- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2001

With his Washington Redskins future in doubt, Deion Sanders completes his improbable return to the majors today.

Sanders, a 33-year-old NFL cornerback and baseball outfielder, will be promoted from Class AAA Louisville to the Cincinnati Reds and return to the major leagues for the first time since 1997. He will be eligible to play in the Reds' home game tonight against the Los Angeles Dodgers. There's a good chance he'll start in center field and bat second.

Meanwhile, Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said he is interested in talking to Mark Hatley, who yesterday left his job as Chicago Bears vice president of player personnel. Hatley, whose departure was called a mutual decision, served as Schottenheimer's pro personnel director with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1992 to '96.

The Reds made room for Sanders on Sunday when they transferred outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. to the 15-day disabled list. Sanders will compete for time against four talented outfielders: Alex Ochoa (who is batting .318), Ruben Rivera (.327), Michael Tucker (.324) and Dmitri Young (.278).

Sanders earned the promotion by leading the International League in batting (.459), hits (34), triples (five), on-base percentage (.494) and slugging percentage (.689). His stint at Louisville ended with a 13-game hitting streak. He traveled to Cincinnati yesterday instead of playing in the RiverBats' game at Columbus.

Baseball rules prevented Sanders from being called up to the majors before May 1. He is expected to be given a one-year, $1 million contract from the Reds after his minor league deal is bought out.

The Redskins have a major decision to make when it comes to Sanders. As The Washington Times reported last week, Sanders' football contract allows him to miss minicamps, training camp and even regular-season games as long as the absence is baseball-related.

Washington could cut Sanders after June 1 and recoup $3.5 million of salary cap space. However, that would make the future Hall of Famer a free agent. Or the club could place Sanders on the Did Not Report list, which would retain his rights and return them $205,882 of cap room with each game he misses.

It appears Sanders is considering a priority shift to baseball, where careers last into players' late 30s and early 40s and where contracts offer guaranteed money. He attempted a baseball comeback last spring but was allowed to return home in early May after he hit just .200 in 25 minor league games.

Sanders hit .273 with 56 stolen bases in his last major league season, a 115-game effort for the 1997 Reds. He left the club on Sept. 4 to play football for the Dallas Cowboys and concentrated on that sport full time in 1998 and '99. He was released from the Cowboys for cap reasons on June 2, 2000.

Schottenheimer, following the dismissal of Vinny Cerrato, is looking for a player personnel director, or perhaps separate directors of pro and college scouting. The Redskins coach does not have a timetable.

"At this point I'm only beginning to develop a list," Schottenheimer said. "It's not even a short list."

Seattle Seahawks player personnel director John Schneider also has been linked to the Redskins' opening, but it's clear Schottenheimer won't show interest in executives under contract. Also, a CBS SportsLine report said Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher might recommend Philadelphia Eagles director of football operations Tom Modrak to Schottenheimer if Cowher cannot hire Modrak himself.

Hatley departed a tense Bears front office with a dubious reputation in the draft he selected running back Curtis Enis (1998) and quarterback Cade McNown (1999) in the first rounds. Hatley has told associates that he might take a job with the Redskins regardless of title because he would have more input than he did with the Bears.

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