Deion Sanders has signed a nonguaranteed minor league contract with the Reds and has been invited to spring training.

"Deion hasn't played baseball in two years," GM Jim Bowden said yesterday. "We don't know where his baseball skills are, but in spring training we want to give him the opportunity to compete for a roster spot."

Sanders last played baseball in 1997, when he batted .273 and stole 56 bases in 115 games with the Reds. At that time, he said he was quitting baseball to devote his time to playing cornerback with the Dallas Cowboys. . . .

Veteran reliever Terry Mathews signed a minor league contract with the Devil Rays that includes an invitation to spring training.

* RULING TODAY: Richie Phillips and the Major League Umpires Association will find out today if the National Labor Relations Board grants their request to have umps vote again on which union they want.

NLRB hearing officer David Leach III intended to issue his decision on the MLUA's appeal of the election it lost, 57-35, to an insurgent union in November,

Leach heard three days of arguments in New York two weeks ago and received written briefs last week. He can either call for another vote or say the results of the November election should be certified by Dan Silverman, the NRLB's New York regional director.

The losing side has two weeks to appeal to the five-man NLRB in Washington.