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Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Right-hander agrees to $1.59M contract

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- A day after agreeing to a $14.5 million, three-year contract with Joel Pineiro, the Seattle Mariners agreed to a $1.95 million, one-year contract with Gil Meche.

Both right-handers were part of a Seattle rotation that featured only five pitchers all season, matching a major league record.

The 25-year-old Meche returned to the majors last season after a two-year absence. He spent 2001 and 2002 on rehabilitation and in the minors after two surgeries to repair his right shoulder.

He was 15-13 with a 4.59 ERA last year, setting career highs in wins (15), innings pitched (186 1-3), strikeouts (130) and starts (32).

Meche became the first pitcher since Whitey Ford in 1953 to win 15 games after missing the two previous seasons.

"Gil made terrific strides last season," Seattle GM Bill Bavasi said. "Coming off two years of injuries, he really overachieved by making every start. I'm eager to see him coming off a fully healthy winter."

The 25-year-old Pineiro set career highs with 211 2/3 innings, 151 strikeouts, 32 starts and 16 wins in 2003. He went 16-11 with a 3.78 ERA, throwing two shutouts.

Pineiro had a career-long eight-game winning streak from June 16 to July 31, which included 19 2/3 scoreless innings from July 21-31. He also had a five-game losing streak when the Mariners slumped in his five August starts.

Seattle was 19-13 in his 32 starts, winning three of his five no-decisions.

In three major league seasons, Pineiro has a 37-20 record and 3.38 ERA. Mariners manager Bob Melvin has said the organization expects big things from Pineiro, and he could be poised for a breakthrough season in 2004.

"We believe he is already among the top-tier starters in the game, and poised to join a truly elite group," Bavasi said. "He has electric stuff but it's his makeup that makes Joel truly special."

When it's on, his breaking ball is one of the best in the game, and Pineiro also throws effectively with his fastball, slider and changeup.

Pineiro gets a $1.5 million signing bonus and annual salaries of $2.5 million, $4.2 million and $6.3 million.

Besides Meche and Pineiro, the other members of Seattle's rotation last season were Freddy Garcia, Jamie Moyer and Ryan Franklin. All but Meche threw at least 200 innings.