Print and Go Back Baseball [Print without images]

Wednesday, September 20, 2006
One more year: Wickman re-signs with Braves

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Reliever Bob Wickman and the Atlanta Braves agreed to a $6.5 million, one-year contract extension for 2007, ensuring the team won't have to go through another futile offseason search for a closer.

Relief Pitcher
Atlanta Braves

53 1 5 12 39 2.84

The team announced the agreement Wednesday, two months after acquiring Wickman from the Cleveland Indians.

"It's a good organization," Wickman said after the Braves' 7-3 win over Washington on Wednesday night. "They've got a chance to win and it's a great bunch of guys."

Including incentives, Wickman made about $5.4 million this season.

The 37-year-old Wickman, who came close to signing with the Atlanta Braves as a free agent the last two years, was one of several closers general manager John Schuerholz pursued without success last winter.

After considering the Braves, Wickman chose to re-sign with Cleveland last winter. Schuerholz kept after Wickman, however, and acquired him July 20, sending minor league catcher Max Ramirez to the Indians.

The deal came too late to save the Braves this season. A horrible midseason stretch -- including a 6-21 June record -- ended the Braves' string of 14 straight division titles.

Wickman has been as effective as Schuerholz hoped, converting 15 of 16 save opportunities with a 1.19 ERA. Overall this season, he has 30 saves in 34 chances.

Other Braves relievers have blown 27 of 47 saves.

"Bob's impact on our bullpen and team has been obvious," Schuerholz said. "He is a proven closer and we look forward to beginning the 2007 season with him on our club."

Chris Reitsma, who was 8 for 12 in save opportunities, began the season as the closer, and manager Bobby Cox tried a long list of relievers that also included Danys Baez, Jorge Sosa, Ken Ray, Oscar Villarreal, Tyler Yates and Mike Remlinger.

Injuries to prospects Blaine Boyer and Joey Devine also hampered efforts to construct a winning bullpen.

The Braves' 2006 struggles were only an extension of bullpen problems that began last year. The team went through three closers in 2005 -- Dan Kolb, Reitsma and Kyle Farnsworth -- and the relievers finished with a 4.74 ERA, 12th out of 16 teams.

Schuerholz tried to re-sign Farnsworth to be the team's closer this year, but he signed with the New York Yankees in a set-up role.

After losing Farnsworth, Schuerholz came close to landing Wickman in the offseason.

"I was very close to signing with this team twice, to the point where I was scheduled to report to Atlanta the next day for a physical before Cleveland came back to sign me," Wickman said following the July trade.

Wickman is 60-56 with 244 saves and a 3.58 ERA in his career. He has a 2.84 ERA this season.

An All-Star in 2000 and 2005, Wickman has pitched for the Yankees (1992-96), Milwaukee Brewers (1996-2000) and the Indians.

Last season, he tied for the AL lead with 45 saves and held batters to a .094 average with runners in scoring position.