A's reward Ellis with new two-year contract

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Oakland Athletics signed Mark Ellis
to a two-year, $6 million contract Saturday, rewarding their second
baseman for his strong comeback season last year from a major shoulder injury.

The A's avoided salary arbitration by reaching a deal with
Ellis, who bounced back from a year off to bat a career-high .316
with a career-best 13 home runs and 52 RBI. General manager Billy
Beane had been leaning toward a one-year contract for Ellis, but
the sides began talking about a multiyear deal on Friday and
quickly reached an agreement.

"I was almost positive it would be a one-year deal, so I was a
little surprised yesterday," Ellis said Saturday while attending
the team's Fan Fast festivities at the Coliseum. "I'm happy."

Ellis, expected to be Oakland's leadoff hitter after having
success there last season, will earn $2.25 million this season and
$3.5 million in 2007. The deal includes a $5 million club option
for 2008 with a $250,000 buyout.

The A's were unimpressed when they saw Ellis during the 2004
fall instructional league, but he was a new player by spring
training last year.

"After instructional league, he seemed so far away from being
able to compete in a major league game," Beane said. "What a
special kid. What a comeback he had last year. No one deserves this

The 28-year-old Ellis didn't play for more than a week during
one May stretch last season, and he believed he should have been on
the field. In time, he worked his way back into the lineup. He
wound up leading the team in hitting, slugging percentage, on-base
percentage and his five triples also were a team-high.

"Ellis did such a great job leading off last year, he's
probably going to be the first to give it a try," manager Ken
Macha said.

For Ellis, last season was a resurgence to celebrate after
missing all of 2004 with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He
came back ready last spring training, though Beane signed Keith Ginter as insurance in case Ellis struggled to get going again or wasn't completely recovered.

"I had to prove a lot last year and I was able to do that,"
Ellis said. "Having this deal shows the organization has a lot of
confidence in me, and I appreciate that."

He got hurt during a collision with shortstop Bobby Crosby in a
2004 spring training game against the Chicago Cubs. Now, Ellis
doesn't even think about his shoulder -- he quit doing that after
making his first few diving stops last year.

"I was sure I'd be OK," Ellis said. "I'm looking forward to
not having to answer questions about the shoulder anymore."

His 28 career homers are the second-most by someone from South
Dakota and it shouldn't take him long to pass Dave Collins' mark of

Ellis was the last of Oakland's arbitration-eligible players to

Beane is already facing questions about ace Barry Zito's future
with the club. The left-hander's contract is up after the 2006

"I'm sure we'll have some sort of conversation," Beane said.
"That's going to be a challenge, even if we start negotiations.
He's a talented guy who is going to command a lot."