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Rock on

Colorado inks Neagle to 5-year, $51.5 million deal

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Posted: Monday December 04, 2000 1:08 PM
Updated: Tuesday December 05, 2000 5:43 PM

  Denny Neagle Denny Neagle has compiled a 76-39 record and 3.69 ERA over the past five seasons. Ezra Shaw/Allsport

DENVER (AP) -- After Darryl Kile's problems at Coors Field in 1998-99, some doubted the Colorado Rockies would be able to sign another high-profile starting pitcher.

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."

Highest Pitcher's Salaries
Baseball contracts for pitchers with average annual values of $8.5 million or more:
Player, Club  Years  Salary 
*Roger Clemens, NYY  2001-02  $15,450,000  
Kevin Brown, LA  1999-05  $15,000 000  
Mike Mussina, NYY  2001-06  $14,750 000  
Randy Johnson, ARI  1999-02  $13,100,000  
Pedro Martinez, BOS  1998-03  $12,500,000  
Greg Maddux, ATL  1998-02  $11,500,000  
Denny Neagle, COL  2001-05  $10,300,000  
Chuck Finley, CLE  2000-02  $9,000,000  
Brad Radke, MIN  2001-04  $9,000,000  
Tom Glavine, ATL  1998-01  $8,500,000  
Andy Pettitte, NYY  2000-02  $8,500,000  
*Note: The Yankees value Clemens' contract as a three-year deal averaging $10.3 million.

Figures were obtained by The Associated Press from player and management sources and include all guaranteed income but not income from potential incentive bonuses.

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's contract gives him the seventh-highest average salary among pitchers, trailing only Roger Clemens, Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux.

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 also received offers from the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets. The Yankees, who acquired him from Cincinnati during the All-Star break, made no offer to re-sign him.

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.

Neagle joins fellow lefties Brian Bohanon and Ron Villone and right-hander Pedro Astacio in the Rockies' rotation.

Co-owner Jerry McMorris said the club has the financial means to sign both Neagle and Hampton.

The team also is negotiating with some of the lesser names on the free-agent market, including outfielders Ron Gant and Reggie Sanders.

Related information
Stories's Free-Agent Watch
Report: Neagle set to accept deal with Rockies
Denny Neagle isn't afraid to pitch in Coors. (230 K)
Neagle thinks he may retire as a member of the Rockies. (285 K)
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