Major League Baseball has begun to review a draft of George Mitchell's report on drug use in the sport, one of the final steps before the results of his 20-month investigation are released.

Baseball reviewed a draft yesterday at the Manhattan office of DLA Piper, the law firm that Mitchell chairs, a baseball official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because Mitchell hasn't authorized any statements. The report likely will be released tomorrow, the official said.

Baseball officials have said for several weeks that management would be able to examine the report on performance-enhancing drugs a few days before it is made public to make sure it does not contain any confidential information that if released would violate the collective bargaining agreement between players and owners.

The joint drug agreement, which has been part of the labor contract since September 2002, prohibits the commissioner's office, teams and consultants from disclosing player test results, treatment and other information except in very limited, specified circumstances.

Mitchell, a former Senate majority leader, is a director of the Red Sox and served on one of commissioner Bud Selig's economic study committees. Selig hired him in March 2006 to investigate drug use in the sport.

He's expected by many in baseball to be critical of the sport for being slow to react to its drug problem in 1990s and beyond. What they will be looking to see in his report is how he parcels blame among Selig, club owners, general managers, other team employees, the players association and players themselves.

The revelation of players who have not yet been publicly linked to drug use figures to be the most sensational part of the report.

Media reports have linked an array of All-Stars and MVPs to performance-enhancers in recent years, among them Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, Ken Caminiti, Juan Gonzalez and Mark McGwire.

Noteworthy

* Catcher Paul Lo Duca agreed to a $5 million, 1-year deal with the Nationals because he felt wanted - and because there will be plenty of chances to face his old club, the Mets.

"I'm excited to be part of a team that's young and has a chance to win this division," Lo Duca said after passing a physical to make the deal official. "The NL East is wide open."

Asked what his reasons were for choosing the Nationals, Lo Duca said they "wanted me more," and that he wanted to stay in the National League. Then he paused before adding with a smile: "getting to play the Mets 18 times."

* Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome and the Chicago Cubs reached a preliminary agreement on a 4-year contract.

The deal is subject to a physical, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. The agreement could be finalized as early as today.

Fukudome was considered one of the best outfielders in Japanese baseball. The 30-year-old slugger was a key member of the Japan team that won the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March 2006.

He had surgery on his right elbow in August and sat out the Japan Series, but has 192 homers and a .305 batting average over nine seasons with the Chunichi Dragons, who won their first championship in 53 years.

* Pitcher Aaron Cook finalized a new contract with the Rockies that guarantees him an additional $30 million over three seasons.Cook went 8-7 with a 4.12 ERA in 25 starts for the NL champions last season.

* Catcher Eric Munson and the Brewers agreed to a $525,000, 1-year contract that avoided salary arbitration. *