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Wednesday, January 21, 2004
One year, $1 million for closer role

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Shingo Takatsu, Japan's career saves leader, has agreed to a $1 million, one-year contract with the Chicago White Sox, The Associated Press learned Wednesday.

The deal, which includes a team option for 2005, is expected to be announced Friday, a baseball source said on condition of anonymity. The agreement is contingent on Takatsu passing a physical, the source said.

Takatsu was traveling Wednesday to Chicago, a baseball official said, also on the condition of anonymity.

White Sox general manager Ken Williams wasn't available for comment. One of the sources said Chicago was the only major league team to offer a closer's role, with the others proposing Takatsu become a setup man.

Takatsu has 260 career saves, passing Kazuhiro Sasaki last year for the No. 1 spot in Japan history. He has topped the 30-save mark four times, including a career-high 37 in 2001.

Takatsu had 34 saves last season for the Yakult Swallows, best in the Central League.

The 34-year-old is nicknamed "Mr. Zero" because he's never given up an earned run in the Japan Series. The Swallows have won four titles, and Takatsu has been on the mound when they've clinched each of them.

The White Sox already have one closer in Billy Koch, whom they traded for in December 2002. Koch was the AL's top reliever in 2002, saving a career-high 44 games for Oakland. But he struggled in Chicago, losing his closer's job to Tom Gordon in early July.

Koch was 5-5 with 11 saves and a career-worst 5.77 ERA last season. He picked up his last save June 24.

Gordon is no longer in Chicago, signing with the New York Yankees as a free agent.

Also Wednesday, the White Sox finalized their minor league contract with Robert Person, and agreed to minor league deals with pitchers Mike Jackson, Vic Darensbourg and Jose Santiago; infielders Mike Bell, Kelly Dransfeldt and Bobby Smith; and outfielder Marvin Benard.

Person has pitched in only seven games since July 2002, when he had season-ending shoulder surgery. But he won 15 games with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2001, and the White Sox are looking to add another veteran to their rotation after losing Bartolo Colon to free agency.

Person would be guaranteed $750,000 if he is added to the 40-man roster. He would get a $500,000 salary in 2004, and the right-hander would get performance bonuses that pay him up to $500,000 more based on a points system for starts and appearances.

The White Sox would get an option for 2005 at $2.5 million plus 150 percent of performance bonuses earned in 2004, and would have to pay a $250,000 buyout if they decline the option.

Jackson, 39, would get a $500,000, one-year deal if added to the major league roster. He was out of baseball in 2003 but is 60-67 with a 3.35 ERA and 142 over 17 major league seasons. Jackson went 2-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 58 games with Minnesota in 2002.

Benard, 34, would get a $400,000, one-year deal if he's added to the major league roster. He spent his nine-year career with San Francisco, hitting .271, and ranks 11th among active players with 52 career pinch hits.

Also invited to spring training was outfielder Jeremy Reed, who combined to bat .373 at Class A Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham last season.

Among the other invitees are right-hander Carlos Castillo, right-hander Ryan Kohlmeier and lefty Josh Stewart, who made five starts for the White Sox last season.