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Neagle And Tucker Go To Reds

The Atlanta Braves began retooling their roster Tuesday by acquiring Gold Glove second baseman Bret Boone from the Cincinnati Reds for starter Denny Neagle and outfielder Michael Tucker.

The Braves also got left-handed reliever Mike Remlinger and gave up minor league pitcher Rob Bell, who led the Carolina League with 197 strikeouts last season.

After failing to make it to the World Series for a second consecutive season, the Braves were willing to give up a key component in their splendid rotation to upgrade their lineup. Neagle, 30, went 16-11 with a 3.55 ERA last season, when he was one of five Atlanta starters to win at least 16 games.

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  • "We felt we were overwhelmed and had to make a deal," Reds general manager Jim Bowden said of Atlanta's offer.

    Nine teams approached the Reds about Boone, who won his first Gold Glove and made his first All-Star team last season. Boone, 29, led the Reds with 24 homers and 95 RBI, all career highs.

    "I hated to trade Bret," general manager Jim Bowden said. "He's someone I've been probably the closest to in my baseball career. It was the most difficult thing I've had to do. We paid a big price but without starting pitching, you can't compete."

    The Braves have been looking to improve their everyday lineup after another flame-out in the playoffs. Atlant has won seven straight division titles but only one World Series in the '90s.

    San Diego's pitchers held down the Braves to a .235 average and just 18 runs in winning the NL championship series 4-2 last month.

    Boone takes over as the starter from Tony Graffanino, who hit .211 with five homers and 22 RBI in 289 at-bats, and Keith Lockhart, who batted .257 with nine homers and 37 RBI. Remlinger, 32, was 8-15 with a 4.82 ERA in 28 starts and seven relief appearances.

    Neagle, 30, went 20-5 for Atlanta in 1997 and has won at least 16 games in each of the last three seasons. He becomes Cincinnati's most accomplished starter.

    The budget-strapped Reds had the fifth-lowest payroll in the major leagues this season ($20.7 million) and needed a starter they could afford. Neagle's contract includes salaries of $4.75 million for each of the next two years and a $5.25 million option for 2001 with a $500,000 buyout.

    "We think it's a major upgrade to our starting pitching," Bowden said. "It was very evident to us that we couldn't compete for one that was in the free agent market."

    Boone is under contract for $2.9 million next year and $3.75 million in 2000, with a $4 million option for 2001 that includes a $250,000 buyout.

    Boone established a major league record for second baseman by committing only two errors in 1997, but hit a career-worst .223. He shortened his swing last season and had his best offensive season.

    "He has established himself as one of the elite second basemen in the game and brings exciting offense and defense to our team," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. "Also, Mike Remlinger is a very versatile pitcher who can fill a number of roles on our staff and certainly adds to the depth and strength of our pitching staff in 1999."

    Tucker, 27, hit .244 with 13 homers, 46 RBI and eight stolen bases this year. He made $370,000 on a team that had the highest payroll in the National League at $61.7 million and the fourth-highest overall.

    Bell, 21, is a hard-throwing right-hander who went 7-9 with a 3.28 ERA in 28 starts for Danville last season. The 6-foot-5 Bell led all Braves minor leaguers in innings and strikeouts.

    The trade also opens a spot for Pokey Reese, who came up through the Reds' organization as a shortstop and moved to third base in 1998. He'll get the first shot at Boone's job.

    "Now he's going to get his chance to play," Bowden said. "We think with Pokey Reese and Barry Larkin we'll have tremendous defense up the middle."

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