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2003 Cy Young runner-up made $4M in '04

WASHINGTON -- Free agent pitcher Esteban Loaiza joined the
Washington Nationals on Wednesday, agreeing to a $2.9 million, one-year deal.

The Nationals also added a reliever, agreeing to a $800,000,
one-year contract with Antonio Osuna.

Loaiza went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA and a league-leading 207
strikeouts for the Chicago White Sox in 2003, was the AL starter in
the All-Star Game and finished second in Cy Young Award voting
behind Toronto's Roy Halladay.

He struggled with his velocity last year, going 9-5 with a 4.86
ERA for the White Sox, then was traded to the New York Yankees and
went 1-2 with an 8.50 ERA in 10 regular-season games. He quickly
lost his spot in the starting rotation and needed seven tries to
get his 100th win -- beating Halladay on Sept. 21.

Loaiza is 100-89 in his career with a 4.70 ERA over 10 seasons with Pittsburgh, Texas, Toronto, Chicago and New York. He made $4,015,000 last year.

Pitching has been a top priority for Nationals interim general
manager Jim Bowden, but the team's limited budget has made it
difficult to improve a staff that was 12th in the NL in ERA last
year. Loaiza joins a starting rotation that includes Livan Hernandez, Tomo Ohka and Tony Armas Jr.

"Of course, he's a gamble," Bowden said. "Obviously, if he
was coming off the year he had a year ago, we couldn't afford him."

Bowden likes Loaiza's durability -- he pitched 150-plus innings
in each of the last five seasons while averaging 29 starts. He also
pitched well out of the bullpen for the Yankees in the playoffs,
posting a 1.08 ERA in three games.

"He's had a history, although inconsistent, of success in his
career," Bowden said.

Before announcing the deal, the Nationals had Loaiza undergo a
precautionary MRI exam on his pitching shoulder and elbow to ensure
that his struggles last season weren't injury-related. The results
were negative.

The deal also includes an option for a second year that either
the Nationals or Loaiza can negate.

Osuna is 36-29 with 21 saves and a 3.50 ERA over 10 seasons with
Los Angeles, the White Sox, Yankees and San Diego.
He was 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA last year for the Padres. His best
seasons came with the Dodgers in 1998 (7-1, 3.06 ERA) and with the
White Sox in 2002 (8-2, 3.86 ERA, 11 saves).

To make room on the roster for Loaiza and Osuna, the Nationals
designated right-handed pitcher Sun-woo Kim and outfielder Brandon Watson for assignment.