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Twins keeping Santana

Minnesota locked up its 25-year-old ace Johan Santana, ensuring the lefty will be with the Twins for four years.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Minnesota locked up its 25-year-old ace Johan Santana, ensuring the lefty will be with the Twins for four years. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Associated Press

Less than two years ago, Johan Santana was in Minnesota’s bullpen. Back home in Venezuela this winter, he had bodyguards.

Winning the A.L. Cy Young Award certainly heightened Santana’s profile. It also raised his price.

Santana and the Twins agreed Monday to a $40 million, four-year contract. The deal, contingent on Santana passing a physical, marked the end of a whirlwind off-season for the 25-year-old left-hander.

“A lot of things happened to me,” Santana said from Fort Myers, Fla., where he is preparing for spring training to start this weekend. “The good thing about it is they were all positive. As long as it’s positive, you are fine. I think I can deal with all of that with no problems.”

Santana, who had been scheduled for a salary arbitration hearing today, led the league with a 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts in 2004. He became the first Venezuelan to win the Cy Young and the first unanimous winner in the A.L. since Pedro Martinez in 2000.

After making $1.6 million last year, Santana – who would have been eligible for free agency after the 2006 season – had asked for a raise to $6.8 million and had been offered $5 million by the team.

Both sides were more than happy to avoid arbitration.

“Definitely, it’s something that we were looking for,” Santana said. “It’s good to know that I’ll be in a Twins uniform for four more years.”

Though small-market Minnesota always has a low payroll, its stance has long been to pay the players who produce. After lengthy negotiations between assistant general manager Wayne Krivsky and Peter Greenberg, Santana’s agent, the Twins were able to lock up their young lefty for the long term.

Jeter supportive of Giambi

Derek Jeter is willing to accept Jason Giambi’s apology.

Without admitting he used steroids, Giambi apologized last week to his New York Yankees teammates, fans and the media for distractions he caused.

“We’re here to support him,” Jeter, the Yankees’ captain, said after working out at the team’s minor league complex. “He’s obviously in a tough situation. I’ve been on teams that had guys that have made mistakes in the past. When you’re a team, everyone is one family. I’m sure he’s going to hear a lot about it over this year. We’re going to be there to support him because he’s one of us.”

Yankees pitchers and catchers report today, and Giambi will be under scrutiny after 1 1/2 injury-plagued seasons. The voluntary reporting date is Sunday.

Former Pirate, Cardinal Briles dies

Big games never worried Nellie Briles.

Briles, who won two World Series titles during a 14-year career as a control pitcher, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack at 61, the Pittsburgh Pirates said. Briles was stricken during a Pirates alumni golf tournament in Orlando, Fla.

Briles went 129-112 during a career spent mostly with the St. Louis Cardinals and Pirates. He played on five pennant- or division-winning teams, going a combined 69-44 with two postseason victories during those seasons.

Soccer schedule provides test for Nationals’ stadium

How quickly can RFK Stadium be converted from a baseball field to a soccer pitch and back? D.C. United and the Washington Nationals are betting on 48 hours both ways.

United on Monday announced its schedule for 2005, the first year in which it will have to share its field with the former Montreal Expos. Officials had hoped to have 72 hours for the conversion from baseball to soccer to allow time for the temporary grass placed in the infield to become as stable as possible, but that wasn’t possible in all cases.

Clearing the bases

Pitcher Todd Van Poppel agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mets and will join the team at spring training later this week. … Thirty-year-old first baseman Robert Fick and the Padres are close to finalizing a minor-league contract that would pay him $450,000 if he’s added to the major league roster. … Right-hander Jorge Sosa and the Devil Rays avoided salary arbitration by agreeing on a $650,000, one-year contract.

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