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Witt Says Angel Moves Convinced Him to Sign

December 23, 1987|MIKE PENNER | Times Staff Writer

The $2.8 million he will be paid over the next two seasons had something to do with it, but two of the foremost reasons why Mike Witt decided to stay with the Angels go by the names of Chili Davis and Dan Petry.

During his two-month fling with free agency, Witt made frequent mention of his desire to play for a contending team in 1988, which made sense when he negotiated with the New York Yankees and the bulked-up Oakland Athletics.

The Angels? They were coming off a last-place finish in the American League West and had sizable holes in their outfield and pitching staff. "They need to make some moves," Witt noted in early November.

With the acquisition of free-agent outfielder Davis and former Detroit Tiger starting pitcher Petry, the Angels made their moves. And Tuesday, Witt made his, signing a two-year agreement that will pay him a base salary of $1.4 million in both 1988 and 1989, plus incentive bonuses for postseason awards and All-Star appearances.

"I've got to admit, with the moves the A's were making and the team the Yankees had, it looked very favorable (to leave the Angels)," Witt said Tuesday at a news conference at Anaheim Stadium. "But the moves the Angels made with Chili Davis and Dan Petry--and with a couple more they may make--helped convince me to stay."

Signing Witt was also a step in the right direction--a critical step, according to Angel General Manager Mike Port.

"Much has been speculated about the team up north and what they might do next season," Port said. "But with players such as Mike Witt, Wally Joyner, Jack Howell and Dan Petry, I feel we have the capability to contend with them.

"Quite frankly, without Mike on board, I might not be able to make that assessment."

Port, however, came close to losing his top starting pitcher.

"About a week-and-a-half ago, I thought I was headed to New York," Witt said. "(Yankee owner) George Steinbrenner was super nice to me, he treated me with respect.

"But I sat down by myself one night and thought it over. I was looking mainly for one thing--what would be the best overall situation for my family. Both my wife and I come from Anaheim and that was a factor."

Witt's contract is contingent on his passing a physical examination this week, a requirement that Port described as routine. But Witt has been bothered by flare-ups of shoulder tendinitis. He went from 18-10 and a 2.84 earned-run average in 1986 to 16-14 and 4.01 in 1987.

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