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Washburn: Renewals Unfair

Times Staff Writer

The Angels could renew the contracts of three key players today, the end result of a negotiating strategy that ace Jarrod Washburn suggested could eventually backfire on the team.

The Angels agreed Saturday to one-year contracts with relievers Ben Weber ($375,000) and Scot Shields ($305,000). They have issued final offers to shortstop David Eckstein, pitcher John Lackey and utilityman Shawn Wooten and plan to renew their contracts this morning, barring the last-minute acceptance of a final offer.

“We definitely wouldn’t have won the World Series without them,” Washburn said. “It’s the club’s decision. If they want to treat them unfairly, that’s their decision. The players can’t do anything about it, but I don’t agree with it.”

The Angels slot players with fewer than three years of major league experience into a rough salary scale, with salaries significantly below what some teams pay outstanding players with limited experience. Essentially, the Angels use their leverage before players can use theirs, when they become eligible for arbitration.

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If a young player cannot agree on contract terms, the Angels renew the contract, subtracting money from the final offer. The Angels renewed Washburn at $350,000 last year, $25,000 less than their final offer.

“People wonder nowadays why players leave for different teams, why players don’t show loyalty,” Washburn said. “Why would you show loyalty when they don’t treat you well while you’re young?”

The Angels also agreed to one-year contracts with infielder Alfredo Amezaga, outfielder Nathan Haynes and pitcher Mark Lukasiewicz.

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In his forthcoming book, New York Yankee pitcher David Wells estimates that 25% to 40% of major league players use steroids. Angel pitcher Kevin Appier said he believed the low end of Wells’ estimate might be realistic.

“The 40% is high,” Appier said. “But 25% would be close.”

The players’ union and major league owners last year agreed to a steroid testing program. Players will be tested during this season for survey purposes, but a program that includes counseling and punishment for offenders will be implemented next year only if 5% of players test positive for steroids during in-season testing this year.

“I’m not thrilled about the 5% rule,” Appier said. “If one guy tests positive, it’s a problem.”

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Appier said he would prefer an immediate program of random, year-round testing that would dissuade players from off-season steroid use. However, he said, he is not disappointed by the restrictions of the pilot program.

“I wouldn’t say I’m disappointed,” he said. “At least we have one.”

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Add Appier: If 25% of players do use steroids, an even distribution would mean that six of his teammates are users, but Appier said he saw no such evidence among the Angels. “No, not here,” he said.

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Washburn pitched two scoreless innings and phenom Francisco Rodriguez threw one perfect inning in the spring debut for each, in the Angels’ 6-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants. Barry Bonds batted twice, flying out against prospect Chris Bootcheck and drawing a five-pitch walk against Washburn.

The Scottsdale Stadium crowd booed Washburn, who insisted he had no intention of walking Bonds. In the World Series, the Angels walked Bonds 13 times.

“I’d boo me too, throwing balls like that,” Washburn said. “The only thing I was trying to do was throw strikes. I didn’t care if he hit it 1,000 feet.”

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