New 1B Lee gets three years to help Cubs get over the hump
By wire services
Published February 29, 2004
MESA, Ariz. - Derrek Lee helped keep the Cubs out of the World Series last season. Now he has a three-year contract to see if he can get them in.
Lee, acquired in a November trade from the world champion Marlins, agreed Saturday to a $22.5-million deal.
The Gold Glove first baseman could have been a free agent after this season and last month signed a one-year, $6.9-million deal.
"You never know how it is going to work out. Obviously you have the opportunity to maybe go out on the market and make a little more, but you know, like I say, "It's about the money, but it's not all about the money,' " Lee said.
"The situation, I just felt it was right for me. An opportunity to be good for a while. ... For me to turn this down I think I would have to be a little bit crazy."
Lee gets base salaries of $5.5-million this season, $7-million in 2005 and $8-million in 2006. He also receives a $2-million signing bonus spread evenly over the three years.
The Cubs also picked right-hander Kerry Wood to start the opener in Cincinnati on April 5. He'll be followed by right-handers Greg Maddux and Mark Prior.
Manager Dusty Baker wants to use Maddux, the four-time Cy Young Award winner who re-signed with the Cubs this month, and his crafty assortment of pitches between young power pitchers Wood and Prior.
STARS AT LITTLE LEAGUE OPENER: Dwight Gooden, Gary Sheffield and Derek Bell took part in the opening day ceremonies Friday at the Belmont Heights Little League complex, a refurbished facility in Tampa.
The young players, dressed in their uniforms, encircled the infield as the three Belmont Heights products spoke about their past.
"I want to say to the kids, dreams do come true," said Gooden, an instructor and adviser for the Yankees. "I'm living proof of that. Work hard, listen to your coaches."
Devil Rays managing general partner Vince Naimoli and outfielder Carl Crawford also attended.
BRAVES: Breaking with tradition, Atlanta named 21-game winner Russ Ortiz as the opening day starter before playing its first spring game. Manager Bobby Cox, who usually waits until the final days of camp to announce his rotation, surprised everyone when he laid out his plans. The right-hander will be followed by former Crystal River left-hander Mike Hampton, right-hander John Thomson and left-hander Horacio Ramirez.
GIANTS: Manager Felipe Alou said he thinks Barry Bonds could pass Willie Mays on the career home run chart in the first week of the season. With 658 homers, Bonds is two shy of Mays, his godfather, for third all-time. "He's swinging the bat awfully well right now," Alou said. "He's hitting some balls over the street. He looks like he could hit it out every swing if he wanted. But I think he's working on his timing. He's starting to hit to the opposite field."
INDIANS: Right-hander Jake Westbrook's strong finish last season is giving him an edge in the battle for the starting rotation. Westbrook had a 4.64 ERA in 22 starts and a 1.84 ERA in 12 relief appearances. In his last four starts, he was 1-2 with a 2.01 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .210 batting average.
MARLINS: Right-hander A.J. Burnett had his second straight pain-free bullpen session of spring training and might pitch in an exhibition game. Burnett, 27, had reconstructive elbow surgery April 28, and his projected return date is May 1.
ORIOLES: Rick Bauer's chances of making the starting rotation appear slim. However, the coaches are getting him ready just in case. The right-hander will have his innings stretched this spring to get his arm prepared for a possible switch from being a multipurpose reliever. "We're definitely going to give Rick a look, and he's going to get a shot," pitching coach Mark Wiley said.
PIRATES: Randall Simon arrived at camp in Bradenton, his lateness caused by his mother's death. Simon's mother died this month in Curacao after a lengthy illness. That delayed his contract signing until last week and kept him out of camp for two days while he obtained a work visa. ... Outfielder Chris Singleton plans to fly to Pittsburgh on Monday for more tests after missing the first three workouts with an inner ear infection.
RANGERS: Right-hander Chan Ho Park continued his comeback from two injury-plagued seasons by throwing 36 pitches during batting practice. "It was pretty good. Downhill, low strikes, a good face, good body language," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's pretty happy with the way he's throwing. So far, so good."
TWINS: First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz sprained his left knee during a fielding drill at the team's first full-squad workout. There was no timetable for Mientkiewicz's recovery, but the injury did not appear to be serious.
[Last modified February 29, 2004, 01:15:11]
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