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Tribe Wheels And Deals

Desperately trying to get back into the pennant chase, the Cleveland Indians made three deals Friday that got them three new pitchers and two new hitters.

First, the Indians obtained closer Bob Wickman and starters Steve Woodard and Jason Bere from the Milwaukee Brewers Friday for slugger Richie Sexson, rookie right-handers Paul Rigdon and Kane Davis and a player to be named.

Then the Indians brought back outfielder Wil Cordero, who became a free agent after last season, acquiring him from Pittsburgh for outfielder Alex Ramirez and infielder Enrique Wilson.

Topping off the night, the Indians got first baseman David Segui from Texas for Ricky Ledee, acquired just last month by Cleveland from the Yankees in the David Justice trade.

Indians general manager John Hart announced the Milwaukee deal during a news conference at Jacobs Field. Cleveland's game at Baltimore was rained out later Friday night.

With injuries ravaging its pitching staff, Cleveland, which has won five straight AL Central titles, has struggled all season and began Friday in second place, 10 1/2 games behind division-leading Chicago and three games behind Oakland in the AL wild-card race.

Woodard and Bere will immediately move into the Indians starting rotation, Hart said, replacing Charles Nagy and Jaret Wright, who are both on the disabled list and may not be back until September.

"To be able in one trade to replenish 30 percent of your pitching staff is a good deal for us not only for the 2000 season but with pieces that are going to be able to play for us beyond 2000," said Hart, whcame close to getting Curt Schilling from Philadelphia last week before the Phillies traded their ace to Arizona.

Wright will pitch two innings in a rehab start at Triple-A Buffalo on Saturday while Nagy, who had surgery earlier this season, has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

Bere will start Saturday's game in Baltimore and Woodard will make his debut on Tuesday in Tampa, said Hart, who has also had to juggle Manny Ramirez's contract situation in recent days.

Wickman, selected to the NL All-Star team earlier this month, has 16 saves. The 31-year-old, who is signed through 2001, is 2-2 with a 2.93 ERA in 43 games, all in relief.

"He can be a setup man or a closer," Indians manager Charlie Manuel said. "Right now he's going to be our closer."

Wickman, a Wisconsin native, was disappointed by the deal.

"The trade hurts, that's all I can say," he said.

It might also hurt the fans who planned to come to County Stadium on Saturday to receive their free Bob Wickman posters.

Bere, a 29-year-old right-hander who is eligible for free agency after the season, is 6-7 with a 4.93 ERA in 20 starts. Woodard, a 25-year-old right-hander, is 1-7 with a 5.96 ERA in 11 starts and 16 relief appearances.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to get to Cleveland and have a chance to possibly get to the postseason," Bere said.

Sexson, 25, became a regular starter in 1999 and hit .255 with 31 homers and 116 RBIs. But the 6-foot-8 Sexson, who is more comfortable playing first base than the outfield, slumped this season to a .256 average with 16 homers and 44 RBIs. He has 96 strikeouts in 324 at-bats.

"It is no secret that we have been trying to acquire another bat for the middle of our lineup," Brewers GM Dean Taylor said. "Anytime you have the ability to acquire a player coming off a 31-home run, 116-RBI season last year, you certainly have to be delighted with that."

Sexson, wildly popular with Indians fans, joins a list of young players like Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Giles and Sean Casey the Indians have traded in the past few years while trying to win their first World Series title since 1948.

"On one hand it's good that we've been able to develop players that are attractive to other clubs," Hart said. "Richie has upside and it's going to be a good opportunity for Richie and a very, very difficult deal for us. He has a chance to be a 30-homer guy every year. He's going to go on and have a nice career."

Davis, 25, made his major eague debut last month and is 0-3 with a 14.73 ERA in two starts and three relief appearances, pitching a total of 11 innings.

Rigdon, 24, was sent to the minors when Davis was brought up on June 28. Rigdon was 1-1 with a 7.64 ERA in five games for the Indians, who had brought him up from Triple-A Buffalo on May 19.

They were just two of six pitchers who to make their major league debuts this season for the Indians, who have already set a franchise record by using 27 pitchers.

"This gives our club an opportunity to right itself and to play meaningful games in August and September which is what we promise our fans every year," Hart said. "We've had tremendous injuries but this is still a team we all believe in."

Cordero, 28, was hitting .282 with 16 home runs and 51 RBIs in 89 games as the Pirates' starting left fielder. He played last year in Cleveland, hitting .299 with eight homers and 32 RBIs in a season shortened by a broken left wrist.

Hart said Sexson's departure would not effect Ramirez's situation. On Wednesday, Ramirez's agent, Jeff Moorad, rejected a five-year, $75 million contract offer.

The Indians insist that Ramirez is not on the trading block.

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