Mariners sign closer Fields from Georgia

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Seattle Mariners signed top draft choice Josh Fields to a contract with a $1.75 million signing bonus on Monday, ending an eight-month impasse in negotiations with the 20th pick in last summer's draft.

The right-hander closer will be on the field for workouts with the Mariners as an invited minor league player on Tuesday morning.

"I'm just excited to get it going," Fields said Monday. "I feel like a burden's been lifted."

A person close to the negotiations confirmed the signing bonus, which was an equal compromise between the team and agents for the 23-year-old from the University of Georgia. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Mariners did not disclose the figure, per club policy.

Seattle had been offering $1.5 million for months to Fields, who would have gone back into the draft pool had he not signed before the next draft starts on June 9. Fields' representatives, led by agent Scott Boras, were stuck on $2 million.

"It was twofold: Our desire to get him into camp. And his desire to get going," said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, who inherited the holdout in November when he was hired.

Plus, Zduriencik joked, "The meal money's really good here."

Fields, who has a powerful fastball and menacing curveball, had 18 saves, a 3.38 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings last season for Georgia. But he hasn't pitched in a game since last June, when the Bulldogs were in the College World Series.

That is one of the reasons the Mariners are inviting Fields to their major league camp, to get about three weeks of work in before his minor league colleagues start spring training.

Zduriencik said that even though Seattle is without a closer since trading J.J. Putz to the Mets, it is "extremely unlikely" Fields will be in the mix to take that job in Seattle before the season begins.

"He knows this," Zduriencik said. "We've got to get him in the minor leagues and get him some innings."

Tyler Walker, a former closer with the San Francisco Giants, and former Toronto closer Miguel Batista are among those vying to close out Seattle's games in 2009.