Worrell receives two-year contract

Updated: December 9, 2003, 5:14 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Phillies had trouble finding a closer last season. Now they have two relievers who can finish games.

Former San Francisco Giants closer Tim Worrell on Tuesday agreed to a $5.5 million, two-year contract with the Phillies.

Worrell, 36, was 4-4 with a 2.87 ERA and 38 saves in 45 chances for the NL West champion Giants last year. He took over as San Francisco's closer after three-time All-Star Robb Nen had season-ending shoulder surgery in May.

Tim Worrell
Relief pitcher
Philadelphia Phillies
76 78.1 38 28 65 2.87

Worrell will earn $2.75 million in each of the next two seasons and has the chance to make more in performance bonuses.

The right-hander will return to a setup role in Philadelphia. The Phillies acquired closer Billy Wagner, a three-time All-Star, from Houston last month.

"Tim is the ideal setup man for us," Phillies general manager Ed Wade said. "It's nice to be in a position where the two new bullpen pieces [Worrell and Wagner] combined a year ago for 82 saves."

Despite having success as a closer, Worrell doesn't mind being a setup guy again.

"I said this all along and at the beginning of last year, it's no different setting up. You have to get three outs," Worrell said.

Jose Mesa, the Phillies' all-time leader with 111 saves, struggled last season, lost his job twice and manager Larry Bowa ended up going with a closer-by-committee. Mesa, who finished 5-7 with a 6.52 ERA and 24 saves in 28 chances, wasn't offered arbitration.

It's been another busy offseason for the suddenly free-spending Phillies. Philadelphia got former All-Star left-hander Eric Milton in a trade with Minnesota last week, and is hoping to re-sign right-hander Kevin Millwood for the 2004 season.

The Phillies offered arbitration to Millwood on Sunday, and he told The Philadelphia Inquirer in its Tuesday editions that it's "likely" he'll accept the offer. Millwood has until Dec. 19 to make his decision.

Last year, the Phillies signed free agents Jim Thome ($85 million over six years) and David Bell ($17 million over four years). They're moving into a new ballpark in April and expect to generate more revenue.

Worrell spent three seasons in San Francisco, compiling a 14-11 record with a 2.87 ERA and 38 saves. He is 39-49 with a 3.90 ERA and 45 saves in his 11-year career. Worrell has also played for San Diego, Detroit, Cleveland, Oakland, Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs.

In 17 career playoff games, including the 2002 World Series with the Giants, Worrell is 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA.

Worrell struggled early in his career, but has pitched well since going to the Cubs during the 2000 season. He has posted ERAs of 2.99, 3.45, 2.25 and 2.87 in the last four seasons.

The Phillies' revamped bullpen now includes Wagner, Worrell and left-hander Rheal Cormier, who is coming off a career year. Left-hander Dan Plesac is expected to return after getting an arbitration offer.

"Adding two experienced veteran relievers, with the statistics they bring and their experience in playoff competition, should help our ballclub get to the next level," Bowa said.

Philadelphia won 86 games last season, finishing third in the NL East. The Phillies had a half-game lead over eventual World Series winner Florida in the wild-card race with eight games remaining, but lost six straight.

Worrell will wear No. 38 instead of the No. 45 he had worn. Former Phillies reliever Tug McGraw, now battling brain cancer, wore No. 45 when he pitched in Philadelphia.

"Out of respect for Tug and the support the organization and the fans have given him, Tim was more than happy to surrender the number and go with 38," Wade said.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press