Padilla reaches preliminary agreement to remain with Rangers

Tuesday, December 5th 2006, 6:30 am
By: News On 6

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) _ Starting pitcher Vicente Padilla and the Texas Rangers reached a preliminary agreement on a $33.75 million, three-year contract Monday night.

The deal is subject to a physical, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement had not yet been made. Padilla's contract contains a $12 million club option for 2010.

On the first day of baseball's winter meetings, the move takes one of the top free-agent starters off the market and keeps him with Texas _ a team desperate for pitching.

Padilla went 15-10 with a 4.50 ERA for the Rangers this year, throwing 200 innings and setting a career high for wins. After beginning his career with Arizona, the 29-year-old right-hander pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies from 2000-05, making the NL All-Star team in 2002.

The Rangers, who met with free-agent ace Barry Zito last week, have been trying to add arms all offseason. They were outbid for the negotiating rights to Japanese pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kei Igawa.

The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs are among the other teams thought to be interested in the 28-year-old Zito. There was speculation Monday that Texas had offered the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner a little more than $100 million for six years.

Padilla slots back into the rotation behind right-hander Kevin Millwood, the only other Texas starter sure to return. Millwood went 16-12 with a 4.52 ERA last season, his first with the Rangers, after being the team's key free-agent addition last winter.

Free-agent right-hander Adam Eaton agreed to a $24 million, three-year contract last week with Philadelphia, even after missing half of last season for the Rangers with a finger injury.

Texas finished eighth out of 14 AL teams this year with a 4.60 ERA. The Rangers went 80-82 and came in third in the AL West. They have not made the playoffs since 1999.