Dodgers Sign Ashby

Just when it appeared Andy Ashby no longer figured in the Los Angeles Dodgers' plans, the 33-year-old right-hander decided he wanted to join the team.

Fortunately, it wasn't too late.

The Dodgers signed Ashby to a $22.5 million, three-year contract Wednesday, a day after rescinding an offer to one of baseball's most attractive free-agent pitchers this offseason.

Ashby, who has an 84-87 career record, accepted an offer from the Dodgers earlier in the week, then wavered and the team withdrew the deal.

Dodgers general manager Kevin Malone said he spoke with right-hander Rick Reed and his agent after Tuesday's developments, but Ashby called the Dodgers early Wednesday, and agreed to terms of the offer that had been negotiated. Reed re-signed with the New York Mets for $21.75 million over three years.

"I'm glad everything worked out," Ashby said in a conference call. "It's been tough. It was kind of hard to make the right decision. We've been talking for a long time.

"Then today, I heard they took the deal off. I felt I should call, I still wanted to be a Dodger. I just wanted to make sure it was the right decision. My wife and I have discussed everything, we feel this is the right move for us.

"They were very generous and very understanding of the situation. I thank Kevin and the Dodgers for allowing me some extra days to think about it."

Ashby, 12-13 with a 4.92 ERA and three complete games in 31 starts for the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves last season, gets a $1.5 million signing bonus and salaries of $5.5 million in 2001, $7.5 million in 2002 and $8 million in 2003.

Los Angeles has an $8.5 million option for 2004 that would become guaranteed if he pitches 175 innings in 2003 or 350 innings combined in 2002 and 2003.

"I think Andy's always been our No. 1 priority," Malone said. "We just wanted to make sure the player that we signed wanted to be in Los Angeles. Yesterday, there seemed to be a point where it just wasn't getting done. Andy called us this morning."

Malone said the team's goal this offseason was to sign two quality pitchers, including Darren Dreifort, who was 12-9 with a 4.16 ERA with the Dodgers last season and became a free agent.

"Hopefully, we can still sign Darren," Malone said. "If not, we'll look at the rest of the market and sign somebody else."

Staff ace Kevin Brown, Dreifort and Chan Ho Park gave the Dodgers a solid 1-2-3 last season, but the team's fourth and fifth starters were dreadful, going 11-26.

Park, 18-10 with a 3.27 ERA this year, is eligible to become a free agent following the 2001 season. The Dodgers have expressed interest in signing Park to an extension, but Malone said the focus right now is on the upcoming year.

Ashby began his career with the Phillies in 1991, and pitched briefly for Colorado before being traded to San Diego in 1993. He was a member of the Padres' starting rotation for six years before being traded to the Phillies in November 1999 for right-handers Carlton Loewer, Adam Eaton and Steve Montgomery.

Ashby's best year was 1998, when he and Brown helped the Padres reach the World Series. Ashby had a 17-9 record with a 3.34 ERA and a career-high five complete games, 33 starts and 151 strikeouts while Brown was 18-7 with a 2.38 ERA.

Brown joined the Dodgers the following year, signing a seven-year, $105 million free-agent contract.

"He's a great friend of mine, he's a great pitcher," Ashby said of Brown. "I think we're going to be a team that's going to be looked at as very good, very solid. The pitching staff is solid, the lineup they're going to put out there is going to score runs.

"I loved Atlanta, it was a great place, it was fun while it lasted. Now, it's time to move on. I threw the ball pretty well in the last few months of the season when I got there. It's going to be nice to get back to California, I love pitching (at Dodger Stadium)."

Ashby, 84-87 with a 4.10 ERA in his big-league career, pitched in the 1998 and 1999 All-Star games.


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