Determined to rebuild a once-proud pitching staff that fell into disarray, the Atlanta Braves reached a preliminary agreement yesterday on a four-year, $60 million contract with right-hander Derek Lowe and finalized a three-year deal with Japanese All-Star pitcher Kenshin Kawakami.
Just like that, the Braves' rotation - once the most dominant in baseball - suddenly looks a whole lot stronger with spring training just a month away.
The Braves would not comment on the preliminary agreement with Lowe, which was subject to the pitcher passing a physical, a person familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press.
General manager Frank Wren did say Lowe would be a welcome addition to a rotation devastated by injuries last year.
"We wanted get back to being a pitching team," Wren said. "If we can do another couple of moves, we can get back to that point."
Last season, John Smoltz, Tim Hudson and Tom Glavine had season-ending surgeries. Glavine has yet to resume throwing off a mound, and Hudson isn't expected back until August.
Lowe, 35, becomes the new ace of the staff.
He was a 21-game winner for the Boston Red Sox in 2002 and spent the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He went 54-48, never had an ERA higher than 3.88 and averaged more than 200 innings a season. Last year, Lowe was 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings.
Kawakami, who had drawn interest from the Orioles, is the first Japanese-born player in franchise history.
The right-hander, 33, was the 2004 Central League Most Valuable Player, has won 112 games in 11 seasons in Japan and was regarded as one of the top free-agent pitchers from Japan available this offseason. Yankees: : A New York Assembly committee investigating the use of millions of dollars in public funding to build the new Yankee Stadium has subpoenaed the team's president.
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat from Westchester County, said his committee subpoenaed Yankees president Randy Levine as well as city Industrial Development Agency Chairman Seth Pinsky.
Brodsky said the subpoenas compel the officials to appear for questioning at a hearing today and to provide documents the committee wants for its investigation into whether public money should be used for the new stadium in the Bronx.
Obituary: : Preston Gomez, 85, the Padres' first manager, died in Fullerton, Calif.
Gomez took over the expansion San Diego team in 1969 and later managed the Astros and Cubs during a six-decade career in baseball.
Gomez was hit by a pickup truck in March in California and never fully recovered from head injuries.
Red Sox: : The familiar cap with the "A" on the front no longer fit, so Smoltz turned to Plan B - Boston.
After playing all 20 of his major league seasons with Atlanta, the only pitcher in baseball with 200 wins and 150 saves is starting over at 41 with the Red Sox.
"I'm as determined and I'm as focused as I've ever been," Smoltz said. "The uniform has changed. The desire won't change."
The right-hander, who says he's "doing great" after major shoulder surgery, finalized his one-year, $5.5 million agreement.
Et cetera: : Brian McNamee's meeting yesterday with federal prosecutors investigating whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress has been delayed. ...Career saves leader Trevor Hoffman and the Brewers announced their one-year, $6 million deal after the reliever passed a physical. ... Free-agent reliever Guillermo Mota agreed to terms with the Dodgers, a source told the AP. ... Right-hander Mark Prior and infielder Chris Burke agreed to minor league contracts with the Padres. ... Former Orioles right-hander Russ Ortiz agreed to a minor league contract with the Astros.