Pitcher returns to Marlins

MIAMI -- Al Leiter signed a one-year contract with the Florida Marlins on Wednesday, leaving the New York Mets and returning to the team he helped pitch to the 1997 World Series title.

The 39-year-old left-hander had spent seven years with the Mets,
going 10-8 with a 3.21 ERA last season. The Mets did not offer him
salary arbitration before Tuesday's midnight deadline, allowing the
Marlins to sign him without giving up a draft choice.

"This is a terrific reunion of Al and this franchise, and this
is a big day for the Florida Marlins and South Florida," Marlins
general manager Larry Beinfest said.

Leiter, who owns a home about 20 miles from the Marlins'
ballpark, played for Florida in 1996 and 1997. He pitched the
team's first no-hitter in 1996 and was traded to the Mets when the
Marlins purged their payroll after the World Series season. He also
pitched in the 2000 World Series, where the Mets lost to the New
York Yankees.

"I loved everything about being a New York Met," said Leiter,
who grew up in New Jersey as a Mets fan. "I'm taking away my
experience as positive."

He joins a rotation that features right-handers Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett, plus left-hander Dontrelle Willis. The Marlins have also offered arbitration to their top 2004 starter, Carl Pavano, who was 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA before choosing free agency after the season.

The Marlins see Leiter as both a mentor for their young pitchers
and a top-tier starter who will add quality to the rotation.

"It has taken a whole lot to get to this day, but we were
always optimistic," Beinfest said. "We really wanted Al to be a
Florida Marlin."

Leiter said the deal does not include any option years. He hasn't decided if the 2005 season will be his last.

"I'd be absolutely content and happy with my professional life
if this were my last year," Leiter said. "But I don't know. ...
All the things I've experienced in my career is beyond a dream."