The Arizona Republic
Jan. 7, 2004 12:00 AM
Second baseman Roberto Alomar vowed to work out more vigorously in an effort to return to All-Star form after signing a one-year, $1 million contract with the Diamondbacks.
If Alomar can approach the results of 12 All-Star seasons, the Diamondbacks may have an even greater bargain.
"I think the last two years, I didn't work hard enough, and I want to put my game in the high level where I used to be two years ago," Alomar said Tuesday at a news conference at Bank One Ballpark.
Consecutive seasons with the New York Mets and the Chicago White Sox in which Alomar, 35, failed to hit above .266 have dimmed his storied career.
Alomar still has a lifetime .301 batting average, and he believes a renewed commitment to working out under the supervision of Tempe training guru Mark Versteegen will help him revitalize his career.
"I've been in Arizona for the past five, six weeks (working out), looking to buy a home here, playing with the Diamondbacks and making Arizona my home," Alomar said.
Fellow Puerto Rican Carlos Baerga, with whom Alomar roomed 19 years ago while in the San Diego organization, sold Alomar on playing for the Diamondbacks.
"If money were the issue, I would have gone somewhere else," said Alomar, who completed a five-year, $38 million contract and said he turned down more lucrative offers from St. Louis, Los Angeles and Colorado. "The Diamondbacks were the answer."
Alomar, a switch-hitter, said he would hit wherever manager Bob Brenly placed him. Brenly was unavailable for comment.
Alomar intimated that he might concede the No. 12 jersey to center fielder Steve Finley and opt for wearing No. 2 in honor of his father, former major leaguer Sandy Alomar Sr.
Alomar's contract, which includes $350,000 in deferred payments without interest through 2009, raises the Diamondbacks payroll to $61.35 million for 13 players.
Conversations between General Manager Joe Garagiola Jr. and agent Jaime Torres started a few weeks ago after Baerga informed Garagiola of Alomar's interest. Alomar also negotiated with Assistant GM Sandy Johnson, who was the scouting director in San Diego when Alomar began his professional career.
The Diamondbacks designated catcher Brad Cresse for assignment to make room for Alomar on the 40-man roster.
"Everyone thought at the start of the off-season that we were moving backward," said closer Matt Mantei, who reported that he has fully recovered from right shoulder tendinitis. "But I think we've moved forward. I'm fired up and glad to still be here