Baseball briefs

Boston denies interest in Piniella

Boston Lou Piniella doesn’t know where he’ll manage next, but it won’t be Boston.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said Thursday that the team had not asked for permission to talk to the Mariners manager and doesn’t plan to do so.

Seattle has agreed to release Piniella from the final year of his contract, provided teams interested in interviewing him give the Mariners “appropriate and reasonable compensation.” So far, the New York Mets and Tampa Bay Devil Rays have expressed interest, but neither team could agree with the Mariners on a price.

The New York Daily News and Newsday reported Thursday that the Mets also have received permission from Oakland to speak to manager Art Howe. Howe has a year left on his contract, but the A’s have told the Mets they would not seek compensation for releasing him.

Oakland bench coach Ken Macha could be in line to replace Howe and also is a candidate for the Chicago Cubs’ job. The Mets have interviewed Macha, Willie Randolph, Terry Francona and Chris Chambliss in their bid to replace the fired Bobby Valentine, but Mets owner Fred Wilpon has said he wants a manager who has been successful at the major league level.

One Bonds-ball fight starts, another ends

San Francisco The feud over Barry Bonds’ historic 73rd home run ball went to trial Thursday, starting a flurry of arguments from both sides about what it means to be a spectator to America’s pastime and whether scuffling over a ball just comes with the territory.

The debate started last year when Alex Popov, 38, sued Patrick Hayashi, 37, after Bonds homered on Oct. 7, 2001 to finish the season with 73 home runs three more than Mark McGwire hit during his record-setting 1998 season.

Popov claims he caught the ball but then lost it when frenzied fans at Pacific Bell Park pounced on him. Hayashi came up with the ball, which collectors say could fetch at least $1 million.

Hayashi’s lawyer, Michael Lee, said his client never attacked anyone, and claimed that scrambling over baseballs is just part of the game’s “fan culture,” which states that a home run ball is fair game until someone has complete control of it.

While the fight over No. 73 continued, four men who landed in court over ownership of Bonds’ career 600th home run resolved their dispute amicably Wednesday.

Three friends had sued Jay Arsenault, the man who pocketed the ball Aug. 9 at Pac Bell Park, claiming he had promised to split its value if he should happen to catch it. He made the promise in exchange for tickets to the game.

Initially, after Arsenault ended up with it, he eluded his friends. But on Wednesday, his lawyer said Arsenault was “totally overwhelmed by the situation” and had agreed to sell the ball and split the proceeds.

Indians sign pair

Cleveland The Cleveland Indians re-signed infielder Bill Selby and pitcher Jason Phillips on Thursday and sent them to Triple-A Buffalo. Cleveland also claimed right-hander Jack Cressend on waivers from the Minnesota Twins.

Cards’ Drew has surgery

St. Louis St. Louis Cardinals outfielder J.D. Drew had arthroscopic surgery Thursday on his sore knee to remove a diseased tendon. General manager Walt Jocketty told KSDK-TV that Drew should be ready by spring training. Jocketty added that Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen also would have arthroscopic surgery on his sore right shoulder within the next week.

Rangers, Thompson agree

Arlington, Texas Former All-Star Justin Thompson agreed to a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers on Thursday. The left-hander was 15-11 and an All-Star in 1997 for Detroit.