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Pettitte homing in on contract with Houston

Andy Pettitte is likely to decide tomorrow whether to stay in New York or sign with the Astros, and the Yankees think there's a good chance he might bolt for his hometown team.

Pettitte was on the verge of an agreement with the Astros, but the Yankees still planned to make another offer to Randy and Alan Hendricks, the agents for the 21-game winner, a baseball official said on the condition of anonymity.

"There is no deal," Randy Hendricks said in an e-mail message. "I believe it will be resolved by the end of Friday."

Astros owner Drayton McLane and general manager Gerry Hunsicker did not return telephone calls seeking comment. The Houston Chronicle reported on its website yesterday that Pettitte already has passed a physical for the Astros.

The Yankees believe Pettitte would take less money to pitch for the Astros, who play near his home in the Houston area. But Pettitte also is close to New York manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre.

Pettitte, 31, is 149-78 with the Yankees, who signed him in 1991. If he stays in New York he would have the chance to surpass Whitey Ford's 236 victories and become the winningest lefthander in Yankees history.

Sheffield upbeat

Gary Sheffield told the Associated Press that he is confident he will sign with the Yankees despite differences that have jeopardized the deal.

"We'll get it done," said Sheffield as he watched the Maryland-Florida basketball game from the stands in Gainesville, Fla.

But according to a report in the New York Daily News, the Yankees don't feel the same way.One team official told the paper: "Put it this way, we're into [Vladimir] Guerrero big time."

Sheffield was sitting next to Darryl Strawberry, a Yankees player development instructor and father of Maryland swingman D.J. Strawberry. Sheffield agreed with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner on the parameters of a deal that would be worth $39 million over three seasons.

But the Yankees want about $15 million deferred without interest, which would lower the average annual value to $12 million for purposes of the luxury tax, the official said.

Sheffield, 35, wanted either interest on the deferred money or an additional $3 million. He asked for a no-trade clause, a demand the Yankees rejected.

Daubach on market

The Chicago White Sox requested waivers on Brian Daubach to grant his unconditional release. The former Red Sox first baseman hit .230 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 81 games with the White Sox last season. He hit .323 in nine starts as the designated hitter. He also made 30 starts at first base and nine in the outfield. Daubach is a career .262 hitter with 90 home runs and 322 RBIs in six seasons with Chicago, Florida, and Boston . . . The Colorado Rockies are bringing back one of the franchise's most popular players, agreeing to a $2.1 million, one-year contract with third baseman Vinny Castilla. Castilla, a two-time All-Star with the Rockies, hit .309 with 32 homers and 90 RBIs in 1995 -- the year of Colorado's only playoff appearance . . . Slick-fielding second baseman Fernando Vina agreed to a $6 million, two-year contract with the Tigers. Vina, 34, won Gold Gloves in 2001 and 2002 with the St. Louis Cardinals and has a .284 career batting average . . . Outfielder Daryle Ward and righthanded reliever Juan Acevedo agreed to minor league contracts with the Pittsburgh Pirates . . . Manager Ned Yost was given a contract extension by the Milwaukee Brewers. Terms of the deal were not immediately released . . . Displaying a borrowed 1986 World Series ring and announcing in English, "I love New York," Japanese shortstop Kazuo Matsui officially joined the Mets. Matsui finalized his $20.1 million, three-year contract with a team trying to rebuild quickly after consecutive last-place finishes . . . The Padres introduced righthanded reliever Akinori Otsuka, a day after the former Japanese League pitcher signed a two-year deal for slightly less than $2 million. "Today, my dream finally came true," said Otsuka. "Let's go Padres! I feel good." . . . The Montreal Expos will play 22 games in San Juan in 2004, the second straight year part of their home schedule will be moved to Puerto Rico because of low attendance in Montreal.

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