Former Oriole gets one-year deal
Hentgen, a 35-year-old right-hander entering his 14th major-league season, spent the past three seasons with Baltimore. He became a free agent this fall when the Orioles declined a $4 million option for 2004. He earned $1.2 million in 2003.
The Blue Jays made another move to bolster their starting rotation Tuesday, acquiring left-hander Ted Lilly from Oakland for outfielder Bobby Kielty. The Athletics also got cash or a player to be named.
"It's not a top prospect," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said.
Hentgen spent his first nine seasons in the majors with the Blue Jays before being traded in 1999. He went 7-8 with a 4.09 ERA with Baltimore last season, but was 6-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 13 starts after the All-Star break working exclusively in the starting rotation. Before the break, Hentgen was 1-5 with a 5.25 ERA in 15 appearances (nine starts).
"Pat's pitched in a lot of places where he hasn't had much run support. We want him in a place where he's not always dragging a 1-0 lead into the ninth," Bob LaMonte, Hentgen's agent, told ESPN Insider's Jerry Crasnick last week. "That wears on you after a while."
Hentgen said he had more life on the ball in the second half because he recovered from the ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow in 2001.
Hentgen admitted he had doubts that he could pitch in the majors again, especially in September 2002, when the location and the sharpness of his pitches was lacking.
"I thought it was good as it was going to get," Hentgen said. "I just kept telling myself, 'Be patient, it's only been 13 months.' It's a very successful surgery, but the downside is it takes a year-and-a-half minimum."
Ricciardi views Hentgen as a fourth or fifth starter.
"We watched him pretty closely the last two months of the season," Ricciardi said. "He just looked like he was healthy again."
Ricciardi is moving quickly this offseason, trying to round out the rotation behind ace Roy Halladay.
Lilly went 12-10 with a 4.34 ERA and 147 strikeouts as Oakland's fourth starter last season.
"It think he's probably a No. 3 starter. We don't have a clear-cut No. 2," said Ricciardi, who expects the arbitration eligible Lilly to earn around $2 million next season.
The Blue Jays also have made a $10 million, two-year offer to free agent Kelvim Escobar.
"We still have a spot for Escobar if he wants to take it. We feel we'll have a real good staff with Escobar, Halladay, Hentgen, Lilly and probably Josh Towers as the fifth guy," Ricciardi said.
Ricciardi also hopes to sign Halladay to a long-term deal by spring training. Hentgen was one of the first to congratulate Halladay when Halladay won the AL Cy Young Award this month.
Hentgen won the Cy Young with the Blue Jays in 1996, when he went 20-10 with a 3.22 ERA. He was drafted by Toronto in 1986.
After the '99 season, he was dealt to St. Louis, a move that soured him on the Blue Jays. The team's ownership and management have changed since.
"Obviously, I was disappointed when I got traded," said Hentgen, who wasn't a favorite of former Toronto manager Jim Fregosi. "Everyone knows the regime is completely gone and different. I didn't really expect there would be interest, I didn't know, I was hoping."
The Detroit native signed with Toronto because he wanted to be close to his home. He also owns a home near Toronto's spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla.
"I started in Toronto. I'm comfortable there," he said. "It has a lot of advantages for my family."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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