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Orioles give Wigginton 2-year deal

The Baltimore Sun

Ty Wigginton doesn't care where he ends up on the baseball diamond, he just wants to be out there - and that attitude and flexibility is what persuaded the Orioles to make Wigginton their newest acquisition in an increasingly busy offseason.

Wigginton, 31, agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal yesterday morning, which will become official this week once he completes a physical in Baltimore.

"I'm definitely excited," said Wigginton, who has played in parts of seven major league seasons with the New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Houston Astros.

"When I was in Tampa, I enjoyed playing in the AL East. I believe it is the toughest division in baseball. You have to compete on a daily basis in that division, and that's a lot of fun."

Wigginton batted .285 with 23 homers for the Astros in 2008, and he has played third base, second base, first base, left field and right field in the majors. As an Oriole, the right-handed hitter will spell lefties Aubrey Huff at first base and Luke Scott at designated hitter while also serving as an insurance policy for third baseman Melvin Mora and second baseman Brian Roberts.

Although second is his natural position, Wigginton has played the majority of his big league games at third base. Last year, he played 82 games there and 30 in left field while filling in for injured starter Carlos Lee.

"I've never cared where I have played on a baseball field," Wigginton said. "I enjoy wherever I am playing. Any position is fine with me. I want to put on my cleats and compete."

A 17th-round selection of the Mets in 1998, Wigginton has hit 22 or more homers while batting .275 or higher in each of his past three seasons - a combination no current Oriole achieved.

"I'm not the kind of guy that sets goals on the season, to hit .300 or have 20 home runs," Wigginton said. "My goal is to step on the field and respect the game of baseball, and all those numbers will take care of themselves."

In fitting with club policy, Orioles president Andy MacPhail declined to comment on the deal until it is completed. To make room for Wigginton, the Orioles will need to designate a player off the 40-man roster. Infielder Scott Moore, who is out of options, and pitcher Alfredo Simon are among the candidates.

Wigginton becomes the fifth free agent the Orioles have signed to a major league deal this offseason, joining pitchers Koji Uehara and Mark Hendrickson, shortstop Cesar Izturis and catcher Gregg Zaun. The Orioles also have added infielder-outfielder Ryan Freel, outfielder Felix Pie and pitchers David Pauley and Rich Hill via trades.

Of the Orioles' free agents, only Uehara received a more lucrative deal than Wigginton, who was nontendered by the Astros after he made $4.35 million in 2008. Wigginton and Izturis are also the only Orioles infielders signed for 2010 - Huff, Roberts and Mora are potential free agents at season's end.

Courted this winter by several teams, including the San Francisco Giants, Wigginton agreed to the Orioles' offer once they raised it from one year with an option to two guaranteed years.

"Two years was definitely a major part in it," said Wigginton, who lives near Charlotte, N.C. "But I've also always enjoyed playing in Baltimore when I have been there as a visitor. I just felt like it was going to be a good place for me and my family."

The move might alter manager Dave Trembley's 25-man roster. He was leaning toward keeping 13 pitchers and a three-man bench likely composed of Freel, utility infielder Chris Gomez and whoever wins the backup catcher position. With Wigginton on board, however, Gomez's roster spot could be in jeopardy, though Gomez is the only potential backup with extensive shortstop experience.

Trembley declined to comment when asked about Wigginton but said the club's goal is to upgrade the talent base.

"There will be opportunities for people to show what they can do, and there will be competition for spots," Trembley said. "We're not in a position where we can earmark certain positions for guys. As we get further along, I think this thing will separate itself as far as going with either 12 or 13 pitchers. ... It's a very healthy situation for us. We got a lot of versatility. I think it will make for an interesting camp."

Spring dates for Orioles

Feb. 14 -- Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Feb. 15 -- First workout for pitchers and catchers

Feb. 18 -- Position players report to Fort Lauderdale

Feb 19. -- First Full-team workout

Feb. 25 -- First Grapefruit League game, vs. Mets at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, 1:05 p.m.

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