Rodriguez, Yanks: Rich get richer

Cubs load up pitching rotation by luring Maddux back into the fold

Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2004

While the New York Yankees were welcoming newcomer Alex Rodriguez, the Chicago Cubs were busy Tuesday luring back a familiar face Greg Maddux.

Maddux and the Cubs agreed to a $24 million, three-year deal, a source close to the negotiations told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The Cubs can void the final year of the deal if Maddux doesn't pitch a preset number of innings in 2005. The deal for the free agent is pending a physical, but he was expected to report to spring training Wednesday in Mesa, Ariz.

The four-time Cy Young winner returns to the team with which he made his major league debut in 1986. Now 37, Maddux will join an impressive rotation that includes Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Matt Clement and Carlos Zambrano a group that nearly pitched the Cubs into the World Series last October.

Maddux was 16-11 with a 3.96 ERA last season for Atlanta. He's posted at least 15 wins for 16 straight years, and is only 11 victories shy of 300.

Meanwhile, the New York Mets made light of the Yankees' big move and the Boston Red Sox tried to pooh-pooh it. Still, it was hard to avoid the shock wave the Yankees sent through baseball by getting Rodriguez.

"A-Rod goes to the Yankees and you sit there and look at that lineup top to bottom," Chicago White Sox closer Billy Koch said. "The best way to deal with that lineup is to be a Yankee pitcher. So you better ask Mr. Steinbrenner to trade for you."

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner stayed in Tampa, Fla., as pitchers and catchers reported to camp. But manager Joe Torre and captain Derek Jeter were at Yankee Stadium, where Rodriguez put on the pinstripes for the first time.

The Yankees finalized their trade with Texas this week, and commissioner Bud Selig approved the restructuring of Rodriguez's contract.

"We haven't won anything yet," Steinbrenner said. "It will be a big spring. It will determine a lot of things down here."

"Every year, everybody gets better. Boston is probably the favorite," he said.

Some early arrivals at the Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla., played down the Yankees' acquisition.

"You didn't want to see A-Rod go to the Yankees, but just because he's there, we're not scared," catcher Doug Mirabelli said.

Boston came close to getting the AL MVP earlier in the offseason before its proposed deal for Rodriguez fell through.

The Yankees' move shows they "are worried about us in a way," Red Sox pitcher Alan Embree said. "They know we have a very good ballclub this year and it's exciting."

Added Mirabelli: "Having a lot of guys over there that are All-Stars, that's going to be tough. They can't deny that. There's going to be some egos over there."

The Mets made their own move Tuesday, signing former Yankees left-hander Randy Keisler to a minor league contract. The Mets announced the Keisler move in an e-mail headlined, "Alex Who?"

At St. Petersburg, Fla., Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella was caught up in discussing Rodriguez, a former player of his in Seattle.

"The biggest adjustment will be moving from shortstop to third base. He's been playing shortstop since he was a teenager," Piniella said.

"Alex likes the limelight, so New York wont faze him. New York has brought in a lot of new people, like our situation. There are, obviously, a lot more expectations out there."

The Devil Rays will not have outfielder Josh Hamilton for a while. The 22-year-old prospect was suspended until March 19 and fined for violating baseball's drug policy.

Hamilton was the No. 1 pick in the 1999 amateur draft but has yet to play a full season in the minor leagues. He's been hurt and also been beset by unspecified personal reasons, which kept him out all of last season.

The Devil Rays have repeatedly declined to discuss his situation.

"The organization is not in a position to make any further statements concerning this issue," the team said.

At Legends Field in Tampa, a handful of players reported to Yankees camp. Among the arrivals was newcomer Paul Quantrill.

"It's like going to the All-Star game," the reliever said. "It's a good group of people. I think it's a nice thing coming into a team where you feel so much confidence."

The Yankees had already added the likes of Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Kenny Lofton and Tom Gordon in the offseason. Then came Rodriguez.

"It's never surprising with the New York Yankees," said Darryl Strawberry, a player development instructor for the Yankees.

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