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BASEBALL NOTEBOOK

MLB, DirecTV reach agreement

After weeks of speculation and controversy over an apparent deal between Major League Baseball and DirecTV that would limit access to baseball's Extra Innings package to subscribers of the satellite service, the parties announced the deal yesterday in a conference call, though they would not confirm the details of a widely reported seven-year, $700 million pact.

Along with the finalization of the deal came news that Extra Innings, which includes all of out-of-market games, has a chance for new life with the other incumbent providers. DISH Network and iN Demand -- essentially representing TimeWarner, Comcast, and Cox -- must decide by the end of the month if they wish to enter into an agreement with MLB based on the terms agreed to by DirecTV, which would include the same rates and carriage requirements. DirecTV will also air MLB's baseball channel when it launches in 2009.

According to the Associated Press, however, the president of iN Demand, Robert Jacobson, said the agreement would be impossible for his company, calling it a "de facto exclusive deal."

"They're being offered on the same terms as DirecTV," commissioner Bud Selig said. "This is something that we believe at least increases the opportunity for people. The decision at this point will not be up to us anymore."

Senator John Kerry, who had been outspoken in his opposition to the agreement in past weeks, issued a statement after yesterday's announcement. "I will review this deal to ensure it benefits consumers," Kerry said. Extra Innings remains available on mlb.com, as well. Hampton hurt again Mike Hampton's comeback took a major blow. And, no, it has nothing to do with his reconstructed elbow. The Braves lefthander injured his left side during batting practice and won't be ready for the start of the regular season. Hampton, starting the seventh season of a $121 million, eight-year contract, will miss the rest of spring training and could be out as long as two months. The Braves had been counting on him to bolster a rotation that includes John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, and Chuck James. Gerut released Outfielder Jody Gerut was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates after nearly two years of inactivity because of a knee injury . . . Milton Bradley will play center field for the A's while Mark Kotsay recuperates from back surgery. Kotsay likely will be sidelined for three months after surgery to repair a herniated disk . . . Frank Thomas made his first appearance for the Blue Jays, going 1 for 3 with an RBI in a "B" game against the Phillies in Dunedin, Fla. Material from the Associated Press was used. .content>

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