Kansas City traded star OF Carlos Beltran to Houston last night as part of a three-way deal that also sent reliever Octavio Dotel to Oakland.

The Royals wound up with three prospects: highly touted 3B Mark Teahen and RHP Mike Wood from Oakland, and C John Buck from the Astros.

"This is obviously huge for our organization," Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker said. "Carlos Beltran is one of the most exciting, complete players in our game today.

"He's the prototype we've been looking for for a long time. He's going to be a very exciting force for us in the middle of our lineup," he said.

The A's also got cash from Kansas City, an amount less than $1 million.

The 27-year-old Beltran, the biggest prize on the trade market, can become a free agent after the season.

He is represented by Scott Boras, who usually does not have his players re-sign before testing the free agent market.

The multitalented Beltran is hitting .278 with 15 homers, 51 RBI and 14 steals.

Dotel, 30, is 0-4 with a 3.12 ERA and 14 saves in 17 chances in his first year as a closer following the trade of Billy Wagner to Philadelphia in the offseason.

* BECKETT BACK TO DL: Marlins ace Josh Beckett will be placed on the disabled list today with a strained back muscle. Florida will recall LHP Michael Tejera from Class AAA Albuquerque to start Saturday at Tampa Bay.

Beckett (4-4, 3.86 ERA) felt pain while throwing for a second consecutive day Wednesday. He visited a physical therapist yesterday, hoping a deep tissue massage would help.

He plans to resume throwing today but doesn't know when he will return to the rotation.

"The worst thing for me to do is pitch and blow it out," he said.

* PINIELLA'S PLEA FOR SUPPORT: Fresh off a surprising winning streak, Tampa Bay Manager Lou Piniella wants to see something else new and different: more payroll for more players.

"We've got more than half our schedule to play yet. Now that we've gained that momentum and it's been positive for us, let's build on that," he said.

The Devil Rays have a payroll of $23 million -- the lowest in the majors -- and Piniella has said that they need to increase it to compete in the AL East.

-- From News Services