Reliever Ligtenberg said close to deal with Orioles

He was 3-4, had 2.97 ERA with Braves last season


January 16, 2003|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Though still unable to secure a run-producer for the middle of their lineup, the Orioles continue to make gains in other areas. After plugging a hole at shortstop, adding a long-coveted left-handed starter and hiring a new farm director, the club apparently is close to signing former Atlanta Braves reliever Kerry Ligtenberg to a one-year contract.

Jim Beattie, the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations, confirmed last night that the team has held discussions with Ligtenberg's representatives, but said nothing has been finalized.

But a source close to the negotiations indicated that an agreement will become official once Ligtenberg passes a physical.

"We've been talking to him," Beattie said. "You never know. Things could hold it up. You just don't know until you get it all done."

Club spokesman Bill Stetka said it's unlikely the Orioles would make an announcement today concerning Ligtenberg, a right-hander who spent parts of the previous five seasons with Atlanta.

"We're still under negotiations. There's no contract at this point," he said.

Ligtenberg, 31, went 3-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 52 games last season. He's 12-12 with a 3.04 ERA and 44 saves in 51 opportunities in his career.

Because no deal has been completed, Beattie wouldn't disclose how Ligtenberg would fit into the bullpen, which includes closer Jorge Julio and set-up man Willis Roberts.

"Until we get it done, it would be premature for me to say anything. We have interest. We're talking to the guy. That's about all I would probably comment on at this point," Beattie said.

Ligtenberg became a free agent last month when the Braves failed to offer him a contract for 2003. By adding him to their roster, the Orioles could be preparing to make another move. Julio, who placed third in the America League's Rookie of the Year voting, has attracted interest from other clubs, but was deemed untouchable while Syd Thrift held the position of vice president of baseball operations.

Ligtenberg saved 30 games for the Braves in 1998, but eventually moved into a setup role while John Smoltz made the conversion from starter to closer.

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