Winter Meetings: Diamondbacks Show Bite

<b>ANAHEIM –</b> Who would have expected the Arizona Diamondbacks to be baseball's noisiest team at the Winter Meetings?

Less than a day in, that's the way the chips have fallen. The Diamondbacks have made two major announcements in as many days, first inking infielder Troy Glaus to a four-year, $45 million deal on Thursday and then signing pitcher Russ Ortiz in a no-surprise-to-anyone deal on Friday.

After laying out a four-year, $34 million contract to Ortiz, the Diamondbacks will be counting on the Gilbert, Az. native to help the team rebound from a dismal 51-111 finish.

"Obviously, I'm very excited," Ortiz said. "It's something very special to me to be able have a situation like this and have the support I have."

The contract brings one of baseball's most consistent regular season pitchers to Bank One Ballpark. Ortiz was 15-9 with a 4.13 ERA in 34 starts this season for the Atlanta Braves, and is the only Major League pitcher with at least 14 wins, 195 innings pitched and 140 strikeouts in each of the last six seasons.

Those are numbers the Diamondbacks will be counting on to help them break a losing spell reminiscent of the 1962 New York Mets and 2003 Detroit Tigers. It took some coercing on the part of Arizona brass to show Ortiz – and earlier, Glaus – that the team would mean business in the division not in several years, but immediately.

"Winning's important," Ortiz said. "I wanted to be a part of what they're trying to accomplish. They convinced me from Day 1 they were headed in that direction."

It will be a huge help to the Diamondbacks' cause if Glaus can prove he's healthy after missing much of 2004 with a shoulder injury. Present at the winter meetings to cheer on Ortiz's signing, Glaus said he foresaw no problems and seemed a little miffed that the Anaheim Angels – far too close for comfort here at the Marriott – didn't agree.

"It was their decision," Glaus said. "I'm not a guy who holds grudges. If that's what they wanted to do, they have every right to do what they want to do. ... Obviously, the Diamondbacks thought my arm was fine. Other teams thought my arm was fine. If they didn't want to believe it, that's up to them."

If the Diamondbacks seriously want to contend in the NL West, however, they'll need to figure out their standing with Randy Johnson as soon as possible.

Johnson's representative, Alan Nero, said Friday that Johnson had never demanded the Diamondbacks trade him or gave a preference on where he'd like to go (published reports said the New York Yankees), although it's reasonably clear that Johnson hasn't appeared happy in Arizona.

"Randy is obviously an icon in this city, and we'd obviously be thrilled if he was our starting pitcher next year," Diamondbacks managing partner Ken Kendrick said.

"We are sensitive to Randy. He deserves the special attention he gets from all of you (reporters), and frankly, he's getting it from us. …As of now, Randy will be taking the mound for the Diamondbacks next spring."


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