Indians hope Millwood's elbow will hold up

CLEVELAND -- Kevin Millwood finalized a $7 million, one-year
contract on Saturday with the Cleveland Indians, who hope the
right-hander's elbow is healthy and that he can stabilize a young
starting rotation.

Millwood, 30, has three seasons with at least 17 wins and has
pitched more than 200 innings four times, but spent last year
battling elbow problems.

"I'm not real worried about it," Millwood said of the injury.
"If I was at a point right now that I felt I wouldn't be able to
pitch all year, I probably wouldn't have signed."

If healthy, he would fit nicely into the No. 3 spot of the
Indians' rotation behind All-Stars C.C. Sabathia and Jake Westbrook, and ahead of Cliff Lee and Scott Elarton or Jason Davis.

"He's a guy who's capable of pitching a playoff game for us and
pitching us into the playoffs," Indians general manager Mark
Shapiro said during a conference call.

The Indians spent months shopping for a quality veteran starter,
only to be outbid by other teams each time.

Shapiro said he had been exploring trades for another starting
pitcher, but those deals were off.

"This is a guy in three years of his career has pitched like a
No. 1," Shapiro said.

Millwood won 17 games in 1998, 18 in 1999 and 18 again in 2002
with Atlanta, where he learned to pitch on a staff that included
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.

No Indians pitcher has won at least 17 games since Sabathia as a
rookie in 2001, the last time Cleveland made the playoffs.

Millwood, who made $11 million last season, went 18-8 with a
3.24 ERA in 2002 with Atlanta before being traded to Philadelphia,
where he was 14-12 with a 4.01 ERA in 35 starts in 2003. He slumped
last year to 9-6 with a 4.85 ERA in 25 starts, only two after
hurting his right elbow.

Millwood, who has spent his eight-year career in the National
League, said his health shouldn't be a concern as he tries to
return from ligament and tendon strains.

"Everything feels fine," he said. "I haven't had any pain
working out or playing catch. ... I don't foresee any problems."

Doctors haven't told Millwood to limit his activities in spring
training, he said.

Under the deal with agent Scott Boras, Millwood is guaranteed $3
million from Cleveland. He gets a $4 million signing bonus, but
that money is contingent on him not spending more than 20 days on
the disabled list for a shoulder or elbow injury sustained while
pitching -- not fielding or batting.

Millwood also can earn an additional $1 million in performance
bonuses, getting the full amount if he makes 34 starts or pitches
215 innings.

If Millwood spends 21 or more days on the DL for an injury to
his shoulder or elbow sustained while pitching, he would lose
1/183rd of the signing bonus for each day on the DL, including the
first 20. That reduction calculates to $21,857 per day.

Millwood said he thought teams may have shied away because of
his injury. Needing some veteran help in their rotation, the
Indians were willing to take a chance.

"It was definitely the best offer I got," Millwood said.

Shapiro acknowledged Millwood could parlay a strong 2005 season
into a big free-agent deal and leave the Indians after only one
year, but also said he was worth the gamble.

Because of the team's limited payroll, "we are always extremely
careful in assessing risk," Shapiro said.