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Arbitrators Decide in Eckstein’s Favor

Times Staff Writer

David Eckstein beat his boss in salary arbitration Thursday, a loss Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman said would not force him to cut costs elsewhere or restrict his ability to acquire help as needed during the season.

Eckstein, the Angel shortstop and leadoff man, batted .252 with a .325 on-base percentage in an injury-riddled season last year, well below his career averages of .279 and .350. After hearing arguments from both sides Wednesday, a panel of three arbitrators awarded Eckstein the $2.15 million he sought, rejecting the Angel offer of $1.6 million.

Eckstein made $425,000 last season, when he was not eligible for arbitration and the team could pay him whatever it chose.

Contracts awarded through arbitration are not guaranteed, but Stoneman said the Angels have no interest in cutting or trading Eckstein because of the decision. The Angels open spring training next week, with Eckstein listed as the starting shortstop and the additional $550,000 salary commitment a virtual blip on a player payroll projected at $108 million.

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“We’re not going to be cutting corners,” Stoneman said. “We’re going to go out and play baseball.

“Whatever we do in spring training will be performance-related. It will have nothing to do with money.”

The Angels open camp with six starting pitchers, with newcomers Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar joining John Lackey, Ramon Ortiz, Jarrod Washburn and Aaron Sele, who struggled last season. Although the Angels must pay Sele $8.5 million this season, more than any other starter except Colon, Stoneman emphasized Sele must win a starting spot in spring training on his pitching, not his contract.

Stoneman pointed out that the Angels cut Kevin Appier last season, with $15.67 million left on his contract. If all six starters remain free from injury and no trades materialize, Stoneman said, Manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Bud Black are free to choose their top five starters regardless of contracts.

“We had a heck of a commitment to Kevin,” Stoneman said. “The decision is a performance decision. The fact that they’re making a lot of money doesn’t give them any greater job security.”


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