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Lawton to begin season suspended for steroids

12/22/2005

SEATTLE -- Matt Lawton knew he had a limited market
following his suspension for using steroids.

The Seattle Mariners were willing to give him a chance, agreeing
Thursday to a $400,000, one-year contract.

"When somebody first brings the name up, there are a lot of
reservations," Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said. "As with
every player you look into everything very closely, and we're
satisfied it's a one-time deal."

The commissioner's office announced Nov. 2 that Lawton tested
positive for steroids, a substance identified as boldenone, which
is used by veterinarians.

"The only embarrassment for me was having to tell my family how
everything went down," Lawton said. "It taught me a lesson, and
I'm very fortunate for the opportunity the Mariners have give me."

Lawton said he took the steroids with about eight games left in
the season and thought he would not be caught.

"What's the chances?" Lawton said. "Everything happens for a
reason."

Because he tested positive under the 2005 program, Lawton will
miss the first 10 days of next season instead of 50 games, the
penalty called for under the toughened agreement players and owners
adopted under pressure from politicians.

The left-handed-hitting Lawton batted a combined .254 last
season with 13 homers and 53 RBI in 141 games for Pittsburgh, the
Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees. He was terrible at the end of
the season, going 6-for-48 (.125) for the Yankees with two homers
and four RBI. New York did not include him on its playoff roster.

The 34-year-old, who received a limited no-trade clause, can
earn an additional $1.25 million in performance bonuses based on
plate appearances and would get the full amount if he has 600. He
earned $7.5 million last season, completing a $27 million,
four-year contract he agreed to with Cleveland in December 2001.

Lawton had a list of eight teams he was willing to play for and
only two of the eight said they weren't interested, new agent Kevin
Kohler said.

"From our point of view, the issue isn't just a player did
this," Bavasi said. "It's their reaction, and what they did
leading up to it and how they handled it afterward."

Lawton is a career .267 hitter with 138 homers. He was an
All-Star in 2000 with Minnesota and 2004 with Cleveland. He made
his major league debut with Minnesota in 1995 and remained with the
Twins until the 2001 season, when he was traded to the New York
Mets. He also played two seasons in Cleveland.

Bavasi expects Lawton to mostly provide bench depth, but his
addition could create some competition in the outfield. Seattle is
set with Ichiro Suzuki in right, and Raul Ibanez and recently
signed Carl Everett sharing time in left. Jeremy Reed is expected
to start in center, although his name has been mentioned in trade
rumors.

"It probably does signal the idea that a young player on this
club doesn't have a birthright to a spot on the club," Bavasi
said.

Earlier in the week Seattle let go pitcher Ryan Franklin and
outfielder Jamal Strong, also among the 12 players who tested
positive for steroids this year.