Colorado inks Neagle to 5-year, $51.5 million deal
Updated: Tuesday December 05, 2000 5:43 PM
With the signing of free-agent left-hander Denny Neagle on Monday, however, the Rockies were so emboldened that they talked openly of pursuing another pitcher.
Neagle, who signed a five-year, $51.5 million contract that includes a team option for 2006, significantly bolsters the Rockies' rotation, which was the club's priority during free agency.
Two days before their initial talks with Neagle, the Rockies met with Mike Hampton, the top pitching prospect on the market. Colorado is among five finalists in the bidding for Hampton.
Without mentioning Hampton by name, Neagle said at a news conference that he hoped his signing would "pave the way for more pitchers on the free-agent market to come here."
Asked if he expects to be involved in helping recruit other pitchers, Neagle said, "That could start pretty soon here."
At which point general manager Dan O'Dowd interjected: "Absolutely." Then, with a laugh, O'Dowd added, "In fact, it's in his contract."
Neagle, 32, said he was drawn to the Rockies because of the opportunity to pitch in his hometown and because he senses the team's commitment to winning.
He also insisted he isn't intimidated by Coors Field, which has proved to be troublesome for most pitchers. Neagle, however, won three starts there while pitching for Atlanta in 1997-98.
Neagle and his agent, Barry Meister, was in serious negotiations with the Rockies since Thursday, when the left-hander and his wife, Jennifer, met with team officials at Coors Field.
Neagle's wife is a native of the Denver area, and a year ago the couple made their offseason home in the Denver foothills community of Morrison.
"I'm here because I want to be here," Neagle said. "I felt like it came down to a no-brainer for me. My wife is from this area. It's nice to be able to live and play in your hometown.
"But I also wanted to come to an organization where I knew we had a chance to win. Playing against this team the last couple of years, you could see what they were doing, putting together the right type of team."
He said he has learned to conquer Coors Field because of his mental toughness.
"I'm certainly not afraid to pitch in Coors Field," Neagle said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that this is not one of the better pitcher's parks, but I hope to change that perspective.
"There was a time when Coors Field was intimidating for me. You have to get over that mental factor. You can't come to this ballpark and think, 'Gosh, here we go, a Coors Field start.' It's the same thing when you pitch at Wrigley Field with the flags blowing straight out. You accept that. And if you get over that mentally, then the physical part follows. I think that's why I learned to pitch and be effective in this park."
Neagle is 76-39 with a 3.69 ERA the past five seasons, including 7-7 with a 5.81 ERA in 15 starts for the Yankees as they won their third straight World Series title.
Co-owner Jerry McMorris said the club has the financial means to sign both Neagle and Hampton.
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