Rodriguez Suitors Lining Up

Maels Rodriguez is being pursued by at least seven teams. Round two of the Cuban Missile-Thrower Crisis begins later this month for the right-hander, who defected from Cuba by boat in late 2003. Major League Baseball recently awarded him free agent status.

Rodriguez, who established residency in El Salvador, set the single-season Cuban strikeout record with 263 in 178 1/3 innings three seasons ago. The hurler has registered on the radar in the vicinity of 100 during international competition.

He is scheduled to work out for interested clubs on January 22.

"Assuming he's healthy, I would certainly expect him to be an impact-type pitcher in MLB," said Joe Kehoskie, an agent who specializes in Cuban baseball.

His agent said he anticipates the Sox to battle against will compete with the Yankees, Dodgers, Mets, Mariners and Cubs, with the Padres looking to see if his price drops, for the right-hander's services.

"All of these teams keep calling and keep calling and keep calling," Henry Vilar pronounced of his client.

"Our money's been spent," Kevin Towers said.

With Vilar setting the four-year, $32 million contract of Cuban defector Jose Contreras as the starting point for negotiations last winter, most teams are reluctant to publicly express an interest in the pitcher due to past experiences.

Thanks to the checkered track record of Cuban defectors and the recent market correction among free agents, Vilar seems unlikely to claim the Javier Vazquez-size contract he seeks for his client.

If the price drops far enough, the Padres could pursue Rodriguez, but with the big guns on the east coast in the race it seems unlikely.

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