Former Olympic slalom champion Hilde Gerg retired yesterday because of a knee injury that would have prevented her from skiing at the Winter Olympics.

"I wish this day were four months later," Gerg said at a hospital near Munich, where she underwent an operation Saturday.

Gerg, 30, would have been among Germany's best hopes to win a medal at the Turin Games in February. She won the Olympic slalom gold medal at the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan. She also won the overall World Cup Super-G titles in 1997 and 2002, and had 20 World Cup wins in her career.

Gerg partially tore ligaments and suffered other damage in her right knee when she crashed during a Super-G practice last week at Copper Mountain, Colo.

The rehabilitation will take between four and six months, surgeon Erich Rembeck said.

* BASEBALL: The Red Sox and Marlins reached a preliminary agreement last night on a trade that would send Florida ace Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell to Boston for three prospects.

The Marlins would get touted shortstop Hanley Ramirez and minor league pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Jesus Delgado in the deal, which was pending physicals, according to a baseball official who requested anonymity because the trade was yet to be finalized. . . .

Infielder Bobby Hill, acquired by Pittsburgh from the Cubs in the 2003 trade for third baseman Aramis Ramirez, was dealt to the San Diego Padres for a player to be named. . . .

Former major leaguers Mike Butcher and George Hendrick joined the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as part of new manager Joe Maddon's coaching staff for next season.

Butcher was hired as pitching coach after spending the past three seasons as a roving pitching instructor for the Los Angeles Angels. Hendrick, the Dodgers' minor league hitting coordinator in 2005, was hired as first base coach.

* GOLF: Tiger Woods had a stomach virus and withdrew from the pro-am at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Poipu Beach, Hawaii. PGA of America spokesman Julius Mason said tournament officials still expect Woods to play in the 36-hole event for winners of this year's majors.

The $1 million event was scheduled to begin today with Woods attempting to win his sixth Grand Slam title.

* CROSS-COUNTRY: The Georgetown men's team finished 16th at the NCAA Division I championships in Terre Haute, Ind. Wisconsin won the men's meet; Virginia was 26th and American 30th. Stanford won the women's meet, while Virginia and Georgetown were 26th and 27th, respectively.

* SOCCER: Former Manchester United star George Best is desperately ill and must improve quickly to have a chance to live.

"He can't survive day after day after day without some improvement occurring," physician Roger Williams said. "He's keeping himself alive."

Best, 59, who needed a liver transplant three years ago after years of alcohol abuse, was on life support in stable but critical condition at Cromwell Hospital in London.

* OBITUARY: Off-road racer Jason Baldwin was one of four people aboard a small plane that crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Orange County (Calif.) Saturday. He was 35. The plane is submerged in 200 feet of water. None of the four bodies has been recovered.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports