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Ryan an option as Indians decide on closer

CLEVELAND -- Free agent B.J. Ryan visited with the Cleveland
Indians, who could turn to the star closer if they decide not to
re-sign Bob Wickman -- the anchor of the majors' best bullpen in
2005.

The Indians did their best Tuesday to make former Orioles
pitcher feel wanted. The club put a photograph of him wearing a
Cleveland cap on the jumbo scoreboard at Jacobs Field, and the
ballpark's other scoreboards said: `"Welcome to Cleveland B.J. and
Candi Ryan.''

The club confirmed that Ryan and his wife were in town to meet
general manager Mark Shapiro, who had dinner with the couple Monday
night.

"It was a great opportunity for us to get to know B.J. and for
him and his wife to get to know the city and our staff," said
Shapiro, who would not comment on negotiations.

In his first full season closing games for Baltimore, Ryan had
36 saves. The left-hander went 1-4 with a 2.43 ERA, striking out
100 in 70 1-3 innings. He has appeared in at least 61 games since
2001.

Ryan, who will turn 30 on Dec. 28, made his first All-Star team
and was the best thing about a Baltimore bullpen that contributed
to the club's 74-88 record and fourth-place finish in the AL East.

Along with Wickman and Billy Wagner, Ryan is one of the premier
closers in this year's free-agent class. He visited the Toronto
Blue Jays last week, and New York Yankees bench coach Lee Mazzilli,
who managed Ryan last season before being fired, said he would like
to speak with the lefty. The Yankees, though, would use Ryan in a
setup role for Mariano Rivera.

If he signs with Cleveland, Ryan would take over closing duties
for Wickman, who had a career-high 45 saves -- the second most in
club history -- last season. Wickman has filed for free agency, but
it remains to be seen how much interest there will be for the
36-year-old pitcher.

Although his efforts were not always eye-pleasing, Wickman was
effective last season as Cleveland's bullpen posted a 2.80 ERA --
the lowest by any AL team since the 1992 Milwaukee Brewers.

Before fading in the final week, the Indians were in the AL
playoff hunt. They won just one of their final seven games and
finished 93-69 -- six behind the World Series champion Chicago White
Sox.

The Indians have several other free agent pitchers who could be
elsewhere in 2006. Starters Kevin Millwood and Scott Elarton and
setup man Bobby Howry are all testing the market to gauge their
value.

The club is expected to offer arbitration to Millwood and Howry
on Dec. 7. In doing so, Cleveland ensures itself draft-pick
compensation if the pitchers sign with other teams.