BALTIMORE -- First baseman Kevin Millar agreed to a $2.1
million, one-year contract Thursday with the Baltimore Orioles, who
hope the former Boston Red Sox star can provide leadership and some
punch in the lineup.
"I see him playing a lot of first base, designated hitter and
in the outfield," Orioles first-year manager Sam Perlozzo said.
"We get a guy with playoff experience, someone who was part of a
World Series team. We can use that kind of player in our clubhouse.
It gives us a little chemistry."
The 34-year-old Millar, who can make an additional $2.6 million
in performance bonuses, hit .276 with 25 home runs and 96 RBI with
the Red Sox in 2003. It was during that season that he coined the
phrase, "Cowboy Up!" -- which became Boston's battle cry in
September and into the playoffs.
Millar also fell in love with the with the intense competition
of the AL East, and the opportunity to stay in the division made
Baltimore his first choice among the teams that tried to sign him.
"This division is where you want to be as a baseball player.
There's nothing like it," Millar said. "It's like 162 playoff
Millar batted .297 with 18 homers and 74 RBI for the World
Series champions in 2004, but his production dropped last year,
when he hit .272 with nine homers and 50 RBI. He did, however,
remain a leader in the Boston clubhouse, and he hopes to do the
same in Baltimore.
"I like people. I like my teammates. I can't stand cliques,"
Millar said. "I'm not a very good player, but I will bring a
presence [where] there's not many cliques. If there's an
intangible, I bring that intangible."
"Kevin will be missed," Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield said.
"He was the guy that always kept things light and humorous and
funny. Baltimore is getting a pretty good hitter and a great
teammate, a guy that makes things fun."
Most of all, the Orioles want Millar's right-handed swing to
bolster a lineup that struggled to score in 2005.
"It's certainly a piece that helps us along the way," Perlozzo
said. "We're starting to fill some holes."
Millar is a career .289 batter over 932 games and exactly 3,000
at-bats. He has 111 homers and 471 RBI.
In six full major league seasons, he has averaged 17 home runs
and 67 RBI. He is a career .302 hitter with runners in scoring
position, and has a career on-base percentage of .365. He hopes to
see a return to those sorts of numbers in 2006.
"I expect myself to have a way better year, statistically,"
Millar said. "I think Fenway, to an extent, got me pull-happy. I
started trying to pull every solitary pitch possible."
Primarily a first baseman during his three years in Boston -- he
made 102 starts at first base last year, with 12 starts each in
left and right field -- Millar has played 425 games at first and 352
in the outfield. He also has appeared in 28 games at third base.
Orioles executive vice president Mike Flanagan conceded that
Millar and Jeff Conine -- also signed by Baltimore this offseason --
are similar players, but he said their presence would improve a
clubhouse that became tense and fractious in the second half of
2005, when Rafael Palmeiro was suspended for using steroids and the
team plummeted in the standings.
"It was an extroverted ballclub that became just the opposite
the second half of the season, so it's been a conscious effort to
make sure we can try to maintain that energy," Flanagan said.