Forget for a minute that Jesse Orosco is the oldest player in the major leagues and has been pitching professionally since Jimmy Carter was president.

The San Diego Padres can use his help.

Playing in a division loaded with some of baseball's best left-handed hitters, the Padres signed the lefty reliever to an $800,000 contract to come in and face one or two batters per appearance.

This will be Orosco's 24th big league season, and the Padres are his seventh team. He'll turn 46 on April 21, and he's more than twice as old as Padres starters Jake Peavy and Oliver Perez.

And he has no intention of going away anytime soon.

"It's something I enjoy doing," Orosco said. "My arm is very healthy right now. I'm going to keep going until you know, they just say, 'Jesse, you don't have it anymore.' "

* YANKEES: Manager Joe Torre announced yesterday that RHP Jeff Weaver has won the three-way competition to be New York's fifth starter. The decision means that Cuban RHP Jose Contreras, who signed a four-year, $32 million free agent contract during the offseason, will begin the regular season in the bullpen.

GM Brian Cashman said that closer Mariano Rivera is expected to open the regular season on the disabled list with an injured groin.

* BREWERS: Milwaukee traded IF Manny Alexander to Texas for future considerations. Alexander was in camp as a non-roster player.

The Brewers also released injured RHP David Pember. Pember, who is expected to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery on Friday, will be offered a minor league contract with the club.

* TIGERS: Detroit reassigned LHP Steve Avery to their minor league camp. The 32-year-old Avery, attempting a comeback after missing the past two years following left shoulder surgery in 1999, won 18 games for the Braves in 1991 and '93.

* ATHLETICS: OF Chris Singleton may miss the season opener next Tuesday against Seattle.

Singleton, who hasn't played since March 14, is recovering from having cysts removed from his thyroid last weekend.

* RED SOX: P Matt White's back injury is more serious than first believed and he could start the season on the disabled list.

White, picked up from Cleveland in the winter meeting draft, tweaked an oblique muscle in his back during a game last week against Minnesota and hasn't thrown in a game since.

* EXPOS: OF Vladimir Guerrero dropped his appeal of a three-game suspension in exchange for the commissioner's office cutting it to two games.

Marlins RHP Brad Penny and Montreal IF Jose Macias also were suspended for their roles in the bench-clearing brawl involving Guerrero earlier this month. Penny's five-game suspension was upheld.

* DODGERS: RHP Guillermo Mota had his appeal, and his suspension was reduced from five games to four for hitting the New York Mets' Mike Piazza with a pitch on March 12.