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  Jan. 15: Starter Bartolo Colon is introduced as the newest member of the White Sox. (AP Photo)

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January: Final hot stove preparations
They stop playing games, but they don't stop making news. That's the eternal theme of the offseason, when trade and free-agent speculation -- not to mention an actual deal or two -- fuels the proverbial hot stove that warms every fan's heart. January 2003 offered plenty for baseball enthusiasts. Here's a day-by-day look at January's highlights:
Team Stories & Headlines

By Chris Haft /

January 2
The Baltimore Orioles sign left-hander Omar Daal to a two-year contract. Daal thus becomes the club's first lefty starter since Jimmy Key in 1998.

January 3
The Chicago Cubs bolster their bullpen by signing veteran right-hander Dave Veres to a one-year deal.

January 4
Montreal Expos general manager Omar Minaya declined to discuss a published report claiming that he's involved in talks with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets involving Bartolo Colon or Javier Vasquez. One of the prized right-handers would go to Boston, while third baseman Shea Hillenbrand would be shipped to the Mets.

Sights and Sounds
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January 5

The Atlanta Braves continue retooling by signing first baseman Robert Fick to a one-year, $1 million deal. He'd contribute a .269 batting average, 11 home runs and 80 RBIs to Atlanta's National League East title-winning season.

January 6
Surprise: The Reds announce that Aaron Boone, who had begun to establish himself as a budding third baseman, would move to second base. Cincinnati's braintrust believed that this would give the team more range up the middle and give Brandon Larson a chance to establish himself at third. The experiment lasted 19 games.

January 7
It was a day to remember for Eddie Murray and Gary Carter, who were voted into baseball's Hall of Fame. Murray, who earned distinction as a first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, was on the ballot for the first time. It was the sixth try for Carter, who caught for four teams. Murray accumulated 3,255 hits and finished in the top 10 of the Most Valuable Player voting eight times, while Carter set Major League records for most putouts and fielding chances accepted by a catcher.

January 8
May I direct your call? Not anymore. Betty Grant, the Milwaukee Brewers receptionist who had worked for the franchise since its inception in 1970, hangs up the phone for the last time on her final day of work before retirement.

January 10

Kansas City signs infielder Desi Relaford to a two-year, $1.8 million deal. He would contribute to the Royals' exciting bid to win the American League Central by hitting .254 with eight homers, 59 RBIs and 20 steals in 24 tries.
January 11

The Florida Marlins, another suitor for Colon, end their bid by obtaining pitcher Mark Redman and minor league reliever Jerrod Buell from Detroit for right-hander Gary Knotts and minor league lefties Nate Robertson and Rob Henkel.

January 12
Searching for starting pitching, Cincinnati signs free agent right-hander Paul Wilson to a two-year, $4 million deal.

January 14
Free agent infielder Bill Mueller and the Boston Red Sox agree to a two-year deal with an option for the 2005 season. Mueller would proceed to win the American League batting title with a .326 average.

January 15
Colon is finally sent packing. In a three-way trade, the Chicago White Sox obtain the ace hurler and minor league infielder Jorge Nunez from Montreal for righties Rocky Biddle and Orlando Hernandez, outfielder Jeff Liefer and cash. The New York Yankees set up the swap by sending Hernandez to the White Sox for right-hander Antonio Osuna and minor league pitcher Delvis Lantigua.

January 16
The Hall of Fame announces its decision to depict Carter wearing a Montreal Expos cap on his plaque that will reside in the Cooperstown, N.Y., shrine. "I'm so honored and proud to go in as an Expo," said Carter, who spent his first 11 seasons in Montreal.

January 17
The Minnesota Twins lock up All-Star center fielder Torii Hunter, one of the game's most entertaining performers, by agreeing with him on a four-year, $32 million deal with an option for 2007.

January 18
A pair of fan-oriented events stand out from the rest. Popular slugger Sammy Sosa flew in from the Dominican Republic to thrill thousands at the 18th annual Cubs Convention, while a record 11,235 fans, lured by new manager and old hero Alan Trammell, show up at TigerFest.

January 20

Puerto Rico, here we come! The Expos announce that they have sold more than 3,000 "season" packages, including tickets for all 22 scheduled games that Montreal will play at 20,000-seat Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan.

January 21
Former Astros manager and pitching ace Larry Dierker, 56, was rushed to a Houston-area hospital after suffering a mild seizure. Dierker would be OK, but the incident brought back unpleasant memories of June 13, 1999, when he collapsed in the Astrodome dugout as a result of a grand mal seizure. Two days later, Dierker underwent brain surgery to remove tangled blood vessels.

January 22
Seeking a replacement for departed catcher Charles Johnson, the Florida Marlins obtained the best one available by signing free agent Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, a 10-time Gold Glove award winner, to a one-year, $10 million contract.

January 23
An Interleague switch: Jack Corrigan, the television voice of the Cleveland Indians for 17 seasons, joins the Colorado Rockies' radio broadcasting team.

January 24
Officially introduced as the newest Marlin, Rodriguez met reporters in Miami and said prophetically, "I think the 2003 season is going to be the year of the Marlin."
January 25
Houston trades outfielder Daryle Ward, who has shown offensive pop while playing only part-time, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for minor league pitcher Ruddy Lugo.

January 27
Conflicts in the Major League schedule forces a shift of the annual Hall of Fame exhibition from induction weekend in late July to June 16. This year's game would feature Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.

January 28
All three winter leagues crowned their respective champions -- the Aguilas of Cibao (Dominican), Mayaguez (Puerto Rico) and Los Mochis (Mexican Pacific League). All were to meet in the Caribbean Series.

January 29
Fenway Park, Boston's jewel of a ballpark, became more of a novelty with the news that the 37-foot-high "Green Monster" will be fitted with 280 barstool-style seats, enabling fans to sit atop the famed wall for the first time.
January 30
Cal Ripken Jr. gains election to the Baltimore Orioles' Hall of Fame. Of course, Ripken already put himself in everybody's hall of fame by appearing in 2,632 consecutive games, the all-time record.

January 31
Craig Biggio signs a one-year contract extension that will keep him with the Astros through the 2004 season. Biggio, who agreed to move from second base to center field, has been with Houston since 1988. He received a $3 million deal with an option for another $3 million in 2005 that calls for a $1 million buyout.

Chris Haft is a reporter for This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.