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Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Valenzuela, 43, to pitch in Mexico

Associated Press

MEXICO CITY -- Fernando Valenzuela, who sent American and Mexican baseball fans into "Fernandomania" 23 years ago, is headed back to the mound, this time for the border city team Mexicali in Mexico's Pacific League.

Valenzuela has agreed in principle to pitch for the Aguilas (Eagles) in the season that starts on Oct. 12, team director Jesus Sommers said by telephone.

The Mexico City newspaper Reforma said Valenzuela himself confirmed the plan, saying he was "very happy and moved" at the chance.

The Mexican-born left-hander, who turns 44 on Sept. 15, last pitched in the major leagues with San Diego and St. Louis in 1997. He had a 173-153 record in 17 years in the Major Leagues.

Valenzuela continued to pitch for the Naranjeros of Hermosillo in the Pacific League until 2001.

Sommers said he expected to sign a formal deal next week in Los Angeles, where Valenzuela is a commentator on Spanish-language broadcasts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team he is most associated with.

Sommers said Valenzuela would arrive to pitch a week after the Dodgers finish play. The Pacific League season starts on Oct. 12.

"We haven't spoken with him if he is going to pitch in a rotation or is going to pitch just at home," Sommers said.

Asked if he thought Valenzuela still had enough stuff to pitch in the Triple-A rated winter league, Sommers said, "Personally, I think so, I think he can help.

"He was an extraordinary pitcher. ... He should know how to pitch."