- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

The Baltimore Orioles yesterday added another asset to the strongest facet of their team.
In agreeing to terms with Kerry Ligtenberg on a one-year contract, Baltimore got an established reliever who should round out its bullpen. The former Atlanta Braves pitcher figures to become the top right-handed setup man for closer Jorge Julio, opposite left-hander Buddy Groom.
"We're working on [bullpen depth]," Orioles executive vice president Jim Beattie said. "We want to get it as deep as we can."
Beattie declined further comment on Ligtenberg because the signing is pending the results of Ligtenberg's physical, which is scheduled Tuesday.
Ligtenberg will receive $1million in 2003, and the Orioles would have a $1.2million option for 2004 with a $200,000 buyout. The contract has incentive clauses for both seasons based on Ligtenberg's number of appearances. He earned $1.7million last season.
Ligtenberg, 31, has built a very solid record as a right-handed reliever. He had a 3.04 career ERA in five seasons with the Braves and stepped in as a closer in 1998, saving 30 games in 34 opportunities with a 2.71 ERA. He was the first rookie in 12 years to save 30 or more games.
The Orioles likely don't see him in that capacity, though, with Julio coming off a solid 2002 rookie season in which he saved 25 games in 31 opportunities. Should Julio struggle or suffer an injury, however, the insurance is there in Ligtenberg, who was an unproven second-year player though technically a rookie when he stepped in for Mark Wohlers in '98, and added 12 saves in 2000. Willis Roberts (75 innings, 3.36 ERA in 2002) was the Orioles' top right-handed setup man last season.
Ligtenberg missed the 1999 season after undergoing reconstructive surgery on his right elbow to repair a torn MCL. He returned to being a setup man in 2000, appearing in at least 52 games each of the last three campaigns, and has shown no setbacks from the injury. His season totals have been remarkably consistent: 52⅓ innings and a 3.61 ERA in 2000, 59⅔ and 3.02 in 2001, 66⅔ and 2.97 in 2002,
Meanwhile, the Orioles will submit arbitration figures to the league office for five players today pitchers B.J. Ryan and Sidney Ponson, utilityman Melvin Mora, second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. and outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. The Orioles likely will seek to reach agreements with their arbitration-eligible players on one-year contracts, though Beattie said the club will submit its offers and then revisit the possibility of offering multi-year deals to some players.
Arbitration hearings begin Feb.1.


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