Hall of Famer signs personal services contract

Updated: February 25, 2004, 8:01 PM ET
Associated Press

Houston Astros: Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan returned to the Astros on Tuesday, signing a five-year personal services contract.

"I feel like it's a homecoming for me," said Ryan, who had worked for the Texas Rangers before his contract expired this month. "I still have friends here. That's unusual in the game today because of all the comings and goings, but I feel honored to a part of it. It's an exciting time for the Astros."

Astros owner Drayton McLane said Ryan will work in all phases of the organization, including on-field instruction.

"He pitched 27 years, and we might make it 28," McLane joked. "but really, we do have a rotation."

Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, both Houston-area residents, signed as free agents with the Astros during the offseason.

Ryan, the career strikeouts leader, will work with Astros manager Jimy Williams and Pam Gardner, the president of business operations. Ryan will go to spring training some time next month to meet with Williams and get acquainted with the team.

Ryan began negotiating with the Astros after his deal with the Texas Rangers expired earlier this month. He already is owner of the Astros' Double-A farm team in Round Rock.

He first joined the Astros after the 1979 season and helped them to division titles in 1980 and 1986. He departed unhappily after the 1988 season and signed with the Rangers at 41. Ryan went on to pitch two more no-hitters, giving him seven, and boost his strikeout total to 5,714 before retiring in 1993 at 46.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Raul Mondesi is guaranteed $1.75 million under his contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The outfielder, who signed Monday, will get $1.15 million this year. Pittsburgh holds an $8 million option for 2005 with a $600,000 buyout.

The 33-year-old Mondesi passed a physical Monday, and Pittsburgh finalized the deal.

He hit .272 with 24 homers, 71 RBIs and 22 steals in 143 games with the New York Yankees and Arizona last year.

Seattle Mariners: Seattle Mariners reliever Rafael Soriano will be sidelined for three to four weeks after an MRI exam Tuesday revealed a strained interior oblique muscle on his left side.

The 24-year-old right-hander was throwing off the mound Monday when he felt a pinch in his left abdomen. The injury occurred midway through workouts, and manager Bob Melvin immediately cut off Soriano's pitching for the day.

"Anytime you hear three weeks, it gets your attention," Melvin said. "The silver lining is that he has pitched deep into winter ball. It's not a starter we're going to have to stretch out."

Soriano said he felt sore Tuesday but predicted he could be ready to return within one week, if necessary. Melvin said team officials expect Soriano to be available in mid to late March.

"If we get him sometime in the early 20s in March, we'll have a couple weeks to get him ready, and that should be fine," Melvin said.

The Mariners open the regular season April 6 against visiting Anaheim.

Soriano, who throws in the upper 90s, was called up from the minors last season to work from the bullpen. He went 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA and was the AL's rookie of the month in August after going 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA in 12 appearances.

Mariners catcher Dan Wilson opened the season on the disabled list last year with a similar oblique injury that he sustained midway through spring training. Wilson was hurt while swinging a bat.

New York Yankees: Manager Joe Torre left the New York Yankees in the middle of their workout Tuesday after his father-in-law fell.

The Yankees said Ed Wolterman broke his wrist in the spill. Wolterman is staying in the Tampa area with Torre and his wife, Ali.

"He'll be here tomorrow," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said of Torre after the manager departed.

In other Yankees news, right-hander Jon Lieber will not throw off a mound for at least five to seven days because of an injured right groin.

Lieber first felt discomfort while throwing in the bullpen Saturday. The groin tightened up again eight minutes into a 12-minute mound session Monday.

"We want to be safe," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday.

Lieber, a former 20-game winner with the Chicago Cubs, is projected as the Yankees fifth starter. He was limited to three minor league starts last season following ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow in Aug. 2002.

"I don't want to push it," Lieber said. "I don't want to jeopardize things."

He played catch Tuesday on flat ground, but did not take part in running or fielding drills during the first full squad workout.

"If it takes two weeks, it takes two weeks," Lieber said. "I don't want any setbacks."

Lieber has been throwing off a mound since mid-December. He has not experienced arm problems.

INF Tyler Houston, who never reported to camp, was released from his minor league contract. Houston was among the potential candidates for third base before New York obtained Alex Rodriguez last week from Texas. ... RF Gary Sheffield called his first Yankees' workout a memorable one. "After you finish your career, these are the days you remember more than anything -- the first day you put on this uniform and run on the field with the guys," he said. ... Jason Giambi received an ovation from fans after hitting several long homers to right during batting practice.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press