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Beltran met with Steinbrenner Tuesday

HOUSTON -- The Houston Astros have made their first bid to
keep Carlos Beltran. They know it will be far from their last.

Beltran met with Astros officials on Wednesday, Houston's latest
effort to retain the All-Star center fielder who led the team
within one win of its first World Series.

"This is a very good step," Astros general manager Tim Purpura
said. "This is a continuation of what we all knew from the
beginning was going to be a long process."

Beltran and his agent, Scott Boras, spoke with Astros owner
Drayton McLane, team president Tal Smith and Purpura at the team's
spring training camp in Kissimmee, Fla. A day earlier, Beltran met
with New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in Tampa.

After Beltran's postseason performance, he clearly became
baseball's biggest offseason catch. He hit .435 in the playoffs
with a league record-tying eight homers, 14 RBIss and 21 runs scored
in 12 games.

He came to Houston in a midseason trade from Kansas City, with
the Astros hoping he'd provide a spark for an underachieving
achieving. Beltran did his part, and was a big reason the Astros
finished 36-10 and won their first postseason series.

Knowing that the 27-year-old switch-hitter gives the Astros
their best chance at a repeat performance or better, some fans have
started a Web site -- KeepBeltran.com -- pledging to donate $25 a
person to Beltran's favorite charity.

The site begs: "We're just a group of concerned Houston
baseball fans that supports the Astros in an attempt to keep Carlos
from being picked up by some big-money baseball empire." More than
$20,000 had been pledged to the fund.

Of course, it's going to take a lot more than that to keep
Beltran out of pinstripes.

In addition to the Yankees, the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and
Detroit Tigers are also thought to be pursuing Beltran.

"I think we're at a point with this negotiation where we have
entertained offers from everyone," Boras said. "We're moving at a
much more rapid pace."

Purpura wouldn't reveal the amount of the Astros' offer, saying
only that it was "very significant."

"We stand alone," Purpura said. "We don't have any idea what
the other clubs are offering or if they have offered."

If Houston doesn't reach an agreement with Beltran by Jan. 8,
the Astros would be ineligible to re-sign him until May 1.

Purpura and McLane have made it clear that they'd like to have
an agreement done before the deadline, but realize that will be
difficult with such a coveted player.

"I think it can be done," Purpura said. "We need to get some
things moving along in order to have a resolution."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman described Tuesday's
session at Legends Field as a "one hour meet and greet."

"What comes from that going forward remains to be seen,"
Cashman said.