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Twins' Radke retires after 12 seasons

MINNEAPOLIS -- Brad Radke could have made millions more as
a free agent in baseball's exploding market this winter.

His mind was made up, though, and the Minnesota Twins are losing
one of the franchise's most consistent pitchers -- and most
important players.

"There's not enough money in the world that's going to bring me
back," Radke said at a news conference Tuesday to officially
announce his retirement after a 12-year career in the majors, all
with Minnesota.

Though the 34-year-old right-hander left little doubt during
this past season that he would be calling it quits, it wasn't until
this summer when he realized his shoulder injury would keep him
from coming back.

Radke has pitched with a torn labrum for the last two years, and
a stress fracture in the joint added to the pain. Surgery would
have been required to continue, and he wasn't interested in a
lengthy rehabilitation.

"I just don't want to do it," Radke said. "I'm shot,
really."

His voice cracked several times, but a wide, persistent smile
overshadowed his watery eyes and he insisted he didn't want to see
anybody in the audience crying for him.

"No tears! I don't want to see any tears," he said.

Radke reached 20 wins once, in 1997, and his lone All-Star Game
appearance came in 1998. He finished 148-139 with a 4.22 ERA and
allowed a lot of home runs for someone who wasn't a power pitcher,
but his impact on the team went beyond simple statistics.

His decision to sign a contract extension in the summer of 2000
was the first clear step in a rebuilding process that began shortly
after the Twins won the 1991 World Series and didn't finish until
they made the playoffs again in 2002.

An easygoing guy whose control was among the best in baseball
(he tied for second in the majors in fewest walks per nine innings
in 2005), Radke always commanded attention despite his quiet nature
by the way he handled himself on the mound, in the clubhouse and in
the community.

"Being a teammate now, I like him even more," said rookie
reliever Pat Neshek, who grew up in the area and has followed
Radke's entire career.

He pitched more than 200 innings in nine seasons and is second
in team history with 377 starts, but his work this year was the
most memorable for Minnesota even though Johan Santana surpassed
him as the staff ace three seasons ago.

Radke was in so much pain down the stretch that he used his left
arm for simple around-the-house activities like pouring the milk
and brushing his teeth and eventually stopped throwing between
starts. After missing more than a month, Radke returned to the
mound on Sept. 28 to make what turned out to be his last
performance at the Metrodome -- an emotional night that concluded
with the normally stoic Radke tearing up in the clubhouse.

From June through September, with his team in need of stability
in the rotation, Radke went 8-3 with a 2.68 ERA in 17 starts. That
helped the Twins win their division for the fourth time in the last
five years, before being swept by the Oakland Athletics in the
first round of the playoffs.

"All you want is a guy to go out there and give you everything
he's got. I think Rad personified that over and over," said
manager Ron Gardenhire, who sat next to Radke at the podium along
with general manager Terry Ryan, his agent, Ron Simon, and team
president Dave St. Peter.

Said Radke: "If you don't play this game with your heart, you
shouldn't be playing. That's the way I went out every five days."

Eager to spend more time with his wife, Heather, and sons Kasey
(12) and Ryan (8), Radke was just as adamant about staying retired.

"When I make a decision, I make a decision," he said.

The Twins, who will enter 2007 with several concerns about their
rotation, certainly wouldn't mind if Radke was a little wishy-washy
on the subject.