PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Tom Gordon spent countless hours sitting with Mariano Rivera in the New York Yankees bullpen the last two seasons, absorbing information from one of baseball’s best closers.

Now, Gordon is ready to finish off games himself.

The 38-year-old right-hander passed his physical and officially joined the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, agreeing to an $18 million, three-year contract to replace Billy Wagner as the closer.

“It took me a little while to get back to being a closer again,” Gordon said. “But I really felt like the opportunity for me to come here to a team like the Phillies and close would be a great one.”

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

Gordon agreed to the deal after meeting with general manager Pat Gillick on Thursday.

“He’s pitched in some pressure situations before in Boston and New York,” Gillick said. “So this shouldn’t be anything new for him here.”

An All-Star in 1998 and 2004, Gordon went 5-4 with two saves and a 2.57 ERA in 79 games as a setup man for Rivera with the Yankees this season. He held opponents to a .203 average, allowing only 59 hits in 80 2-3 innings.

In his last five seasons, Gordon has a 2.82 ERA and opponents are batting .205 against him in 306 appearances. Wagner had 38 saves, a 1.51 ERA and went to the All-Star game in his second season with the Phillies.

“Obviously, Billy is one of the best I’ve ever seen and best I’ve ever played with when we were in Houston,” Gordon said. “He was a guy that this team counted on for years. So I realize the expectations will be high.”

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 season. 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, saving 46 games.

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.

“I enjoyed setting up,” Gordon said. “But it’s nothing like closing. I’d prefer to close at this point in my career, and I feel like I’ve prepared myself for that.”

Gordon has a 127-115 career record with a 3.93 ERA and 116 saves. He missed the entire 2000 season with an elbow injury, but has pitched with four teams since.

He also was negotiating with the Yankees, Baltimore, Boston, Atlanta and Arizona before agreeing to the deal with the Phillies.

Wagner got a $43 million, four-year deal from the New York Mets earlier in the week.

AP-ES-12-03-05 1651EST

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