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Orioles Make Izturis Their New Shortstop

Associated Press
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Baltimore Orioles filled their hole at shortstop yesterday, agreeing to a two-year, $5 million contract with free agent César Izturis.

The 28-year-old Izturis batted .263 in 135 games with the St. Louis Cardinals this year. He ranked third in the NL with a .980 fielding percentage.

"This is a good opportunity to play every day," Izturis said. "I think they needed a defensive shortstop. I just want to help the team win; it will be fun."

Izturis won the 2004 Gold Glove for the Los Angeles Dodgers and was an all-star the following year. He fills the void at shortstop left by the trade in 2007 that sent Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros. The Orioles employed six players at the position last season, including Freddie Bynum, Juan Castro and Alex Cintrón.

A switch hitter, Izturis batted .290 right-handed and .245 left-handed in 2008. He also led the Cardinals with 24 stolen bases.

· BRAVES: Shortstop Rafael Furcal is close to accepting a three-year, $30 million offer to return to Atlanta.

The 31-year-old began his major league career with Atlanta, playing for the Braves from 2000 to '05. He spent the last three seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

His deal would contain an option for 2012 that could become guaranteed.

Furcal hit .357 last season with five homers and 16 RBI but had back surgery July 3 and was limited to 36 games and 143 at-bats.

After hitting .300 with 15 homers, 63 RBI and 37 stolen bases in his first year with the Dodgers, Furcal had ankle and back injuries the last two seasons.

· PHILLIES: Outfielder Raúl Ibáñez and Philadelphia have finalized a three-year, $31.5 million contract.

The deal, agreed to on Friday, was subject to a physical and was announced yesterday. Ibáñez will take over in left from Pat Burrell, who became a free agent.

The 36-year-old Ibáñez hit .293 last season with 43 doubles, 23 home runs and 110 RBI with the Seattle Mariners.

· CUBS: Joey Gathright and Chicago agreed to a one-year, $800,000 contract three days after the outfielder became a free agent when Kansas City failed to offer a deal for 2009.

Gathright, primarily a center fielder, has played five seasons in the majors with Tampa Bay and Kansas City, batting .263 in 399 games. He stole 21 bases in 25 chances last season for the Royals and had 15 bunt hits while batting .254.

· ROYALS: Left-hander John Bale agreed to a one-year contract. Bale was 0-3 with a 4.39 ERA in 2008, appearing in just 13 games while struggling with injuries -- one of them self-inflicted.

While on the disabled list in May with shoulder tightness, Bale broke his pitching hand by punching a hotel room door. He apologized to Kansas City fans but the reason for his anger remains unknown.

· BREWERS: Left-hander Chris Capuano stayed with Milwaukee, agreeing to a minor league contract after the team let him go last week.

Capuano missed last season after injuring his pitching elbow in an exhibition game in March. The 30-year-old decided to try rehabilitation but later had a second elbow-ligament replacement surgery and never returned to play.

Capuano won 18 games in 2005 and made the NL all-star team in 2006. He started 5-0 in 2007 but lost his last 12 decisions.

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