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John Lackey unhappy with pace of talks

Pitcher is looking for a long-term deal before season starts. Team says there are no updates.

March 21, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

TEMPE, ARIZ. — Negotiations between the Angels and John Lackey on a contract extension are moving at a glacial pace that has left the ace right-hander wondering just how strongly the team wants to retain him.

"They're not trying very hard," Lackey said Friday. "It's kind of on them at this point. I love playing here and I'd like to stay, but I've put myself into a category that they need to get to."

Lackey, who has a 91-65 record and 3.81 earned-run average in six-plus seasons, could be the top pitcher on the market if he reaches free agency.

He wouldn't specify the price range of his "category," but Lackey hinted that he is looking at the seven-year, $161-million deal ($23 million a year) that CC Sabathia got from the New York Yankees as a comparison.

"Except for his time in the National League, look at the numbers," Lackey said. "That's how you do it; you throw out comparables."

Sabathia spent 7 1/2 years with the Cleveland Indians, going 106-71 with a 3.83 ERA and winning the 2007 American League Cy Young Award. He was traded to Milwaukee last season.

Lackey, whose four-year, $27-million contract expires after this season, is believed to be looking for a deal of at least five years and $90 million.

And he is in no mood to give the Angels a hometown discount.

"They got one of those on my last contract," Lackey said. "My performance outweighed that contract. . . . This is kind of my turn. They've had control for six years. Now they have to convince me."

Negotiations with Lackey began earlier this month, "but they've been going very slowly," Lackey said, adding, "I was supposed to hear something this week, and they haven't even come back to me."

Angels General Manager Tony Reagins said there are "no updates" on negotiations with Lackey's agent, Steve Hilliard.

"We like John," Reagins said. "We'd like him to be in the organization long-term."

Lackey has set a deadline to complete a deal and is hesitant to allow talks to carry into the season, even if significant progress is being made.

"I've already said opening day is it," Lackey said. "I definitely don't want to see it drag into the regular season. That's about winning and handling business."

The weak economy could be complicating negotiations. The Angels aren't sure how the recession will affect their 2010 payroll, and like most teams, they are hesitant to go more than four years on a hefty contract for a pitcher.

Lackey is convinced top players will make top dollar, regardless of the economy.

"I can do OK on my own," Lackey said. "But to be clear, I would love to stay here if they get to where they need to be."

Happy returns

Vladimir Guerrero, who is recovering from off-season surgery on his right knee, made his exhibition debut, flying out, grounding into a double play and playing three innings in right field during a 6-1 victory over Arizona.

Guerrero made a nice catch of a long fly ball into the gap in right-center in the third inning.

Gary Matthews Jr., recovering from surgery on his left knee, legged out a two-run triple to center in the third and tagged and scored on Erick Aybar's popup to shallow left-center in the second.

Jered Weaver gave up one run and four hits in four innings, and closer Brian Fuentes, who missed a week because of back stiffness, rebounded from Tuesday's shoddy appearance (five runs, three hits, two walks in two-thirds of an inning) by retiring the side in order in the fifth.

Short hops

The Angels have a Cactus League-best record of 16-4. . . . Catcher Mike Napoli, recovering from shoulder surgery, has extended his long-toss program to 180 feet. On Thursday, he threw to second base from a squat position and in full gear for the first time this spring. . . . Kelvim Escobar, well ahead of schedule in his recovery from shoulder surgery, came out of Thursday's 30-pitch simulated game OK and will pitch in a minor league game Sunday. . . . Ervin Santana, out because a sprained elbow ligament, is playing catch at 120 feet.


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