Marlins taking big steps forward

SUN WIRE SERVICES

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

MIAMI -- A brand new ballpark. A star player with a long-term contract.

Times are changing for the Florida Marlins.

The Marlins formally announced the $70-million US, six-year contract extension of shortstop Hanley Ramirez at the site of their future ballpark yesterday, a sign of stability for a team that has been repeatedly dismantled. The ballpark, plans for which are still being finalized, is expected to substantially increase revenue for a franchise with a history of poor attendance and tight budgets.

"Today we're taking not one, but two giant steps forward," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said. "The first is that by standing here on this very site we reaffirmed the vision of our city and county leaders to guarantee stays here in South Florida ... and we have one of the greatest young players ever to wear a Marlins uniform."

A-ROD HOMERS IN REHAB

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez went 1-for-4 with a solo homer in his first extended spring training game yesterday.

It was his first game since being sidelined by a strained right quadriceps April 28. A-Rod batted five times against David Price, taken first overall in last year's amateur draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He hit a long opposite-field homer to right on a 95 mph fastball, walked once, flew out and struck out twice.

"It felt good," said Rodriguez, who played four innings at third. "Just wanted to get back into the box. Today, mission was accomplished."

ROYALS LOCK UP CLOSER

MIAMI -- Joakim Soria and the Kansas City Royals agreed to a $8.75-million, three-year contract extension yesterday, a deal that includes three club options that could raise the value to about $32.75 million.

Soria allowed a run for the first time this season on Friday night, a two-run homer by the Marlins' Jeremy Hermida, but struck out Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu for his 11th save. Soria threw 16 2/3 scoreless innings to start the season, one-third shy of the Royals record.

INDIANS DEMOTE SOWERS

CINCINNATI -- The Cleveland Indians sent left-handed starter Jeremy Sowers back to triple-A Buffalo yesterday and called up infielder Michael Aubrey to make his big-league debut.


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