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Thursday, January 25, 2007
Mariners close to adding Weaver, bring back Rhodes

Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Jeff Weaver is close to finding a home with the Seattle Mariners.

The Mariners are closing in on a deal with the 30-year-old right-hander, a baseball official close to the negotiations said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the contract had not yet been agreed to.

Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi has repeatedly said the Mariners would like to add a starting pitcher. Weaver's agent, Scott Boras, was traveling Thursday and didn't immediately return a telephone message.

Weaver, who made $8,325,000 last season, is a one-time phenom for the Detroit Tigers who was waived by the Los Angeles Angels last season after he went 3-10 in 16 starts. Weaver then went 5-4 in 15 starts with St. Louis, finishing with an overall regular-season ERA of 5.76.

But in the postseason, Weaver resurrected his career by helping the Cardinals win the World Series. He had a victory in each round of the Cardinals' playoffs, and he dominated for eight innings in the Game 5 title clincher against the Detroit Tigers.

After that surge, Weaver said he wanted to stay in St. Louis, which has made the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons. He at least sounded like he did not want to join a team that has finished last in its division for three consecutive seasons, like Seattle.

"Why wouldn't you if you have the opportunity to have the chance to do this each and every year?" Weaver said in October. "This is what we play for, to have the chance to win, and we'll just have to wait and see what happens."

The Mariners missed on signing several free agent pitchers they were seeking earlier this offseason, such as Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt. They've instead been settling for Miguel Batista, who turns 36 next month, and little-known Horacio Ramirez, acquired from Atlanta for primary setup man Rafael Soriano.

Both deals were widely ridiculed in the Northwest for being inadequate upgrades to a rotation trying to fill three holes for this season.

The Mariners also are bringing back Arthur Rhodes. The 37-year-old left-hander agreed Thursday to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

"You can never have too much left-handed pitching in the bullpen. Since I've been here, we've never had the bullpen as balanced as we would like," said Bavasi, who took the job in 2003. "We fully expect him to be on the club. If his stuff was the same as it was last year, he'll be more than fine here."

Bavasi said Rhodes will likely fill a variety of bullpen roles, from middle and long relief to setting up closer J.J. Putz.

Earlier this month, Seattle added Chris Reitsma to be a setup man -- but Reitsma is recovering from elbow surgery last summer.

The only proven left-hander in the Mariners' bullpen is George Sherrill, who was 2-4 with a 4.28 ERA in a team-high 72 appearances last year.

Rhodes, who pitched for the Mariners during their winning days of 2000-03, was 0-5 with a 5.32 ERA in 55 games for Philadelphia last season. He missed the final three weeks of the season with an injured pitching elbow.

Rhodes said he began throwing again off a mound three weeks ago following what he called "just a little sprain."

"I'm excited, man. I'm excited to be back there," Rhodes said on the telephone from Baltimore, his offseason home. My style never changes. I still pitch inside. I still use all my pitches."

Now, he will try to rediscover the form that made him a standout in Seattle from 2000-03. Rhodes was 26-15 in his four seasons as Seattle's main setup man, including an 8-0 record with a 1.72 ERA in 71 games during the 2001 season, when the Mariners won 116 games.

After leaving Seattle, Rhodes made stops in Oakland, Cleveland and Baltimore. He spent his first nine seasons with Baltimore, beginning his career as a starter.