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Moreno will try to keep Rodriguez

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Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Owner Arte Moreno is frustrated by the Angels’ inability to secure Francisco Rodriguez to a long-term contract, but despite the closer’s saying this would “probably” be his last year in Anaheim, Moreno hasn’t given up on an extension.

“We haven’t even started playing spring games; things change,” Moreno said. “I’m not one to close the door because we start the season.”

As Moreno watched Vladimir Guerrero crush balls in Tempe Diablo Stadium on Thursday -- “I just love watching Vlad take batting practice; that’s worth the price of admission,” he said -- Rodriguez’s 4 1/2 -hour arbitration hearing came to a close in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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A decision on Rodriguez’s 2008 salary is expected this morning from arbiters who will choose between the $12.5 million the reliever is seeking and the $10 million the Angels countered with.

Moreno never thought it would come to this. The Angels made multiyear offers to Rodriguez after 2005 and 2006, and their last offer, made soon after the 2007 season, was in the neighborhood of three years, $34 million.

Then Francisco Cordero signed a four-year, $46-million deal with Cincinnati, Mariano Rivera got a three-year, $45-million deal with the Yankees, and the cost of doing business with Rodriguez went up.

“At end of the day, it gets down to, what do you really want?” Moreno said. “The last couple of years we’ve tried to sign him. We’ve been there a couple times, and things changed when Rivera and Cordero got their deals.

“We thought Frankie was going to sign, we thought he wanted to sign, and then the numbers changed. There’s only so much you can do. He decided to go to arbitration.”

The Angels are hesitant to pay Rodriguez $15 million a year, because despite his major league-leading 132 saves over the last three seasons and a 2.81 earned-run average and 40 saves in 2007, Rodriguez isn’t exactly a ninth-inning lock.

The 26-year-old right-hander had command problems in the second half, when he had a 3.45 ERA and four of his six blown saves, and has developed a penchant for turning save situations into adventures with walks and wild pitches.

And there is always a concern that Rodriguez’s violent, across-the-body motion will lead to a major arm injury.

“Where do you reach a line economically, whether it’s number of years or money?” Moreno said.

There were outings last season when Rodriguez “gives you gray hair, makes your heart start jumping,” Moreno said. “There were a lot of interesting games. He’s a heck of a player, fun to watch.”

Moreno said the Angels paid about $16 million into the revenue-sharing pool after last season, up from the $12 million they contributed after 2006.

As painful as it was for Moreno to write that check -- “You work this hard to get profit, and you pay into revenue-sharing,” he said -- it means the Angels are still profitable after losing money for years under Disney and the Autry family.

“When I got here, the Angels were getting a [revenue-sharing] check,” Moreno said. “Overall, we’re making money, and we’re financially stable.”

Gary Matthews Jr., given permission by Manager Mike Scioscia to deal with a personal issue, did not practice Thursday. The outfielder will return to camp today.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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