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DH to rejoin Seattle for 18th season

SEATTLE -- Designated hitter Edgar Martinez, one of the
biggest stars ever to grace the Seattle sports scene, will rejoin
the Mariners for the 2004 season, his 18th in the majors.

Martinez, who turns 41 in January, agreed Tuesday to a $3
million, one-year contract with the Seattle Mariners, a deal that
allows him to earn an additional $4 million based on plate
appearances.

It's unclear if Martinez's 18th major league season will be the
last for the designated hitter.

"I'm not going to talk about that," he said, laughing. "This
last year, we've had a lot to say about that. It's something I'm
going to try to avoid this year. I'm going to play, play to help
the team win and have some fun."

The two-time AL batting champion had a $4 million base salary
this year and earned $3.5 million in performance bonuses. He faced
a Sunday deadline to file for free agency.

But Martinez wants to finish his career with the Mariners, the
only organization he's played for.

"I'm very glad everything worked out and I'm coming back for
another year," he said. "I think if we didn't reach an agreement,
the chances that I'd stay home were a lot greater than I'd play for
another team."

Martinez has several franchise records, including career batting
average (.315), games (1,914), hits (2,119), extra-base hits (803),
doubles (491), RBIs (1,198), walks (1,225) and runs (1,174).

He was selected to his seventh AL All-Star team last season and
won his fourth Silver Slugger award after hitting .294 with 24
homers, 98 RBIs and 25 doubles in 145 games.

Martinez feels healthy enough to keep going. He started working
out one week after the Mariners finished with 93 wins, missing the
playoffs for the second straight year.

"I feel I'm in good shape and ready to go again. I'm very
excited," he said.

Assistant general manager Lee Pelekoudas, who negotiated the
deal, said the interest in having Martinez back was mutual. Age was
a concern, but the Mariners still believe in the venerable slugger.

"Number one was performance," Pelekoudas said. "He still
contributes on the field and in the clubhouse. He has the respect
of not only the Latin players but all the players on our club and
throughout baseball."

Martinez played the closing months last season with a broken big
toe on his left foot. Though he hobbled down the base paths, his
on-base percentage of .406 ranked fourth in the AL.

With Gary Payton traded out of town by the NBA's Seattle
SuperSonics last spring, there's no other athlete with a popularity
or presence in Seattle as large as Martinez, one more reason the
Mariners wanted him back.

"He's up there with the Kirby Pucketts, Tony Gwynns and the
like," Pelekoudas said.

Martinez said another factor in his decision was watching the
playoffs on television instead of suiting up. He believes the
organization is committed to making another run at the postseason.

He described his unfulfilled World Series ambitions and recalled
the frenzy from 1995, when his two-RBI double in the 11th inning of
Game 5 eliminated the Yankees in the ALDS at the Kingdome.

"I want to have a taste of that again," Martinez said.