Upton headed to Braves; Pettitte returns to Yanks

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Upton headed to Braves; Pettitte returns to Yanks

B.J. Upton is on his way to Atlanta, while Andy Pettitte is staying in pinstripes.

With the winter meetings only days away, baseball's offseason began to heat up Wednesday with a pair of moves involving potential closers: Ryan Madson joined the Angels and Jonathan Broxton remained with the Reds.

Hours later, the Braves made big news.

Looking for a new center fielder and some right-handed pop, Atlanta found both in Upton, who had 28 homers and 31 steals for Tampa Bay last season. The fleet-footed free agent agreed to a $75.25 million, five-year contract, a deal that was finalized Thursday.

Upton's deal is the biggest free-agent contract of the offseason so far and the largest in Braves history.

Pettitte, meanwhile, will return for another season with the New York Yankees.

Feeling strong at age 40, the veteran lefty completed a one-year deal worth $12 million, putting baseball's biggest postseason winner back in the Bronx.

``I think we're good enough to go all the way, I really do,'' Pettitte said on a conference call. ``I'm at the point where, if I didn't feel like we had a chance to win it deep down, I wouldn't do this.''

The five-time World Series champion retired after the 2010 season to spend more time at home but then decided to come back this year - while working as an instructor during spring training - and signed a contract guaranteeing him $2.5 million.

Pettitte went 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts. He missed almost three months because of a broken lower left leg, sustained when he was hit by a line drive off the bat of Cleveland's Casey Kotchman on June 27.

``I definitely think that if I would have pitched a full season and thrown 200 innings, that I definitely wouldn't feel as fresh and physically feel as good as I do right now,'' Pettitte said. ``Obviously, I feel like that helped lead me to a quick decision.''

The move means the AL East champs are set to start 2013 with the same rotation as last season: CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova or David Phelps.

Next up for general manager Brian Cashman could be a contract for 43-year-old closer Mariano Rivera, determined to come back from a torn knee ligament.

Madson is making a comeback from Tommy John surgery, and he agreed to a $3.5 million, one-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels five days before the start of baseball's winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn. He can earn an additional $3.5 million in roster and performance bonuses.

The longtime Philadelphia reliever missed last season with Cincinnati, which signed him in January after a stellar performance in 2011 with the Phillies. He had surgery in April on a torn ligament in his right elbow.

Well ahead of schedule in his recovery, Madson said he expects to be the Angels' closer. General manager Jerry Dipoto agreed the veteran is likely to supplant Ernesto Frieri when fully healthy.

``I feel like if I can throw the ball like I'm capable of, I expect to have that role,'' Madson said. ``I expect to come to spring training and earn the job.''

Broxton isn't sure what role he'll have in Cincinnati after securing a $21 million, three-year contract that gives the NL Central champions a chance to reconfigure their starting rotation.

The two-time All-Star came to the Reds last July in a trade with Kansas City. He filled in as the closer when Aroldis Chapman developed a tired shoulder and had four saves in six chances overall with a 2.82 ERA.

Now the Reds have the option of turning Chapman into a starter, which was the plan last season until Madson blew out his elbow. The team has told Chapman to prepare for next season as a starter, although it hasn't committed to Broxton as the closer.

``Nothing's in stone right now,'' assistant general manager Bob Miller said. ``When we talked to Jonathan we said he was going to be at the back end of the bullpen. What happens depends on spring training and how things play out in the offseason.''

Broxton wanted a multiyear deal so he could settle in one place. He didn't insist on assurances he'd be a closer.

``I went into the offseason with an open mind,'' Broxton said. ``I've got experience in both roles. Even if Chapman doesn't work out as a starter, he can come back in and fill in as the closer. I'll be happy to throw the eighth (inning). It doesn't matter. You saw what he did last year.''

The 28-year-old Upton hit .246 with 78 RBIs for the Rays last season. He will replace free agent Michael Bourn as the Braves' center fielder and should provide much-needed power from the right side.

Upton's first full season with Tampa Bay was 2007, when he hit a career-best .300 with 24 homers and 22 stolen bases. His home run totals have increased in each of the last three seasons, but he has hit below .250 with more than 150 strikeouts in four straight years.

Bourn was the Braves' leadoff hitter, but Upton is not expected to fill that role.

Elsewhere, the Boston Red Sox made a flurry of minor moves, trading right-handers Zach Stewart and Sandy Rosario as well as third baseman Danny Valencia.

Stewart was sent to Pittsburgh and Rosario to Oakland for players to be named. Valencia was shipped to Baltimore for cash.

Boston also hired Greg Colbrunn as hitting coach.

Athletics reliever Pat Neshek agreed to a $975,000, one-year contract that avoided salary arbitration, while Kansas City traded right-hander Vin Mazzaro and first baseman Clint Robinson to the Pirates for minor league pitchers Luis Santos and Luis Rico.

The Chicago Cubs designated right-hander Casey Coleman for assignment to make roster room for newcomer Scott Feldman, who agreed to a $6 million, one-year contract the previous day.

Feldman's former team, the Texas Rangers, acquired right-hander Cory Burns from San Diego for a player to be named or cash.

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AP Sports Writers Charles Odum, Greg Beacham and Joe Kay contributed to this report.

Orioles rained out, will play Saturday day/night doubleheader

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Orioles rained out, will play Saturday day/night doubleheader

BALTIMORE – About 35 minutes before the scheduled start of Friday night’s game with the Oakland Athletics, the Oriole announced the game had been postponed. 

Friday’s game will be made up as part of a day/night doubleheader beginning at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday. The second game will begin at 7:05 p.m.

Mike Wright, who was originally scheduled to pitch Saturday night will start the first game against Rich Hill. Ubaldo Jimenez, who was listed as Friday night’s starter, will pitch in the second game against Jesse Hahn. 

This is the third rainout of the season for the Orioles, the second at home. 

With rain dominating talk, Orioles try to ignore it

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With rain dominating talk, Orioles try to ignore it

BALTIMORE – Hard rain fell through most of Friday, and as game time neared for the Orioles’ game with Oakland, the tarp covered the Oriole Park field. 

So far this season, the Orioles have had two rainouts, one at home, and one at Texas and delays totaling three hours, 12 minutes. 

Complicating matters, the Athletics are making their only scheduled trip to Baltimore. 

Manager Buck Showalter doesn’t want  to second guess the schedule makers.

““I try hard to not talk about things I’m not versed in. We all think we have a better way with the schedule. If you sat down with the people who did it, you’d probably understand a lot of the challenges they have. We’re not the only team. There are 29 others,” Showalter said. 

“I’ve seen the schedule come out and you request certain things in a perfect world. You don’t always get them. Trying to predict weather? What’s the saying? If you want to make God laugh tell him about your plans. Nobody really knows. What is it, April showers bring May flowers? I’m waiting for the flowers.”

Showalter wants as few distractions as possible for his players.

“I don’t like guys talking to our players about rain and scenarios and all that. They look at radar, but he have to approach the rest of the afternoon to get ready at 7 o’clock to play Oakland. If something else comes up, the powers that be, they have it wired. They do a good job of it,” Showalter said. 
 

Will Orioles go with 13-man pitching staff indefinitely?

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Will Orioles go with 13-man pitching staff indefinitely?

BALTIMORE – As the Orioles prepared to face the Oakland Athletics on Friday night, they were working with the same roster they had the night before. 

Since Apr. 25, the Orioles have had 13 pitchers and a three-man bench. 

At that time, Ryan Flaherty was sent to Norfolk. He was recalled when J.J. Hardy went on the disabled list, but the Orioles stayed with 13 pitchers because of uncertainty over Zach Britton’s ankle. 

Now that Britton is better, the Orioles could have been expected to make a move, but they haven’t. The major reason could be because Paul Janish, who the Orioles would like to have, is home with his wife, who had the couple’s third child, a baby girl, on Friday. 

“It may not be him. It may not be anybody if we and whoever decide to continue down this path with the 13-man [pitching staff]. It may not be anybody. I don’t want anybody to think there’s a firm commitment,” manager Buck Showalter said. 

In Thursday night’s game, Showalter used Nolan Reimold and Joey Rickard as pinch runners and had only Caleb Joseph on the bench.

“Last night, again was a challenge. We’ve been fortunate to overcome it. You’re always picking when to go for it and throw caution to the wind,” Showalter said. 

Norfolk didn’t place Janish on the paternity list in case the Orioles wanted to immediately activate him.