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Dodgers - M's Trade Axed For Now

The Big Unit is not coming to Los Angeles, at least right now.

Dodgers general manager Fred Claire told reporters before Tuesday night's game against the St. Louis Cardinals that the team is no longer talking with the Seattle Mariners about acquiring left-hander Randy Johnson.

"This team is no longer in pursuit of Randy Johnson," Claire said firmly. "It ended at 12 noon today, from our standpoint."

Shortly after Claire's announcement, Seattle president Chuck Armstrong issued a statement saying the Mariners won't trade Johnson this season.

"Randy Johnson is a valued pitcher for the Mariners who is under contract for the balance of the 1998 season," Armstrong said. "Randy will pitch for the Mariners throughout this season. Accordingly, we have no plans to trade Randy Johnson."

Claire didn't totally close the door, but said the only trade he would now pursue was one involving right-hander Hideo Nomo, whom the Dodgers designated for assignment on Monday.

"I would hope we should be able to move quickly," Claire said. "Clearly, the sooner the better for Hideo."

Claire said the Dodgers made a trade proposal to the Mariners "before noon Monday," and gave Seattle general manager Woody Woodward 24 hours to respond.

When noon came and went Tuesday, Claire said he faxed Woodward a letter saying the proposal was being taken off the table, but to contact him by 4 p.m. if he had any thoughts.

Claire heard nothing, and then held a team meeting around 5:45 p.m. to tell them there would be no deal for Johnson, that he had confidence in them and it was time to move on.

He said he also wanted them to understand that "I was the man" in charge of baseball operations with the Dodgers, something he felt necessary because higher-ups were responsible for pulling off the blockbuster trade with the Florida Marlins on May 15.

In that deal, catcher Mike Piazza and third baseman Todd Zeile went to the Marlins for outfielders Gary Sheffield and Jim Eisenreich, third baseman Bobby Bonilla, catcher Charles Johnson and a minor league pitcher.

"We were moving past Randy Johnson, we had made an effort, we were moving on," Claire said he told the players. "We don't need to have a frenzy every night at Dodger Stadium."

Rumors of a deal involving Johnson have been hot and heavy for nearly a week. Nomo's name was mentioned, and he pointed to that as one of the reasons he wanted to play elsewhere.

Claire said that following the team meeting, he was told Woodward had called to say the Mariners were no longer interested in trading Johnson.

Claire also addressed a rumored trade involving Nomo in which the Dodgers would acquire Baltimore reliever Armando Benitez.

"I do't see the trade with Baltimore going through," Claire said. "I do not see that trade taking place. We've talked to a number of clubs (about a deal). I won't say which clubs."

Dodgers first baseman Eric Karros said he believed there would still be a lot of speculation in the coming days.

"The only thing we can control is on the field," he said. "Our responsibility is on the field."

The Dodgers have until June 11 to trade Nomo, send him to the minor leagues or release him.

Nomo, 29, could opt to become a free agent if assigned to the minors as a fourth-year big-leaguer. If he does, he would forfeit the remainder of his 1998 salary from the Dodgers.

Nomo apparently kept his dissatisfaction with the Dodgers pretty quiet. Even pitcher Ismael Valdes didn't know anything was wrong as far as Nomo is concerned, and he was one of Hideo Nomo's closest friends on the team.

"I didn't know he was unhappy, was he? He looked normal to me, never said anything about it to me," Valdes said.

"Of course, as a friend," Valdes said when asked if he will miss Nomo. "We'll keep in touch. I just want to wish him the best

keep going, work hard every day. He's a great pitcher and a very nice person, too."

Valdes' name had been mentioned prominently in the Johnson trade talks as well as Nomo's.

"What is my situation? You tell me," Valdes said shortly before Claire met with the players. "Every single player wants to begin and end his career with one team. We can't control that. I have no control at all over that.

"My job is to try and throw strikes, get the hitters out. There's nothing I can say."

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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