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BASEBALL Millwood, Indians finish $7 million deal



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The 30-year-old is expected to fill the No. 3 spot in the Cleveland rotation.

CLEVELAND (AP) -- 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, Millwood would fit nicely into the No. 3 spot of the Indians' rotation, putting a proven veteran 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.

Looking for a starter

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

"This is a guy in three years of his career has pitched like a No. 1," said Shapiro, who mentioned he had been exploring trades for another starting pitcher, but those deals were off.

Millwood won 17 games in 1998, 18 in 1999 and 18 again in 2002 with Atlanta.

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.

Injuries downplayed

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."

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.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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