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Rodriguez must settle for $10-million loss

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Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The sting of an arbitration loss and the potential backlash it could produce may have been eased by the man who delivered the news to Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez on Friday.

General Manager Tony Reagins pulled Rodriguez off the field during a morning workout to inform him the team had defeated the reliever in arbitration, meaning Rodriguez will receive $10 million this season rather than the $12.5 million he asked for.

Reagins was an Angels scouting and player development assistant 10 years ago when Rodriguez, a native of Venezuela, signed as a 16-year-old.

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“Tony was one of the first persons to greet me when I got off the plane, he was one of the first to take me under his wing,” Rodriguez said. “My relationship with Tony has been awesome. I don’t think this is going to change that at all.”

The arbitration process is adversarial by nature and can be contentious at times, with players arguing why they are worth more and teams arguing why players are worth less.

“Of course, I heard things I really didn’t want to hear,” said Rodriguez, who attended Thursday’s 4 1/2 -hour hearing in St. Petersburg, Fla. “It was a different experience.”

But there were no hard feelings on either side, and the relationship between Reagins and Rodriguez may have been a factor.

“I think it allows him to understand this is not personal,” said Reagins, who also attended the hearing. “We go back a long way, back to a time when he was just feeling his way in the U.S. I think there’s a trust factor there.”

Despite the loss, Rodriguez tied the record for the highest salary in an arbitration decision, a mark he shares with Alfonso Soriano, who lost his case against Washington in 2006, and Ryan Howard, who beat Philadelphia on Thursday.

And shed no tears for Rodriguez: He will receive a $3-million raise over his 2007 salary of $7 million.

“I said before, either way, win or lose, I’m . . . happy because I’m here,” Rodriguez said. “I have to move on and get ready for the season. You have to be really professional about it. You can’t take anything personally.”

Repeated attempts to secure Rodriguez to a long-term deal have failed -- he turned down an offer in the three-year, $34-million range after 2007.

But neither Rodriguez, who can become a free agent after this season, nor Reagins said the arbitration decision would have an effect on future negotiations.

“The door is still open,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez has a major league-leading 132 saves over the past three seasons and went 5-2 with a 2.81 earned-run average and 40 saves in 2007. But he had command problems in the second half, when he had a 3.45 ERA and four of his six blown saves.

Manager Mike Scioscia is confident Rodriguez’s loss won’t affect his performance.

“Frankie knows this is part of the business,” Scioscia said. “He has a terrific ability to filter out distractions. I don’t anticipate any loss of focus.”

Reagins was glad to put the process behind him.

“We want to win a world championship, and putting some of the potential distractions behind you is important,” he said. “This is one that could have been a distraction. But I think both parties have acted professionally. You move on.”

The four-year court fight between the Angels and the city of Anaheim could be approaching an end. After the Angels added Los Angeles to their name in 2005, the city sued, charging the new name violated the stadium lease. In 2006, after an Orange County Superior Court jury ruled in favor of the Angels, the city appealed. On Friday, a state appellate court received the final briefing papers and invited the two sides to consider oral arguments. Those arguments could be heard in spring or summer, after which the court would have 90 days to issue a ruling. . . . The Angels agreed to terms on contracts with pitchers Jered Weaver, Chris Bootcheck and Dustin Moseley, second baseman Howie Kendrick, outfielder Nathan Haynes and infielder Brandon Wood.

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Times staff writer Bill Shaikin contributed to this report.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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