Appier, Vina agree to minor league contracts

Updated: January 9, 2006, 10:49 PM ET
Associated Press

Kevin Appier and Fernando Vina, who haven't played since 2004, agreed Monday to minor league contracts with the Seattle Mariners.

Appier, a 38-year-old right-hander, has not pitched in a regular-season game since throwing one inning on April 23, 2004, for the Kansas City Royals against Minnesota. He has pitched in only two regular-season games and four innings in the last 29 months.

The 16-year veteran, who has a 169-137 career record, had surgery in September 2003, to repair the flexor tendon in his right elbow. He attempted a comeback in 2004, but was 0-1 in two starts before going back on the disabled list April 24 for the rest of that season.

He tried a second comeback in 2005 when he signed a minor league contract with the Royals, the team for which he pitched from 1989-99. But after going 0-1 with an 8.71 ERA in 10 1/3 innings over five spring-training games, Kansas City asked him to accept to a Triple-A assignment to begin the season.

He refused.

"I could pitch in the big leagues with this stuff, but it's not worth it to go down and hope somebody would want me," Appier said then, thinking he may retire.

He waited for a call from another team. None came -- until now.

Even after signing free-agent starter Jarrod Washburn to a $37.5 million, four-year contract and re-signing 43-year-old Jamie Moyer for $5.5 million over one year, Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi said last month he still wanted another veteran starter. Then the Mariners let go of Ryan Franklin, who signed with Philadelphia.

Vina, a 36-year-old middle infielder who made his major league debut with Seattle in 1993, also missed all of last season. The Detroit Tigers placed him on the DL on March 15 with a strained right hamstring and patellar tendinitis in his left knee. Injuries limited Vina to 29 games with Detroit in 2004, when he hit .226.

"Kevin and Fernando are both veteran major league players that we can bring to camp for some extra depth on our team," Bavasi said. "They have both had health challenges but, if healthy, they will be valuable players for our younger guys to compete against and learn from."

In other transactions Monday:

• Outfielder Bobby Kielty agreed to a $1.85 million, one-year contract with the Oakland Athletics, avoiding salary arbitration.

Kielty, who has spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues, struggled in his first season with the A's in 2004 and appeared in only 83 games. He changed his mental approach last season and bounced back with a strong year.

Kielty's new deal includes $50,000 in incentives based on plate appearances. He had a base salary of $875,000 last year, but it was bumped to $925,000 with incentives.

"I'm very happy with it. It's a fair deal for both sides," Kielty said in a phone interview from Canyon Lake, Calif. "It basically happened in a day."

• Free agent outfielder Michael Tucker agreed to a one-year contract with the Washington Nationals, who also gave a $2.2 million, two-year contract with reliever Luis Ayala.

Tucker, a career .257 hitter in 11 seasons, was traded late last season from the Giants to the Phillies and wound up with a combined .239 average with five homers and 36 RBI in 268 at-bats.

Ayala, who had been eligible for arbitration, is 24-22 with a 2.75 ERA in three seasons with the Expos/Nationals. He gets $900,000 this year and $1.3 million next year.

• The Milwaukee Brewers designated infielder Russell Branyan for assignment, making room for new third baseman Corey Koskie.

Branyan played 85 games for the Brewers last season, hitting .257 with 12 home runs and 31 RBI. Milwaukee has 10 days to trade, release or send him outright to the minors.

The Brewers acquired Koskie in a trade last week with the Toronto Blue Jays.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press