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Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Pending physical, announcement could come Friday

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Ivan Rodriguez and the Detroit Tigers were on the verge of agreeing to a $40 million, four-year contract, The Associated Press learned Wednesday night.

The 10-time All-Star catcher was to be examined in Texas on Thursday by Dr. Andrew Dossett, two baseball sources told the AP on the condition of anonymity. Dossett is the spine consultant to the Rangers and has treated Rodriguez for many years.

If all goes well in the exam, the agreement between the free agent and Detroit could be announced Friday, one of the sources said.

The deal would move Rodriguez from the World Series champion Florida Marlins to a team coming off one of the worst seasons in major league history.

The agreement contains a team option for 2008 that could make the contract worth $50 million over five years, one of the sources said.

Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

"We've been working diligently with the Tigers on this matter," said Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras. "We're having further meetings on Thursday."

Rodriguez, 32, spent his first 12 seasons with the Rangers, then became a free agent and signed a $10 million, one-year deal with the Marlins.

Rodriguez hit .313 last season with 16 homers and 85 RBIs, and he was MVP of the NL championship series win over the Chicago Cubs.

After helping lead the Marlins past the New York Yankees in the World Series last season, he was never offered more than two guaranteed years by Florida. Baltimore and Seattle also were said to be interested in Rodriguez.

With the Tigers, he would join one of the greatest turnaround efforts in baseball history. Detroit went 43-119 last season, setting the American League record for losses.

The Tigers won five of their last six games to avoid tying the post-1900 major league record of 120 losses, set by the 1962 New York Mets.

Detroit, which moved into Comerica Park in 2000, has finished with a losing record in 10 straight seasons and drew 1.37 million fans at home last season, 27th among the 30 major league teams.

Trying to invigorate the team, the Tigers have reached agreements with second baseman Fernando Vina, outfielder Rondell White and right-hander Jason Johnson.

Since winning their second Series title in seven seasons, the Marlins have either traded away or lost as free agents several of their key players, including Derrek Lee, Mark Redman, Juan Encarnacion, Ugueth Urbina and Braden Looper.

Florida has signed closer Armando Benitez and on Wednesday added left-hander Darren Oliver, agreeing to a $750,000, one-year contract.

Like Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Comerica Park is a tough place for hitters.

Rodriguez is a 10-time Gold Glove winner behind the plate and won the 1999 AL MVP award.