NEW YORK (AP) – For Kyle Farnsworth, a telephone call from Joe Torre was the big reason why he’ll set up for Mariano Rivera with the New York Yankees rather than close for the Atlanta Braves or Texas Rangers.

Torre called the right-hander reliever early in the free-agent process, and they spoke for about 5 minutes as the manager conveyed that the Yankees were interested in signing him.

“He just wanted to make it clear it just wasn’t hearsay. Coming from Joe Torre, you know it’s really true,” Farnsworth said Friday after agreeing to a $17 million, three-year contract.

Less than 24 hours after Tom Gordon left for an $18 million, three-year deal with Philadelphia, New York locked up his replacement.

Farnsworth took a physical Thursday for the Yankees in Tampa, Fla., but his agent kept the Texas Rangers in the mix until Friday. Texas offered a three-year deal that included a 2009 option.

Farnsworth said of the Rangers, “I didn’t hear anything about them until yesterday.” And he said the Braves “kind of drug their feet a little bit.”

“So I went where I felt most comfortable,” he said.

New York gave him a $1.25 million signing bonus and yearly salaries of $5 million, $5.25 million and $5.5 million. If Farnsworth leads the Yankees in Rolaids Relief points, which would happen only if Rivera gets hurt, Farnsworth’s salary would rise $500,000 in each remaining year of the contract.

He doesn’t view himself as auditioning for the Yankees’ closer job when Rivera retires.

“My job is to go up and set up in the eighth inning to get to him in the ninth inning. That’s what my job is going to be for the next three years,” he said. “Whatever happens after that will happen.”

The hard-throwing righty, who will be 30 in April, split last season between the Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves, who acquired him at the July 31 trade deadline. He combined to go 1-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 72 games, striking out 87 in 70 innings and walking 27.

Farnsworth allowed only five home runs during the regular season, but had a meltdown in Game 4 of the playoffs, when Atlanta wasted a 6-1 lead. He gave up an eighth-inning grand slam to Lance Berkman and a tying homer to Brad Ausmus with two outs in the ninth, and Houston went on to win in 18 innings and earn a spot in the NL championship series.

New York had hoped to sign both Farnsworth and the 38-year-old Gordon, who spent the last two seasons as Rivera’s main setup man. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said New York offered only a two-year deal to Gordon, whose agent insisted on a three-year contract.

Prices for relievers have escalated this offseason, with B.J. Ryan getting a $47 million, five-year contract from Toronto and Billy Wagner accepting a $43 million, four-year offer from the New York Mets.

“Obviously this winter, where it’s such a thin market, the reason the money has gotten so high is because there’s very little choices,” Cashman said.

The Yankees also are looking at left-handers Mike Myers, Joey Eischen and Ricardo Rincon along with right-hander Julian Tavarez. Al Leiter, a 40-year-old left-hander acquired by the Yankees during the season, may decide to return instead of to retire.

“We’ve got to surround Kyle with a lot more in the bullpen,” Cashman said.

Angels, Carrasco agree to $6.1M deal

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.”

Braves, Jones finalize $37M, three-year deal

The Atlanta Braves finalized a $37 million, three-year contract with Chipper Jones on Friday that guarantees the third baseman an additional $15 million and saves the team $6 million in 2006 salary, money that could be used to re-sign Rafael Furcal or pursue a top closer.

Jones had $22 million in guaranteed money remaining in a $90 million, six-year contract that began in 2001. He was due to make $17 million next season, and Atlanta had team options for 2007 and 2008 at $15 million annually. The options, which carried a single $5 million buyout, would have become guaranteed if he had 450 plate appearances in the previous season or was an All-Star.

Under the new deal, he gets a $4 million signing bonus in January and $11 million in each of the next three seasons. The contract contains a 2009 team option at $8 million that would become guaranteed if he has 450 plate appearances the previous year and escalators that could raise his 2009 salary to $11 million.

General manager John Schuerholz praised Jones for reworking his contract to give the Braves their “best possibility of maintaining our remarkable winning tradition.”

“Whatever it takes, Chipper is always willing to step up,” Schuerholz said, “and we are pleased that this latest unselfish act will likely ensure that he will play his entire career as a Brave.”

Atlanta is still trying to re-sign Furcal, their shortstop and leadoff man, who had a career-high 46 stolen bases last season. They desperately need a closer as well, going through three pitchers in that role while winning their 14th straight division title.

Gordon, Phillies agree on $18M, three-year deal

Tom Gordon is back to closing – again.

The veteran reliever is going from setting up for Mariano Rivera to replacing Billy Wagner after agreeing to an $18 million, three-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The 38-year-old right-hander hasn’t finished games regularly in four years, but the Phillies are convinced he can fill the void created by Wagner’s departure earlier in the week.

“I’m confident Tom will do an excellent job,” Phillies general manager Pat Gillick said Friday.

Gordon gets $4.5 million next year, $7 million in 2007 and $5.5 million in 2008. Philadelphia has a 2009 option $4.5 million with a $1 million buyout.

Gordon has done it all during 17 seasons with six teams. He began his career in Kansas City in 1988 and won 17 games as a starter the following year.

He went back-and-forth from starting to pitching out of the bullpen over the next eight seasons, before becoming a full-time closer with Boston in 1998. Gordon remained a closer for most of the next two years, but hasn’t pitched consistently in that role since 2001 with the Chicago Cubs. He spent the last two seasons with the Yankees as Rivera’s primary setup man.

“From our scouting, he has absolutely no problem,” Gillick said. “We don’t see any decline in his talent.”

Gordon also was negotiating with the Yankees and Cleveland Indians before agreeing to the deal with the Phillies. Gordon’s agreement is pending a physical, and he is likely to take one Saturday.

Gordon had 46 saves and a 2.72 ERA in his best season, 1998 with the Red Sox. He had 12 saves in 66 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2003.

“The market dictated you had to go further than you wanted to go,” Gillick said. “This guy is in great shape. He’s in tremendous condition.”


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