With ink still drying, free agents bolster 'pen

Bradford, Williamson pass physicals, bringing relief acquisitions to 4

Orioles

December 01, 2006|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN REPORTER

The Orioles essentially secured the signing of Chad Bradford on Monday, the same day fellow bullpen acquisition Danys Baez was at Camden Yards to take his physical.

It was no coincidence. The Orioles rewarded Bradford handsomely, but the submarine-style right-handed pitcher, who was 4-2 with a 2.90 ERA for the New York Mets last season, also said that it was the club's commitment to improving its bullpen that persuaded him to leave one of the National League's best teams and come to Baltimore.

"It came down to how interested or how aggressive they were with their talks with me, and just kind of the general direction this team is going," said Bradford, who passed his physical yesterday, making his three-year, $10.5 million deal official. "They've made a lot of moves already with the bullpen, and I think there is more to come with other parts of the team. It just felt like they were going in the right direction, trying to win. They were anxious to get something done, and I was, too. You want to be where they need you."

Bradford, 32, who has 68 or more appearances in four of the past five seasons and has a career ERA of 3.40 over nine big league seasons, said several teams were interested in him, including the Mets.

"I think they wanted me back," Bradford said. "We just couldn't get close as far as years or numbers or wherever. This was such a good fit that the choice was easy. ... We looked at all the information we had at the time and we felt like Baltimore was right there and that's where I wanted to be."

He'll join a bullpen that includes fellow free-agent additions Baez, Jamie Walker and Scott Williamson, who also passed his physical yesterday, making final a one-year deal worth $900,000. Williamson went 2-4 last season in stints with the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres, missing most of September with bone chips in his right pitching elbow. It was the latest injury problem for Williamson, a former National League Rookie of the Year.

"We're obviously happy he is healthy," Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said. "He had bone chips removed at the end of the season. That's one thing that we have to be cautious about, but his throwing program is on schedule, and we expect him to be ready for the season."

Williamson signed an incentive-heavy $900,000 deal, meaning all told, the Orioles spent about $42 million on their four new relievers.

"If you want to have a good bullpen, you have to have more than just one good guy down there," said Bradford, who will likely be used as the Orioles' seventh-inning man, though the pitcher said he would be comfortable pitching anywhere from the fifth to the ninth. "You have to have more than just a closer. ... I just feel like we are going to have a good unit instead of just a couple of good relievers."

That's good news for Orioles pitching coach Leo Mazzone, whose bullpen last season was the second worst in the major leagues.

"The bullpen, let's face it, was a mess," Mazzone said yesterday. "What they've done is bring in quality guys that have been through the wars and still have a lot of ability not only for now but in the future, instead of running out guys that have not pitched above Double-A. I'd say that's a pretty big difference."

Notes -- The Orioles have had conversations with the representative of free-agent first baseman-outfielder Ryan Klesko and discussed possible parameters for a deal, but no formal offer has been made. ... Duquette reiterated yesterday that despite rampant speculation, the Orioles have "no interest" in trading closer Chris Ray. ... Catcher Paul Bako, who has agreed to terms on a one-year, $900,000 deal, will have his physical next week.jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.

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