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LaRoche, Grabow avoid arbitration, agree with Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- First baseman Adam LaRoche avoided a salary
arbitration hearing with his new club, agreeing Friday to a $3.2
million, one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Adam LaRoche LaRoche

Left-hander John Grabow, expected to play a bigger role in the
Pirates' bullpen with Mike Gonzalez gone, also bypassed arbitration and
agreed to a one-year contract for $832,500.

LaRoche, in his first year of arbitration eligibility, had
sought $3.7 million from his former club while the Braves offered
$2.8 million. LaRoche made $420,000 last season.

After both sides filed their figures last month, the Braves
dealt LaRoche to Pittsburgh for left-handed reliever Gonzalez
in a Jan. 17 deal that also included two minor leaguers.

The Pirates spent nearly two months pursuing a trade for the
27-year-old LaRoche, who hit .285 with 32 homers and 90 RBIs last
season.

Since dealing Brian Giles in 2003, the Pirates haven't had a
left-handed hitter with more than 17 home runs in a season -- even
though PNC Park's easy-to-reach right field porch is only 320 feet
down the foul line.

LaRoche is expected to hit fourth with Pittsburgh, between NL
batting champion Freddy Sanchez and NL All-Star outfielder Jason
Bay. LaRoche got most of his at-bats last season batting 7th (232
at-bats) or 5th (140 at-bats).

"Absolutely," LaRoche said when asked if he welcomes batting
cleanup. "I've batted fourth a little bit in Atlanta, fifth quite
a bit, and this past year it was a lot of 5, 6 or 7. I've even hit
second.

"I've said it 100 times, I'll hit anywhere you've got guys on
base. If the 6th and 7th guys are hot, I'll bat eighth," he said.

LaRoche can make an additional $125,000 in bonuses, collecting
$35,000 for 565 plate appearances, $45,000 for 590 plate
appearances and $45,000 for 625 plate appearances. He had 557 plate
appearances with Atlanta last season.

Grabow can make an additional $115,000 in performance bonuses.
He filed for $925,000, while the Pirates offered $765,000.

Grabow has pitched in 203 games the last three seasons, often in
late-inning situations to retire a left-handed batter or two. He
was 4-2 with a 4.13 ERA last season, pitching 69 2-3 innings in 72
games.

With Gonzalez now in Atlanta, Grabow and Damaso Marte will be
the primary left-handers in Pittsburgh's bullpen.

"I hated to see him [Gonzalez] go, but we've got a lot of depth
and when you've got a lot of depth you can trade," Grabow said.

Grabow can make $70,000 in bonuses based on games finished, with
$10,000 for 20 games finished, $15,000 for 25 games finished,
$20,000 for 30 games finished and $25,000 for 35 games finished.

Grabow can make an additional $45,000 based on appearances, with
$10,000 for 75 games, $15,000 for 80 games and $20,000 for 85
games.

The Pirates' only remaining arbitration-eligible players are
Sanchez and second baseman Jose Castillo, who will compete in
spring training with Jose Bautista for a starting job.