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Marlins sign OF Austin Kearns to minor league deal

        The Marlins plan on giving another veteran outfielder a comeback shot. The team on Wednesday signed Austin Kearns to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training.

     Kearns    Kearns, a 10-year major league veteran, enjoyed his best seasons with the Cincinnati Reds from 2002-06 but has struggled the past few seasons with Cleveland and the Yankees. It looked early on that Kearns would live up to expectations that came with being the seventh overall pick in the 1998 amateur draft when he finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2002.

         But it hasn't turned out that way. Kearns has played more than 120 games just twice, most recently with the Nationals in 2007.

         Kearns won't be the only veteran outfielder looking to reclaim his stature with the Marlins during spring training. The team has also signed Aaron Rowand to a minor-league deal.

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   And, according to Baseball America, Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has been granted free agency by Major League Baseball. The league informed teams today that they could begin negotiating with Cespedes, who recently gained residency status in the Dominican Republic.

   All of which means, of course, that the Marlins are probably already on the phone with Cespedes' agent trying to work a deal. The Marlins are hungry for Cespedes.

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