THE SEATTLE Mariners are on the verge of landing the righthanded slugger they were seeking for the middle of their batting order. Free agent slugger Nelson Cruz and Seattle are nearing agreement on a contract, two people with knowledge of the deal told the Associated Press yesterday. The pair spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been finalized and was still pending a physical.
El Caribe, in the Dominican Republic, first reported the agreement, saying it was worth $57 million for 4 years.
Cruz, 34, led the major leagues with 40 home runs last season and had 108 RBI for Baltimore, which signed him to an $8 million, 1-year deal. He served a 50-game suspension in 2013 for violations of the major league drug agreement in relation to the sport's Biogenesis investigation.
He likely will bat behind fellow Dominican star Robinson Cano, who will be starting the second season of a $240 million, 10-year contract.
Cruz did not accept a $15.3 million qualifying offer from the Orioles. Seattle would forfeit its first-round draft pick, the 19th overall selection. Baltimore would get an additional pick between the first and second rounds.
In other baseball news:
* The Minnesota Twins have filled out their field staff by hiring Butch Davis as first-base coach. Davis spent the last 20 seasons with the Baltimore organization.
* The San Diego Padres hired former big leaguer Mark Kotsay as their hitting coach, making him the seventh person to hold the job since Petco Park opened in 2004.
* University of the Sciences senior forward Garret Kerr was named Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference men's basketball player of the week, and senior Brianne Traub the women's co-player of the week.
* American forward Abby Wambach is among the finalists for FIFA Women's Player of the Year. Wambach, the 2012 winner, is competing with Brazilian forward Marta, a five-time winner, and German midfielder Nadine Kessler.
* Thierry Henry said he is leaving Major League Soccer after 4 1/2 seasons with the New York Red Bulls.