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Jays sign Batista
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Old 13 Dec 2003, 01:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Jays sign Batista

Done Deal: Batista a Blue Jay


Canadian Press

12/12/2003

The Toronto Blue Jays wasted little time getting a No. 2 starter, signing free-agent pitcher Miguel Batista to a three-year, $13.1-million US contract on Friday.



Batista's signing was the first move made at baseball's winter meetings in New Orleans, as general manager J.P. Ricciardi acted quickly to avoid a bidding war and complete an impressive off-season revamping of Toronto's starting rotation.



``We tried to force it along,'' Ricciardi told reporters in New Orleans. ``We didn't want it to linger and linger and have other teams get involved.''



The New York Mets, among other clubs, were also chasing Batista, who will earn $3.6 million in 2004, $4.75 million in 2005 and $4.75 million in 2006.



Now that his rotation is set, Ricciardi can spend the rest of the meetings finding another reliever for a bullpen bolstered by the signing of Kerry Ligtenberg earlier this week, and a backup infielder.



Batista takes over the No. 2 spot in the rotation vacated by Kelvim Escobar, who signed with Anaheim. He brings with him a live and durable arm plus big-game playoff experience.



``We like the fact he throws strikes and goes after people,'' said Ricciardi. ``He's aggressive and has a bit of a chip on his shoulder from being overlooked in Arizona.''



The 32-year-old right-hander, overshadowed by Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling during three solid seasons in Arizona, was 10-9 with a 3.54 earned-run average in a career-high 193 1-3 innings last year.



In Toronto, he'll get the chance to play a bigger role behind Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay in the rotation.



Promising left-hander Ted Lilly and veteran Pat Hentgen, both acquired in November, and either Josh Towers or Mark Hendrickson, who will compete for the fifth spot at spring training, will follow Batista.



The new group, barring injury, is a dramatic improvement over a shoddy 2003 staff. Ten different pitchers started games for the Jays last season as they searched desperately for consistent arms to back Halladay and Escobar.



``Our offence is pretty solid, we can swing the bats one through nine,'' said Ricciardi. ``We knew pitching was our Achilles heel.''



Ricciardi was able to make the improvements without trading away any top prospects or surrendering any compensatory draft picks. Hentgen, the '96 Cy Young winner, signed a $2.2-million, one-year deal while Lilly was acquired from Oakland for redundant outfielder Bobby Kielty.



The question is whether Ricciardi's low-cost revamp will be enough to help the Blue Jays keep pace with the free-spending New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in the American League East.



The Blue Jays already know they can hit like their rivals at a discount. Can they pitch like them on a shoestring, too?



``Pitching against the Red Sox and Yankees, (Batista) stated, was real important to him,'' said Ricciardi.



Batista first caught national attention in 2001, when he threw 7 2-3 shutout innings in Game 5 of the World Series for Arizona. In seven career post-season games, all with the Diamondbacks in 2001-02, he is 3-1 with a 3.54 ERA.



His experience should help the young and hungry Blue Jays clubhouse and Batista's reputation as good teammate is another positive factor.



The Sporting News named him the No. 1 Good Guy in baseball for his off-field contributions, which included working with Native Americans in Arizona and donating $50,000 to build a baseball field on tribal land.



And not only is Batista an elite athlete, he's also the first Latin American professional player to publish a book of poetry. Titled Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro, proceeds from the book went to his foundation in the Dominican Republic.



``He might be the coolest guy I've ever met,'' Arizona GM Joe Garagiola Jr., told the Arizona Republic recently.



Batista has worked his way from journeyman status to become a player sought after by several teams this off-season.



Prior to signing with the Diamondbacks in 2001, Batista bounced between the starting rotations and bullpens of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Montreal Expos and Kansas City Royals.



The native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, didn't find his game until he joined the Diamondbacks, where he was used predominantly as a starter the past three years.



While that means his experience as a starter is limited, it also means his arm has fewer miles on it than other 32-year-olds.



In that regard, he's a little bit like Escobar, who has logged much fewer innings than most starters his age because he bounced between the Blue Jays bullpen and rotation during his seven seasons in Toronto.



In his career, Batista is 42-50 with a 4.39 ERA in 254 games, 121 of them starts. He has struck out 602 in 902 innings.

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I'm really happy over this. The Jays pitching staff is starting to look better and better. I just really wish they would go after a 20 game winning. I think that could push them into the playoffs. Man, I miss the good 'ol days when Labatts owned them...
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Old 13 Dec 2003, 04:20 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I think this was a great move by the jays... Like you said rebel,the pitching staff is looking much better... Although I still think the Jays are going to have a really tough time getting into the playoffs with the Yanks and Red Sox in their division...
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Old 13 Dec 2003, 04:22 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Well right now they don't have a chance to win their divison. But it would nice to see them get a wild card spot. Give them a couple more years, and I think they could make a run for top spot in the divison.
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Old 13 Dec 2003, 06:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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This is a great addition. He gets you a solid 6-7 innings each time out and his ERA is always respectable. With the other additions to the pitching staff it has a chance to be very good and they already have the offense. Keep an eye on this kid named Alexis Rios. He was the Eastern League MVP last year at Double A. He is gonna start the season at Triple A but should be called up sometime during the season. He is the Jays RF of the future. I think this Jays team has a shot to win 90 games. I don't think that is enough to win the division because the Yanks and Red Sox are two teams that are very to hurdle. As for the Wild Card they could be in the mix but those AL West teams the Mariners, A's, and Angels are all gonna be solid teams next year.
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