it kind of makes your decision a little tougher," he said. "That's not to say I wouldn't go back there. I love San Francisco. The Giants have been great to me. At the same time, there's a lot of turnover there, and I might be part of the turnover process."

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