Ex-Twins closer to join Seattle bullpen

SEATTLE -- Eddie Guardado knows he may be used primarily as a setup man with the Seattle Mariners. That's fine with him, since he's now a member of one of baseball's strongest bullpens.

Guardado agreed to a one-year contract with Seattle on Tuesday
that includes both player and team options for 2005 and 2006. The
deal guarantees him $13 million over three years and gives him a
chance to earn $4 million more in bonuses if he is the team's

"It's a very exciting day and a very emotional day for me,"
Guardado said at a news conference where he was introduced by the
Mariners. "I'm leaving a team I played with for 14 years.
Hopefully I'll enjoy myself here. Seattle has greeted me with open

Guardado, who had 41 saves in 45 chances for Minnesota last
season, became the first player to agree to a deal among the 25
offered arbitration Sunday by their former clubs.

He was a setup man for the Twins before becoming the team's
closer. He told reporters it wasn't a big deal if he wasn't a
closer next season.

"I'm going to do whatever it takes to help the team win,"
Guardado said. "Whatever role they put me in, I'm going to help
the team out."

Guardado, 33, joins a
bullpen that includes Kazuhiro Sasaki, who started 2003 as
Seattle's closer, and Shigetoshi Hasegawa, who finished the season
as closer.

Following the departure of Arthur Rhodes, Guardado becomes the
top left-hander in the Seattle bullpen.

"Eddie will be a great fit for our bullpen," Mariners manager
Bob Melvin said. "He's a guy who has proven he can get both
left-handers and right-handers out at the end of a game and,
typically, setup guys get bigger outs than closers."

Sasaki was hurt for much of last season and Hasegawa took over,
converting 16 of 17 save chances. Hasegawa returned to the Mariners
on Sunday, agreeing to a $6.3 million, two-year contract.

Melvin said Sasaki, 35, will be the Mariners' closer going into
spring training.

"While Kazuhiro Sasaki is our closer, this move gives us four
pitchers -- Sasaki, Hasegawa, [Rafael] Soriano and Eddie -- that can
pitch with the game on the line," Melvin said. "That's a great
luxury for a manager to have, and it means we feel exceptionally
good if we can turn a lead over to our bullpen."

Guardado said he hopes Sasaki can stay healthy for the entire
2004 season.

"I hope I'm not the closer because if that happens that means
there's something wrong with Sasaki," he said.

Guardado is leaving Minnesota after 13 seasons in the Twins
organization; he pitched for the AL Twins for the first time in
1993. He now will be working in pitching-friendly Safeco Field.

"One thing I'm not going to miss is the Metrodome," he said
with a smile. "But this was one of the hardest decisions in my
entire career. I have a lot of good friends in Minnesota. I've been
on the phone all day talking to them. I'm excited to be a Mariner,
but I'm a little sad, too."

Guardado said he consulted new Mariners hitting coach Paul
Molitor, a former teammate in Minnesota, before making his decision
about coming to Seattle.

"Paul told me to do what's best for my family," he said. Guardado's wife and children live in Southern California.

Guardado was 3-5 with a 2.89 ERA last season, holding opposing
batters to a .207 average, including .175 for left-handed hitters.

In his 11-year major league career, all with Minnesota, Guardado
has converted 116 of 142 save chances and twice made the AL
All-Star team.

The loss of Guardado means the Twins have lost their top two
relievers, LaTroy Hawkins to the Chicago Cubs and now Guardado, to
free agency in the span of a week.

They have some money now, though, to sign a free agent closer or
acquire one in a trade. They expect to actively pursue that at the
winter meetings this weekend.

The Twins took Guardado's loss hard.

"We knew that somebody was trying to blow us out of the water,
and that's what happened," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We
all know we wanted him back."

Guardado's agent, Kevin Kohler, said the Mariners met all of
their demands.

"You could tell they wanted the player," Kohler said.