|Wednesday, January 22
Updated: March 13, 4:22 PM ET
Lieber is recovering from major elbow surgery
NEW YORK -- The pitching-rich New York Yankees once again have eight starting pitchers.
Injured right-hander Jon Lieber's $3.5 million, two-year contract was announced Friday by the team, which is counting on him to be part of its rotation for 2004.
Lieber, who turns 33 in April, had a ligament in his right elbow replaced in August, an operation that usually has a recovery time of about one year. The former All-Star has spent his major league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Cubs.
"He's tremendously excited about the opportunity to pitch in meaningful games every time out, hopefully all year and in the playoffs,'' said Lieber's agent, Rex Gary. "That was an important factor in the teams we were talking to.''
Lieber went 20-6 in 2001 for the Chicago Cubs and was selected for the NL All-Star team. He had a ligament in his right elbow replaced Aug. 7 after going 6-8 with a 3.70 earned-run average and three complete games in his fourth season with the Cubs.
Lieber could earn up to $16.75 million over three years -- if he comes back earlier than expected and is added to the active roster by the start of May. Lieber is throwing balls about 150 feet and could be pitching off a mound by next month.
"He's ahead of what anybody had hoped at this point in time,'' Gary said. "He's doing great. I'd say there's a good chance that he will be pitching this year.''
The deal, agreed to last week, calls for a $500,000 signing bonus, of which half is payable now and the rest in January 2004. He gets the $300,000 minimum this year, and the chance to earn $750,000 in bonuses based on roster time.
Lieber gets a $2.45 million salary in 2004 and the chance to earn $4.75 million in bonuses based on starts and innings. New York has an $8 million option for 2005 with a $250,000 buyout.
"One of the ideas behind this deal was that for John to know where he's going to be for, hopefully, three years,'' Gary said. "So there's no need to rush back.''
New York manager Joe Torre already is wondering how to handle seven starting pitchers: Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, David Wells, Jeff Weaver, Jose Contreras and Sterling Hitchcock. Clemens, Wells, Pettitte and Hitchcock are eligible for free agency after the season, and Clemens and Wells could retire.
With the signing, New York's payroll for 2003 increased to $149.2 million for 23 players likely to be on the Opening Day roster or disabled list. In addition, second baseman Alfonso Soriano is likely to get a raise from his $630,000 salary last year.
Lieber's 2003 bonus package includes $250,000 for 30 days on the active roster, $150,000 each for 60 and 90 days, and $100,000 each for 120 and 150 days.
The following year, Lieber would get $250,000 for five starts, $325,000 more for 10, $375,000 for 17, $425,000 for 20, and $500,000 each for 24 and 28. He also would get $250,000 for 100 innings, $325,000 more for 120, $375,000 for 140, $425,000 for 160, and $500,000 each for 180 and 200.