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Gillick confident Gordon can close for Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- Tom Gordon is back to closing -- again.

The veteran reliever is going from setting up for Mariano Rivera
to replacing Billy Wagner after agreeing to an $18 million,
three-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The 38-year-old right-hander hasn't finished games regularly in
four years, but the Phillies are convinced he can fill the void
created by Wagner's departure earlier in the week.

"I'm confident Tom will do an excellent job," Phillies general
manager Pat Gillick said Friday.

Gordon gets $4.5 million next year, $7 million in 2007 and $5.5
million in 2008. Philadelphia has a 2009 option for $4.5 million with a
$1 million buyout.

Gordon has done it all during 17 seasons with six teams. He
began his career in Kansas City in 1988 and won 17 games as a
starter the following year.

He went back-and-forth from starting to pitching out of the
bullpen over the next eight seasons, before becoming a full-time
closer with Boston in 1998. Gordon remained a closer for most of
the next two years, but hasn't pitched consistently in that role
since 2001 with the Chicago Cubs. He spent the last two seasons
with the Yankees as Rivera's primary setup man.

"From our scouting, he has absolutely no problem," Gillick
said. "We don't see any decline in his talent."

Gordon also was negotiating with the Yankees and Cleveland
Indians before agreeing to the deal with the Phillies. Gordon's
agreement is pending a physical, and he is likely to take one
Saturday.

Gordon had 46 saves and a 2.72 ERA in his best season, 1998 with
the Red Sox. He had 12 saves in 66 games with the Chicago White Sox
in 2003.

"The market dictated you had to go further than you wanted to
go," Gillick said. "This guy is in great shape. He's in
tremendous condition."

The Phillies needed a closer after Wagner left this week to
accept a $43 million, four-year contract from the New York Mets.
They had been interested in free-agent relievers Trevor Hoffman and
Kyle Farnsworth, but decided to go with Gordon after Gillick met
with him Thursday.

Philadelphia lost Wagner partly because it didn't want to offer
a four-year contract to a 34-year-old reliever. Instead, the
Phillies wound up giving a three-year deal to an older pitcher who
doesn't have Wagner's pedigree.

"You have to have flexibility for the length of the contract
and the dollar amount," Gillick said. "There's a huge
differential in what Wagner's going to make over four years and
what Gordon will make for three."

Gordon went 5-4 with a 2.57 ERA and two saves for the Yankees
last season, striking out 69 batters in 80 2/3 innings. He allowed
eight homers, his most since 1997 -- when he gave up 10 while
splitting the season between Boston's bullpen and starting
rotation.

"Rivera has given him a lot of tips on the mental approach to
closing," Gillick said.

Philadelphia still needs a setup man because it doesn't plan to
re-sign Ugueth Urbina. Ryan Madson, who filled that role before
Urbina came to the Phillies last June, could return to that spot.
The Phillies added some bullpen depth by agreeing Wednesday to a
contract with former Milwaukee right-hander Julio Santana.

"We're still not satisfied with our pitching," Gillick said.
"That's an area we need to address."

Gillick has been very busy since replacing Ed Wade last month.

Last week, Gillick traded slugger Jim Thome to the White Sox for
center fielder Aaron Rowand and two prospects. The move cleared the
way for NL Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard to play first base every
day.

Philadelphia agreed to a deal with infielder Abraham Nunez on
Tuesday, and added backup catcher Sal Fasano on Thursday.

Gordon has a 127-115 career record with a 3.93 ERA and 116
saves. He missed the entire 2000 season with an elbow injury, but
has pitched with four teams since.