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Saturday, August 3
Erstad, Angels agree to extension

Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Center fielder Darin Erstad and the Anaheim Angels agreed Saturday on a four-year contract extension worth $32 million.

Darin Erstad

"It happened very quickly,'' general manager Bill Stoneman said. "I sat down with Darin after the Saturday game up in Seattle and said, 'Hey, if you have an interest, we have an interest.' Our concerns are the same. We don't want it to become a distraction.''

The Angels have always operated with a policy to delay contract negotiations until the end of the season, and Stoneman said the club will continue that policy despite Erstad's situation.

"It's probably more an aberration,'' Stoneman said. "Usually, we wouldn't do this in the middle of a season -- especially in a season like we're having right now because it can be a distraction. But in this case we did it, and we're just delighted.''

The Angels entered Saturday tied with Boston for the AL wild-card slot, and were three games behind Seattle for the West Division lead.

Erstad is one of eight key players the organization has under contract at least through the 2004 season -- including third baseman Troy Glaus, left fielder Garret Anderson and right fielder Tim Salmon.

"Bill's the architect of the club, and he's certainly made an effort to step up and keep the core of this club together. Darin's a huge part of that,'' manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's the type of guy who's going to do anything to help the team win, and that's what our club feeds off of.''

Under Scioscia's even-tempered guidance, the Angels have emerged as one of baseball's top teams. And Erstad is determined to see how far they can go.

"We have a special group here,'' Erstad said. "I wasn't kidding when I said I wanted to play the rest of my career for Mike Scioscia. And that includes the coaches as well. It's just a real good fit. I had my mind set and I knew what I wanted to do. They made an offer, and I said OK.''

Erstad, 28, was the first overall pick in the June 1995 draft. He won a Gold Glove as the Angels' left fielder in 2000, the same season in which he led the majors with 240 hits and became the first leadoff batter in history to drive in at least 100 runs.

This year he is hitting .283 with seven homers, 54 RBI and 15 stolen bases. In his sixth full big league season, the two-time All-Star has a career average of .292 with 93 home runs and 449 RBI.

Erstad has committed just one error in his last 241 games. But he entered Saturday night's game in a 6-for-49 slump after hitting .191 in July. His home run last Monday against Boston was his first in a home game in more than a year.

"The Angels have been great to me, through the good and bad,'' said Erstad, whose batting average dropped 97 points last season from .355 to .258. "I'm a loyal person, so I'm going to stick this thing out. I love what we've got going on here. They believe in me, and I don't want to go anywhere else.''

Erstad, who is making $6.25 million this season, could have tested the free agent market and possibly received a better offer. But money wasn't his primary concern.

"I don't care,'' he said. "I want to be here and I wanted to get it done so I don't have to answer questions about the next two months and can focus on getting to the playoffs. It's just hard to believe that somebody would give you that amount of money to play a game. It's crazy.''

Erstad, who was a punter and place-kicker on Nebraska's 1994 national championship team, missed seven games in April with post-concussion syndrome after crashing into the center field wall at Edison Field chasing a triple by Frank Catalonotto. But he finished that game -- a 10-inning victory over Texas -- and had an RBI single a half-inning after the accident.

Erstad also sat out three games last month because of an infected blood blister on the top of his left foot.

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