|Monday, January 6
Updated: March 13, 5:47 PM ET
Outfielder catches on with Braves
ESPN.com news services
Fick, 29, was an All-Star last season with the Detroit Tigers, hitting .270 with 17 homers and 63 RBI. He led major league outfielders with 21 assists, but he's looking forward to playing first for the Braves.
"I like it over there,'' said Fick, who also played catcher for the Detroit Tigers. "I'm athletic. If you can catch, you can do anything.''
Fick played first base in the minors, winning a Midwest League gold glove award in 1997. "I'm more comfortable in first base than right field, I'll tell you that,'' he said.
Julio Franco and Matt Franco platooned at first for Atlanta in 2002. While both return this season, the Braves were looking for someone who could put up better power numbers at that position. They combined to hit .297 with 12 homers and 60 RBI.
The Braves have been looking for a regular first baseman since failing to re-sign Andres Galarraga after the 1999 season. Rico Brogna was released midway through his lone year in Atlanta. Julio Franco, who lists his age as 41 but is thought to be several years older, was signed out of the Mexican League. Matt Franco made the team last year as a non-roster player.
Fick became a free agent when Detroit failed to offer him a 2003 contract by the Dec. 20 deadline. He is still perturbed about the way he was treated by the Tigers.
"I just thought it was disrespectful,'' he said. "I'm learning, you know what I mean. I thought I deserved (a new contract). But if you don't respect me as a player, it's time to move on. It feels good to be needed, I'll tell you that.''
Actually, Fick is thrilled to be leaving the lowly Tigers, who had 106 losses last season. He talked with four or five teams before the Braves called. He quickly reached a deal with the team that has won 11 straight division titles.
"I wanted to try to get in a better situation, and out of the blue I get to come to the best team in the National League,'' he said. "I was miserable in Detroit.''
Fick made $1.15 million last season. His deal with the Braves includes $350,000 in possible performance bonuses.
"I made the All-Star team and took a pay cut,'' Fick said. "But I've learned to swallow my pride. This is really like hitting the lottery. I get a chance to be the everyday first baseman on a team that has won 11 division championships in a row. You can't put a price on that.''