|Tuesday, January 11
Sele to pitch for hometown team
SEATTLE -- Right-handed pitcher Aaron Sele says he's excited to join the Seattle Mariners, his hometown team, in a deal made quickly after Baltimore hesitated because of a question about the health of his arm.
"The timing of the situation was right -- and we're Mariners," he told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday. He was joined by his wife, Jennifer, and their 2-month-old baby, Katherine.
Sele, 29, with one of baseball's best curveballs, accepted a two-year contract for $15 million to play for the Mariners. The contract includes a $1 million signing bonus and annual salaries of $7 million.
The family already has a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle, and Sele's parents also live in the Puget Sound area.
"The Mariners were first and foremost in our minds; we wanted to come back home and play in Seattle. They've got a new ballpark, they have done some things to upgrade the team, and I think they're going to be real competitive," Sele said.
Sele posted an 18-9 record and 4.79 ERA with the Texas Rangers last year after going 19-11 with a 4.23 ERA in 1998.
He spent the first five years of his major league career with the Boston Red Sox and has a 75-53 career record. Sele was picked for the All-Star team in 1998 but did not play.
"I can't tell you how happy we are that Aaron's a Mariner," general manager Pat Gillick told reporters. "This thing happened fast, I think so fast that many of you ... didn't have time to speculate."
He said Sele is an experienced pitcher although he's only 29.
Mariner Manager Lou Piniella said he was very surprised -- and pleased.
"This is the finishing touch to our ballclub," Piniella told The Seattle Times by telephone from his home in Tampa, Fla. "We've added a pitcher that is a proven winner, gives you innings, experience, leadership."
The Orioles had reached tentative agreement to sign free-agent Sele for a $29 million, four-year contract, including $8 million in payments deferred without interest.
But the deal was subject to his passing a physical exam. The Orioles considered changes after the medical tests and were still talking to Sele's agents Monday.
"Their team doctor examined me on Friday and came up with a question about something in my arm, and they just kind of slowed the process down," Sele said.
"To be honest with you, I'm not sure what their concern was," he said, adding the team did not tell him the nature of the problem.
In two years with Texas, Sele missed only one start, and that was because of the flu. He missed two weeks of the 1996 season with a strained muscle in his left rib cage. In 1995, soreness in his right arm kept him off the field starting May 24, and after six rehab starts in the minors, he was placed on the disabled list Aug. 31 for the rest of the season.
Gillick -- a former GM for Baltimore owner Peter Angelos -- said he had talked with Sele's agent, Adam Katz, once Sele became a free agent at the end of the season.
Then, Katz called him Monday morning after the deal with Baltimore slowed down.
Sele was examined Monday by Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles, a friend of Mariner physician Dr. Larry Pedegana. After consulting with Yocum, Pedegana told Gillick that he saw nothing to prevent the Mariners from going forward, Gillick said.
Gillick and Katz reached a deal in just 6+ hours.
"It's a good balance, and we've got a good balance in the bullpen," he said.
The Mariners have spent much of the offseason considering trades for Ken Griffey Jr., but now seem likely to keep him. He is eligible for free agency after the season.
Gillick was asked if the team can prove itself a winner -- after finishing 79-83 and third in the AL West -- and get Griffey the World Series ring that he wants.
"That's a long ways off and we have a lot of hot-stove talk this time of the year, but I think we're improved," Gillick said. "As you well know, you can win your division and get into the playoffs and anything can happen. I know we've got a competitive team."
Born in Golden Valley, N.M., Sele graduated from North Kitsap High School in Poulsbo, Wash., and attended Washington State. His wife is also a Cougar and grew up in the state.
Sele said the Mariners have "veteran players who know how to win" and some of the best hitters in baseball.
"There's a lot of things that are really kind of shored up on this team that may have been concerns, and I think that makes this team real tough," he said.