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Postby swingaway » Wed Dec 10, 2003 3:05 am

DENVER -- The Rockies will await the results of third baseman Vinny Castilla's physical on Wednesday before announcing contract details such as whether it's for "one year or two," general manager Dan O'Dowd said Tuesday.

Castilla's contract has been reported to be one year and an option. Even the mention of the possibility of a two-year deal is new, since the Rockies have been dealing in one-year deals since last winter and Castilla's offer has been reported as being one year with an option.

In other developments, Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said he has talked with free-agent shortstop Deivi Cruz and was planning to speak with Pokey Reese on Tuesday night. Hurdle also said that of the possible outfield candidates to step in for Jay Payton -- if the club chooses not to offer him arbitration -- Jeromy Burnitz and Jose Cruz Jr. are most attractive because of their health.

The Rockies also are continuing talks with catcher Brent Mayne, who played with the club from 2000 until Colorado traded him to Kansas City in 2001, and discussing strategy internally in their search for a bullpen closer. The situation is muddied by the fact Rod Beck re-signed with San Diego as a setup man for $1.85 million, which possibly raised the price for late-game relievers.

Whatever the contracts details, Hurdle is happy to once again work with Castilla, one of the Rockies' most prolific power hitters during his first stint, 1995-99. Hurdle, Colorado's hitting coach for the final three seasons of Castilla's first term with the Rockies, visited Castilla recently.

"I told him I was happy to see him and he's looks in great shape -- I told him he doesn't look a day older than when he left," Hurdle said of Castilla, whose baby face doesn't look anywhere near 38. "I told him the direction of our ballclub, and I told him we weren't entertaining this bit just to have a feel-good story, so he could sleep in his own bed at night and have a job.

"He offers a lot defensively -- anything he gloves, he puts away. He still has feared run production with the bat, and I told him other things, that he's got 13 years in the Major Leagues now and we want him to share some of that insight."

The left field search could take awhile. There is still time to negotiate with Payton before the Dec. 20 deadline for tendering a contract, and it could take well beyond that date for the market to be established. But while comparing early candidates, Hurdle said health is an important issue, and it works in the favor of Burnitz and Cruz.

"When we make a decision, we're not in position to grab someone who has been a good player but ends up spending half the season on the disabled list," Hurdle said.

Hurdle has a history with Burnitz, having managed him in the New York Mets' system. The left-handed hitting Burnitz is a high-risk, high-reward slugger. He has hit 27 or more homers in six of his last seven seasons and struck out 111 or more times during that period. The last time Colorado added such a player, it worked -- Preston Wilson hit 36 homers and drove in a National League-leading 141 runs in 2003 after arriving in a trade with Florida.

In 2003, Burnitz hit .239 with 31 homers and 77 RBIs with the Mets and Los Angeles. He was batting .274, one of his best seasons average-wise, before being sent to LA and playing in a pitcher's park.

Cruz, who turns 30 in April, is a switch-hitter who provides occasional power -- 65 homers for Toronto in 2000 and 2001 - but strikes out often. However, Cruz is considered a top-notch outfielder -- something necessary to play left at Coors.

Although his work was obscured by some notable miscues in the postseason, Cruz earned a Rawlings Gold Glove in right field for the San Francisco Giants in 2003.

At shortstop, Deivi Cruz and Reese offer steady and spectacular defense. The Rockies often got spectacular but not steady from young Juan Uribe, whom they traded to the Chicago White Sox for second baseman Aaron Miles.

Reese, 29, a two-time Gold Glove winner at second, has a health concern -- a thumb injury limited him to 37 games with Pittsburgh in 2003. Both have struggled offensively in recent seasons. Deivi Cruz's .269 on-base percentage with Baltimore was last among shortstops with a qualifying number of plate appearances.

Cruz offers durability -- 151 or more games in four of the past five seasons.

As for a closer, Hurdle said the Rockies have discussed proven closers Armando Benitez and Jose Mesa, but also might look at a setup man with experience and a desire to close.

O'Dowd said the Rockies' plan is to be "creative." The organization will meet Thursday, before the official start of baseball's Winter Meetings in New Orleans, and plan strategy for pursuing a closer, Hurdle said.
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Postby Madison » Wed Dec 10, 2003 11:54 am

Castilla/Cruz/Burnitz/ then Mesa/Benetiz.

Interesting choices. :-?
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Postby Area51's » Wed Dec 10, 2003 4:55 pm

Mesa calling Colorado home................scary~! :-P
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