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MLB off season thread  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 09:06 pm
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BALTIMORE (AP) Catcher Matt Wieters and the Baltimore Orioles avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a $7.7 million, one-year contract, a raise of $2.2 million.

Wieters had asked for $8.75 million and the Orioles had offered $6.5 million when the sides swapped proposed arbitration salaries last month.

As part of Thursday's agreement, Wieters would earn a $200,000 bonus for winning a Gold Glove - he won in 2011 and 2012. A two-time All-Star, he would get $100,000 is he's elected to start in the All-Star game and $75,000 if he's selected as a reserve. He also would earn $75,009 if he wins a Silver Slugger.

The 27-year-old hit .235 with 22 homers and 79 RBIs in 148 games last year and has a .255 batting average with 87 homers and 328 RBIs over parts of five years in the major leagues. He can become a free agent after the 2015 season.

This marks the second straight year the Orioles did not go to arbitration with any of their players.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 09:07 pm
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PHOENIX (AP) The Arizona Diamondbacks avoided arbitration with Mark Trumbo by agreeing Thursday to a $4.8 million. one-year contract with the outfielder.

Arizona acquired Trumbo from the Los Angeles Angels in December in a three-team trade that also included the Chicago White Sox. Trumbo hit 34 home runs last season and 32 in 2012. He has 95 home runs since reaching the major leagues in 2011.

A first baseman much of his time with the Angels, Trumbo is expected to play left field for Arizona.

Other than Paul Goldschmidt with 36 homers, the Diamondbacks had no one hit more than 14 last season.

Trumbo was Arizona's last player in arbitration. He had asked for a raise from $540,000 to $5.85 million when the sides swapped proposed salaries last month, and the Diamondbacks had offered $3.4 million.

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 Posted: Fri Feb 7th, 2014 09:08 pm
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ST. LOUIS (AP) Reliever Pat Neshek and the St. Louis Cardinals have agreed on a minor league contract that includes an invitation to spring training.

The Cardinals announced the deal Thursday.

The right-hander was 2-1 with a 3.35 ERA in 45 appearances for Oakland last season.

In parts of seven seasons with Minnesota, San Diego and Oakland, Neshek is 16-9 with a 3.07 ERA in 226 games. He has 216 strikeouts in 214 1-3 innings.

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 Posted: Sat Feb 8th, 2014 01:30 am
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Center fielder Coco Crisp is staying with the Oakland Athletics for an additional two seasons, agreeing Friday to a new contract through 2016 that adds $22.75 million in guaranteed money.

The deal includes a 2017 option that could become guaranteed, the A's said Friday. Crisp was set to attend FanFest on Saturday with the two-time reigning AL West champions, a week ahead of the start of spring training in Phoenix.

Crisp has a $7.5 million salary this year under a club option exercised Nov. 1. He will earn $11 million per season in 2015 and 2016, and the 2017 option is for $13 million with a $750,000 buyout.

A switch-hitter and speedy leadoff man, Crisp hit a career-high 22 home runs last year.

The 34-year-old, starting his fifth season with the A's, hasn't played more than 136 games in a season since arriving in the Bay Area. He batted .261 with the 22 homers, 66 RBIs and 21 steals last year.

''He's a home run hitter,'' Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter said. ''Coco's got 20-plus homers for the first time in his career - he's actually better, smarter.''

Crisp's 2017 option would vest with 550 plate appearances in 2016 or 1,000 plate appearances in 2015-16 combined or 130 games in 2016, or 260 games in 2015-16 combined. In addition, the 260 combined games is with no fewer than 110 played in 2016 and he can't finish 2016 season on the disabled list.

His current contract allows him the use of a ballpark suite for six games per year - excluding the Yankees, Red Sox and Giants - and the number increases to eight for 2015-17.

Former Tigers manager Jim Leyland said several times that containing Crisp was the biggest key for Detroit to beat the A's in the division series for the second straight season. Crisp is a career .278 hitter in 30 postseason games for Boston and Oakland.

''I think everybody feeds off of Coco here, not necessarily just experience, just how good he is,'' manager Bob Melvin said before last fall's playoffs. ''I've said often when we're playing well, he's playing well. He sets the tone for us, and you've seen he's taken his game to a whole new level this year as far as the power dynamic goes.''

---

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 Posted: Sat Feb 8th, 2014 01:31 am
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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter doesn't know whether suspended teammate Alex Rodriguez will join the team at spring training this month.

Rodriguez was dealt the most severe punishment in the history of baseball's drug agreement when an arbitrator ruled last month the third baseman is suspended for the entire 2014 season for violations of the drug rules and the sport's labor contract.

Baseball's drug rules say suspensions cover the regular season and postseason but specifically exempt spring training. However, the Yankees are not likely to want Rodriguez at their camp, which opens Feb. 14.

''I have no idea,'' Jeter said Friday after working out at the Yankees' minor league complex. ''You'd have to ask him.''

Jeter has been in communication with Rodriguez but hasn't offered any advice on whether he should attempt to report. At the time of the arbitration decision, A-Rod's spokesman said the player wanted to be with the team in Tampa.

''I'm not an adviser, man,'' Jeter said. ''I don't know, really, enough about it to even comment on it. I don't know the rules, the regulations.''

Jeter, who turns 40 in June, completed his third week of on field work. He was limited to 17 games last year after breaking his left ankle during the 2012 AL championship series.

Jeter is taking batting practice, fielding grounders at shortstop and running.

''I feel good,'' Jeter said. ''I've been working hard, and I've had a complete offseason to workout.''

NOTES: The Yankees will hold an introductory news conference for Japanese RHP Masahiro Tanaka at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday. ''I think everyone is curious,'' Jeter said. ''Everything they say about him has been all positive. Any time you add pitching, it's going to help us out.''

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 Posted: Sat Feb 8th, 2014 02:24 am
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Free agent pitcher Bronson Arroyo and the Arizona Diamondbacks have reached agreement on a two-year contract with an option year, a baseball source told ESPN.com.

Arroyo will make a base salary of $9.5 million this season and in 2015, according to the source. The deal includes an $11 million club option for 2016 and a $4.5 million buyout. If the Diamondbacks decline to exercise the option, he'll receive a guaranteed $23.5 million.

The Baltimore Orioles also made a serious run at Arroyo, who was one of the top remaining pitchers left on the free agent market.

Arroyo was 14-12 with a 3.79 ERA and 124 strikeouts last season with the Cincinnati Reds. For his career, he is 138-127 with a 4.19 ERA.

Arroyo, who turns 37 later this month, gives the D-Backs a more reliable option at the back end of their young rotation, which currently is projected to include Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy and Randall Delgado.

McCarthy is coming off a poor 2013 season, and Delgado is still just 24 years old.

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 Posted: Sun Feb 9th, 2014 02:21 am
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Los Angeles Dodgers apparently have increased their already considerable pitching depth with the addition of left-hander Paul Maholm.

The Dodgers did not announce the addition, but Maholm was in the clubhouse when pitchers and catchers reported to the team's Arizona spring training facility on Saturday. His name was even on a locker, temporarily, but it was removed apparently because the deal had not been made public.
Maholm declined to talk to reporters.

The 31-year-old pitcher was 10-11 with a 4.41 ERA in 26 starts for the Atlanta Braves last season. Maholm has a career record of 76-95 in 243 major league appearances.

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 Posted: Sun Feb 9th, 2014 02:26 am
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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) With a shortened swing and newfound swagger following his most rigorous offseason of training yet that helped him pack on 15 pounds of muscle, Yoenis Cespedes wants to forget all the frustrations of last year.

While the slugging left fielder has turned his attention to making better, more consistent contact, he still plans to regularly clear the fences for the Oakland Athletics - and the reigning Home Run Derby champion hopes that means hitting more than the 26 long balls he had last season.
''Possibly, I'll have a little less power. If a home run went 430 feet, it will go 410 feet,'' Cespedes said with a chuckle. ''But maybe I can do it more often.''

As Cespedes looks back now on what he considered a subpar second season in the majors, he points to not being ''strong in mind'' dealing with the ups and downs.
He became an unlikely Home Run Derby winner at the All-Star game while celebrating his family's long-awaited arrival to the Bay Area, but dealt with injuries and a notable decline in batting average.

''I think I should have been stronger mentally,'' Cespedes said leading into Saturday's FanFest. ''As an athlete, when things aren't going your way, you have to be strong-minded. Maybe that was one of the reasons I didn't so well last year.''

So motivated was Cespedes, he took his offseason training up a notch.

Not in volume, but rather the intensity in which he worked out this winter in South Florida.

While the 28-year-old Cuban defector has two seasons remaining on the $36 million, four-year contract he signed in February 2012, Cespedes indicated Friday he is eager to lock up a long-term deal and even consider spending his career with a club he helped win improbable back-to-back AL West crowns.

''You're always going to have highs and lows. Last year I got into this low and just couldn't recover the whole season. In 2012, I had highs and lows,'' Cespedes said.
Now, he plans to better deal with those moments. The A's are pleased with that growth.

''Obviously, there's some toughness there, you see a guy that shows up in the big games and gets inspired by the big stage,'' manager Bob Melvin said Saturday. ''Sometimes it's tougher on guys with that kind of talent to go through some struggles and there maybe needs to be, in his mind, some more fight to get through that. I think that's maturity.''
Cespedes reflects on how he made more contact over the final month last fall, but decided to spend much of the offseason working on a more compact swing.

''I didn't do anything different, it was the same. I trained a lot harder than last year,'' Cespedes said. ''I did more exercises on the field and in the gym to gain strength. Last season was a little worse than the first one and I know I can do a lot better. That's why I'm preparing a lot hard and stronger for this year.''

While Cespedes' batting average dropped to .240 last season after he hit .292 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs as a rookie, he still finished with 26 homers and drove in 80 runs in 2013.
But he acknowledges pitchers caught on to him a little bit last year, then he began to make strides again down the stretch in September when he focused on making contact.

''My first year, they didn't know me as well and pitched me one way and the second year they knew me a lot better and I was not capable of making the adjustments I needed to do,'' he said. ''I'm looking forward to making those adjustments.''

He has already made one: Cespedes says he is weighing in at 225 pounds, some 15 higher than his listed playing weight last year.
''The thing that resonates with me is talking about shortening his stroke some, and he has done that at times and has had success with it,'' Melvin said.
Cespedes speaks of making small changes, including listening to some of the people around him and heeding their advice - from countryman and comrade Ariel Prieto to hitting coach Chili Davis, reliever Ryan Cook and center fielder Coco Crisp.

''They tell me little things but it means a lot to me,'' Cespedes said. ''The main goal this season is to concentrate on going to home plate and making good contact with the baseball. This winter I worked precisely on having a shorter swing to make sure I make more contact. I think this is going to work well.''

Davis saw the adjustments Cespedes made late last season and in the playoffs, when he batted .381 with a home run and four RBIs in a five-game division series defeat to Detroit.
''What'd I'd like to see is that determination, the approach, the focus, day in and day out,'' Davis said. ''If he can maintain that throughout the year, there's a chance you'll see some incredible numbers from him, because he's that good.''

Cespedes has taken consecutive AL division series losses to the Tigers personally. He expects himself to do more, and he is already calling for the A's to get back to the playoffs in a division featuring big-name new faces such as Robinson Cano in Seattle and Prince Fielder transplanted to Texas.
''I don't know if we're the favorite,'' he said, ''but the A's are going to be in the playoffs again.''

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 Posted: Sun Feb 9th, 2014 10:31 pm
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lobo316 wrote: his most rigorous offseason of heavy PED use yet that helped him pack on 15 pounds of muscle, ftfy
I hate being this cynical.

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 Posted: Mon Feb 10th, 2014 06:39 pm
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija has agreed to terms with the team on a one-year, $5.345 million contract for 2014, avoiding an arbitration hearing.

Samardzija, 29, was 8-13 with a 4.34 ERA last season. He submitted a salary proposal of $6.2 million for arbitration; the team was asking for $4.4 million. They settled on a number just above the middle of those two figures.

The Cubs and Samardzija have been unable to come to terms on a long-term deal. The right-hander is set to become a free agent after the 2015 season. They've settled on one-year deals each of the last two offseasons.

With his signing, the Cubs avoided arbitration with all eligible players. They haven't had an arbitration hearing since Theo Epstein took over as team president and Jed Hoyer as general manager in 2011.

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 Posted: Mon Feb 10th, 2014 06:44 pm
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Dan Haren is back close to home and ever so happy to be there.

The 33-year-old right-hander doesn't have to be the man in this rotation, or even the No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher, not with the loads of talent around him on his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He fits nicely into the No. 4 starter role occupied last season by Ricky Nolasco, who desired a long-term deal and wound up getting a four-year contract with Minnesota.

Haren, who signed a one-year, $10 million contract, comes to the Dodgers with confidence after a strong final half of the season with the Washington Nationals a year ago.

With at least 30 starts in each of his past 10 seasons, he believes he brings durability to the back end of the Los Angeles rotation.

''I take the ball every fifth day or whatever is asked,'' he said. ''More often than not, I keep the team in the game. With the offense we have and the bullpen we have, it's really a perfect fit I think.''

Haren threw his first bullpen session of the spring on Sunday, the first workout day for the Dodgers pitchers and catchers. Arizona and Los Angeles opened spring training earlier than usual because they open the regular season with a pair of games in Sydney, Australia March 22-23. The Dodgers were joined by their latest pitcher signing, left-hander Paul Maholm, who signed a one-year deal on Saturday.

Maholm could take the No. 5 spot if Josh Beckett isn't fully recovered from surgery to repair a nerve condition. Regardless, his addition provides depth for the Dodgers, who had injury problems last year at the bottom of their rotation.

Haren signed last November, early for a free agent. With free agent starters still looking for jobs, or having to settle for less than they wanted, he's glad he decided so early.

For him, it was an easy choice to join the reigning NL West champs.

''It was really being close to home and being on a championship club,'' he said. ''You couldn't ask for anything more.''

His home is in Orange County, about a 50-mile drive from the ballpark. He and his wife have a bevy of relatives throughout the Los Angeles area.

Haren had played nine seasons with teams in the west - Oakland, Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels - before signing his one-year deal with the Nationals.

From the start, it was a struggle. He had an ERA above six through the first half of the season with an abundance of home runs allowed. But after being sidelined briefly with a shoulder problem, Haren came back strong. In his last 15 starts with the Nationals, he had a 3.29 ERA. It was 2.89 over his final five outings.

''I was trying to do too much, rather than pitch how I normally do, which is really simple, get the ball down, getting ahead of guys and trying to keep guys off balance,'' he said, reflecting on his early-season problems. ''I don't know if it was a new team, cross country. It just wasn't working, so I got back to the basics.''

It was those late-season performances, plus his workhorse history, that drew the Dodgers' interest, and they didn't hesitate to add him to the formidable rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyrun-Jin Ryu.

''Just having prepared for him so many different times, this guy is not a fun at bat,'' Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said. ''And the way he threw the ball towards the of the season last year. It was really more mechanical than anything else, just kind of got out of his arm slot a little bit. As the season went on, he was back to himself. I'm excited to have another quality guy.''

In 11 big league seasons, Haren is 129-111 with a 3.74 ERA in 327 appearances, 316 of them starts.

''Guys like that, every time you walk out there you feel like you're going to win,'' Mattingly said, ''and he gives us another one of those guys.''

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 Posted: Tue Feb 11th, 2014 06:35 pm
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HOUSTON (AP) Astros pitcher Jarred Cosart has apologized after he reportedly used a gay slur to describe pop star Justin Bieber when he tweeted a message to a former teammate.

Cosart deleted the offensive tweet from his account and apologized for ''a very poor choice of words.'' He also says in a tweet that the earlier post does not reflect who he is as a person.

The Astros also released a statement Monday night calling Cosart's tweet ''unacceptable'' for any member of the organization. The Astros say they talked to Cosart about the post and he is ''extremely remorseful.''

The 23-year-old Cosart went 1-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts last season. He is expected to contend for a spot in Houston's rotation this year.

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 Posted: Tue Feb 11th, 2014 06:36 pm
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A person familiar with the deal says the Cleveland Indians have agreed to a long-term contract with outfielder Michael Brantley.

Brantley, who was Cleveland's most consistent player last season, will sign a four-year, $25 million deal once he passes a physical, says the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract has not been finalized.

The Indians are reporting to spring training in Arizona this week.

The deal was first reported by Northeast Ohio Media Group.

Brantley moved from center field to left last spring when the Indians signed Michael Bourn. Brantley batted .284 with 10 homers and 73 RBIs in 151 games last season. Manager Terry Francona used Brantley throughout his lineup and he excelled in the field, not making an error and recording 11 assists.

The Indians were scheduled to go to an arbitration hearing with Brantley on Feb. 17.

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 Posted: Tue Feb 11th, 2014 06:39 pm
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Los Angeles Angels slugger Albert Pujols dropped a defamation lawsuit against Jack Clark on Monday after Clark issued a statement retracting his previous comments alleging that Pujols had used performance-enhancing drugs.

"I have accepted Jack Clark's retraction and apology to resolve my lawsuit against him and clear my name," Pujols said in a statement released Monday evening.

Clark created a stir on St. Louis sports talk radio last summer when he said he knew "for a fact'' that Pujols was a "juicer,'' and added that he had knowledge of a trainer who had given PEDs to the veteran slugger. Clark's radio show was subsequently cancelled.

Pujols has consistently maintained that he has never used performance-enhancing drugs.

"I would like to address Albert Pujols' pending defamation lawsuit and re-confirm that I have no knowledge whatsoever that Mr. Pujols has ever used illegal or banned PEDs," Clark said in a statement that was initially reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I publicly retract my statements that Albert Pujols used such substances. During a heated discussion on air, I misspoke and for that I sincerely apologize."

Pujols, 33, made nine All-Star teams and won three MVP awards in 11 seasons with the Cardinals before leaving St. Louis to sign a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels in December 2011.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 12th, 2014 05:53 pm
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Roy Oswalt, a three-time All-Star, has decided to retire after 13 seasons.

Oswalt, 36, has a career record of 163-102 with a 3.36 ERA in 365 games. He amassed 150 of his wins from 2001 to 2010, leading the majors during that span.

A native of Weir, Miss., Oswalt pitched in nine games for the Colorado Rockies last season, going 0-6 with an 8.63 ERA.

During a career that started with the Houston Astros in 2001, Oswalt finished in the top five in Cy Young voting five times, including a third-place finish in 2004, when he went 20-10. The right-hander won 20 games again in 2005 while also garnering NLCS MVP honors that year. He made three All-Star teams.

Oswalt will join his former agent Bob Garber at RMG Baseball as vice president of baseball operations.

"Roy is now going to be representing players with me," Garber said Tuesday night. "He's now an agent."

He pitched more than 200 innings seven times but was hampered by injuries in recent years.

"He was a tremendous competitor," Giants right-hander Matt Cain said. "He was one of the guys I always loved to watch pitch. I remember facing him for the first time and I knew if I gave up more than a couple runs that it wasn't going to be a good day for us. He went about his business every fifth day like a true pro."

Oswalt got hurt with Houston on June 11, 2003, when he and five other pitchers combined to no-hit the New York Yankees in an 8-0 victory in the Bronx. It was the only six-pitcher no-hitter until Seattle did the same thing against the Dodgers on June 8, 2012.

Oswalt strained his right groin and left in the second. He looked toward catcher Brad Ausmus after his second pitch of the inning, his 23rd of the game, and immediately was replaced.

The Yankees had gone 6,980 games -- the longest streak in major league history -- without being no-hit, since Hoyt Wilhelm's 1-0 victory for Baltimore on Sept. 20, 1958.

Oswalt signed a minor league deal with the Rockies in May 2013 and missed time with a strained left hamstring.

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington was thrilled to acquire Oswalt in the middle of the 2012 season, when he went 4-3 with a 5.80 ERA in 17 appearances with nine starts.

He joined the Rangers on June 22, 2012, but didn't know if the team just planned to trade him away. Washington often said Oswalt "has been a pro" in handling a tough, unclear situation that called for him to be used primarily out of the bullpen.

That was after Oswalt spent two stints on the disabled list during 2011 with Philadelphia because of lower back inflammation. He went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA in 23 starts for the Phillies that year, and his 139 innings were his fewest since 2003. He didn't go more than 59 innings in his last two years.

A 23rd-round pick by Houston in the 1996 amateur draft, Oswalt pitched his first nine-plus seasons for the Astros (2001-10) and then played for Philadelphia (2010-11), Texas (2012) and the Rockies (2013).

On Aug. 25, 2010, Oswalt became the first Phillies pitcher to play a position in the field in 39 years after Ryan Howard was ejected in the 14th inning of a 4-2, 16-inning home loss to the Astros. With the Phillies out of position players, Oswalt went to left field and Raul Ibanez took over at first for Howard.

Oswalt drew a rousing ovation from the crowd when he caught a routine fly ball. He was the first Philadelphia pitcher to play a position since Bill Wilson on Aug. 6, 1971.

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