Raines, Justice head new Hall candidates

NEW YORK -- Tim Raines and David Justice head 11 first-time candidates on the baseball writers' 2008 Hall of Fame ballot, joining Mark McGwire, Rich Gossage, Jim Rice and 11 other holdovers.

McGwire, his candidacy hurt by suspicions of steroids use, was selected on just 23.5 percent of ballots when he was eligible for the first time in 2007.

Rice is on the ballot for the 14th time and Gossage for the ninth. Players can be on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for up to 15 years.

Gossage's percentage increased from 64.6 in 2006 to 71.2 in 2007, while Rice's declined from 64.6 to 63.5. The highest percentage for a player who wasn't elected in a later year was 63.4 by Gil Hodges in 1983, his final time on the ballot.

Raines was a seven-time All-Star who played 23 seasons and batted .294 with 2,605 hits and 808 steals, fifth on the career list. He was the 1986 NL batting champion.

Justice was the 1990 NL Rookie of the Year and a three-time All-Star. He had a .279 average, 305 homers and 1,017 RBIs in 14 seasons.

• Kerry Wood, who made the switch to the bullpen last season after a swift recovery from shoulder problems, agreed to a $4.2 million, one-year deal to return to the Chicago Cubs.

Wood, the 1998 NL Rookie of the Year, can make an additional $3.45 million in performance bonuses based largely on games finished. He had a $1.75 million salary this year.

The right-hander went 1-1 last season with a 3.33 ERA in 22 relief appearances. He didn't join the team until Aug. 5 when he made his first appearance since June 2006.

• AUTO RACING -- Jeff Gordon lost his car chief when Jeff Meendering joined Petty Enterprises as crew chief for Bobby Labonte.

Meendering began his career at Hendrick Motorsports 13 years ago sweeping floors, and worked his way up to a pivotal role on Gordon's crew. He was the interim crew chief during a six-race stretch this season when Steve Letarte was suspended.

His new job with Petty starts immediately, and he'll accompany Labonte to a tire test at Atlanta Motor Speedway next month.

• WINTHROP BASEBALL -- Coach Joe Hudak announced the signing of Andrew Ledger, a left-handed pitcher from Toronto, for the class of 2009.

Ledger was named the 2007 Toronto Baseball Association Player of the Year. While pitching for the Toronto Mets 18U Baseball Club, Andrew threw 91 innings, allowing only nine earned runs (0.54 ERA). He struck out 118 and only walked 20.

Ledger has played in five national championships the past five years, winning three gold medals and two bronze medals. This fall, he was named to the Canadian Junior National Team. He started two games against the Atlanta Braves Instructional League Team, throwing six innings, allowing only one unearned run and three hits, while striking out four. Ledger, who is also an accomplished golfer, is the son of Doug Ledger and Allison Patrick.

Ledger is the seventh and final member of this fall's recruiting class. He joins fellow pitchers Mikey O'Brien (Roanoke, Va.) and Kenny Monteith (Denville, N.J.), catcher/thirdbaseman Chas Crane (Bridgewater, N.J.), corner infielder Pat Fortunato (Stratford, Conn.) and middle infielders Garrett Koster (Fort Mill), and Zak Blair (Jefferson, Ohio).

• LOCAL MARTIAL ARTS -- Travis Ferrell, fighting out of Charles Hanebrink's Martial Arts Training Center in Rock Hill, won his second mixed martial arts fight this past Saturday in Norfolk, Va. Ferrell won by knockout/referee stoppage in 2:56 seconds of the first round to improve to 2-0.

• PRO BASKETBALL -- Bobcats leading scorer Gerald Wallace has been cleared to play in today's game at Miami after sitting out Charlotte's loss to Boston with a strained right calf.

Wallace, averaging 18.7 points per game, practiced without limitations Monday and traveled with the team to Miami.