Pitcher Hector Carrasco, coming off the best season of his 12-year major league career, agreed Friday to a $6.1 million, two-year contract with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Angels finalized the agreement with Carrasco shortly after withdrawing their offer to retain free-agent right-hander Paul Byrd. Free-agent left-hander Jarrod Washburn, another starter, also won’t return.

“We’re dropping out of the Paul Byrd chase,” Angels general manager Bill Stoneman said in a conference call. “We have not really been in the chase for Jarrod Washburn.”

The Angels also agreed to terms on a minor league contract with outfielder/designated hitter Tim Salmon, who will go to spring training as a non-roster invitee. The 37-year-old Salmon, who has spent his entire career with the team, missed last season after undergoing knee and shoulder surgery.

Carrasco, a 36-year-old right-hander, was 5-4 with a 2.04 ERA in 64 appearances with the Washington Nationals, allowing only 59 hits in 88 1-3 innings and limiting opponents to a .193 batting average.

He was 4-3 with a 2.04 ERA in 62 2-3 innings in 59 appearances as a reliever and 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 27 2-3 innings while starting five games near the season’s end.

“We envision Hector as having a shot at our rotation,” Stoneman said. “All that will be determined in spring training. Our scouts had good reports on him and they suggested him, in particular as a starter.”

Manager Mike Scioscia, also on the conference call, said: “We think Hector is a guy who can step up and helps us and be a candidate for our rotation. There’s a little risk in anything you can do, but we’re confident our rotation is going to be of championship quality.”

Other candidates for starting roles include highly regarded prospects Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver.

Stoneman said the Angels decided to go in another direction after Byrd, 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA last season in his only year with the team, didn’t respond to their final offer.

“It did not appear evident to us that we were going to have an agreement with Paul soon,” the GM said. “Rather than let Carrasco go, because he had other offers, too, we said, “Let’s get a peg on the board and move on.”‘

Carrasco has a 35-46 record and a 3.94 ERA and 18 saves in 557 relief appearances and six starts. He began his career with the Cincinnati Reds in 1994, and has also pitched for Kansas City, Minnesota, Boston and Baltimore.

Carrasco pitched for the Kintetsu Buffaloes of Japan’s Pacific League in 2004, going 8-8 with five saves and a .5.57 ERA in 53 relief appearances. He began the 2005 season at Triple-A New Orleans, where he was 1-0 with four saves in eight games without allowing an earned run.

He receives a $500,000 signing bonus. He will earn $2.35 million next season and $2.75 million in 2007. The Angels have a club option for $3 million in 2008 with a $500,000 buyout and if he starts 25 games in 2007, his 2008 salary would become guaranteed at $4.4 million.

He can also earn an additional $1.75 million annually in performance bonuses based on starts.

Washburn, a member of the Angels since 1998, was 8-8 with a 3.20 ERA last season.

Salmon is the Angels’ all-time leader in home runs (290), runs scored (956), walks (941) and slugging percentage (.500).

Although Salmon’s right shoulder seems OK after that surgery, he apparently is recovering more slowly from the operation on his left knee.

“If Tim’s knee gets to the level where his bat is available to us on a daily basis, that will help his chances to make the club and contribute,” Scioscia said.

Salmon’s one-year agreement will pay him $400,000 if he makes the major league roster. If he doesn’t make it by March 22, he will be released.

AP-ES-12-02-05 1950EST

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