Garciaparra, Wins Comeback Player Award

After after being discounted after two injury-shortened seasons with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, Nomar Garciaparra was voted NL Comeback Player of the Year. Jim Thome was the AL winner in his first season with the Chicago White Sox.

Garciaparra won the award despite playing the final weeks of the season with an injured oblique muscle and left quadriceps, which he tore during Thursday night's NL playoff game against the New York Mets.

The first baseman hit .303 with 20 homers and 93 RBI, making his sixth All-Star Game and became a remarkably efficient first baseman when asked to switch to that position before the season opened.

Garciaparra received 72,054 votes in fan balloting announced by the commissioner's office.

Thome, traded to Chicago by Philadelphia last November following the emergence of Ryan Howard, batted .288 with 42 homers, 109 RBI and 107 walks. He received 55,587 votes.

The margin of victory for Garciaparra and Thome was unknown and spokeswoman Susan Goodenow said no other players would be listed.

The Yankees' Jason Giambi and Cincinnati's Ken Griffey Jr. won the inaugural awards last year.

Coaches returning-- General manager Ned Colletti said he expects the entire coaching staff to return. That would be pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, hitting coach Eddie Murray, bench coach Dave Jauss, third-base coach Rich Donnelly, first-base coach Mariano Duncan, bullpen coach Dan Warthen and coach Manny Mota. Like Little, the staff signed two-year contracts last winter.

Japanese Pitcher Gets OK-- Highly regarded pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka was given permission by the Seibu Lions on Tuesday to pursue a career in the major leagues. Matsuzaka, who has drawn interest from several major league teams, finished the 2006 regular season with a career-high 17 wins against five losses.

The 26-year-old right-hander posted a 2.13 earned-run average and 200 strikeouts.

Matsuzaka has long been considered one of the brightest prospects in Japanese professional baseball.

Seibu is expected to use the posting system in which major league teams present bids for Japanese players and the highest bidder wins the negotiating rights. Ichiro Suzuki signed with the Seattle Mariners under the same system.

Matsuzaka is still one year away from becoming a free agent.

In his eight-year career in Japan, Matsuzaka has led the Pacific League in wins three times and in strikeouts four times while winning the ERA title twice and the Sawamura Award, Japan's version of the Cy Young Award, once.

Matsuzaka impressed major league scouts when he helped Japan win the inaugural World Baseball Classic title last March and was named MVP of the tournament.
Dodgers contracts

Free agents:
RHP Greg Maddux: Both he and Dodgers left the door wide open for 2007 return
RHP Eric Gagne: Option for 2007 will be bought out; Next step uncertain
1B Nomar Garciaparra: Thanks for the memories?
OF Kenny Lofton: Might be the only one of this group back in a Dodgers uniform next season
IF Julio Lugo: Unhappy, unproductive ... and unlikely to be back
RHP Aaron Sele: Ready to hang it up if right situation doesn't materialize
IF Ramon Martinez: Steady role player will find a role somewhere

Arbitration-eligible players:
LHP Mark Hendrickson: Probably saved his value with decent performances as a reliever
C Toby Hall: Unhappy in backup role, not likely to return
LHP Joe Beimel: Fine season forgotten at the drop of a glass
OF Jayson Werth: Wrist surgeries have kept him out for more than a year

Signed through next season:
RHP Elmer Dessens
IF Olmedo Saenz
IF-OF Marlon Anderson
3B Bill Mueller
RHP Brett Tomko
Signed through 2008
SS Rafael Furcal
2B Jeff Kent
RHP Derek Lowe
RHP Brad Penny

Signed through 2009
OF J.D. Drew

Under team control for 2008
C Russell Martin
1B James Loney
3B Wilson Betemit
IF Oscar Robles
OF Jason Repko
OF Andre Ethier
OF Matt Kemp
OF Delwyn Young
RHP Chad Billingsley
RHP Jonathan Broxton
RHP Takashi Saito
RHP Yhency Brazoban
LHP Tim Hamulack
LHP Eric Stults
LHP Hong-Chih Kuo

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