KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — The Atlanta Braves agreed Wednesday on a $14.1 million, one-year contract with Ervin Santana, bolstering their injury plagued starting rotation.
The 33-year-old right-hander went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 32 starts for the Kansas City Royals last season and should make a huge impact with the battered Braves, who are facing the prospect of losing Kris Medlen for the season and opening with Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor on the disabled list.
Medlen, who had been announced as Atlanta's opening-day starter, left a spring training outing Sunday after grabbing his right elbow. Initial tests showed ligament damage, and he will undergo further examination to determine if he needs surgery for the second time in less than four years. Medlen said he's already preparing himself to miss the entire season.
Beachy left a start Monday because of continuing problems with his right elbow, and Minor has yet to pitch this spring because of a sore shoulder.
"In light of what has happened over the past few days with our pitching staff, we felt it was incumbent on us to do everything we could to strengthen our starting pitching," Braves general manager Frank Wren told reporters before a game against Washington.
Santana will be pitching in the NL for the first time in his 10-year career. He spent eight seasons with the Los Angeles Angels before being traded to the Royals in 2013, helping Kansas City post an 86-76 record, their best since 1989.
But Santana, who made $13 million in the final year of his contract, turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Royals and became a free agent. Given his hefty contract demands, he remained unsigned as spring training began, despite putting up some impressive career numbers.
"This guy makes our rotation a lot better than where we are at now," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said, praising Wren. "We lost Medlen and Beachy in a matter of 2½ days and he went out there and got the best pitcher available for us."
Santana threw a bullpen at the Braves spring training complex on Wednesday, which Gonzalez said went well. Despite his late entrance to camp, Santana could be ready for the start of the season.
"It will be close," Gonzalez said. "We are kind of keeping our fingers crossed that we can get him enough innings where he can start for us."
Santana was an AL All-Star in 2008, tossed a no-hitter in 2011, and has reached double-figure wins five times, going a career-best 17-10 in 2010 and twice winning 16 games.
Overall, he is 105-90 with a 4.19 ERA.
Santana's agent, Jay Alou, said he initially received a text from Wren on Sunday, then got another call Tuesday night while negotiating with other clubs.
It didn't take long to reach an agreement with Atlanta, a deal that includes award bonuses.
It's easy to see why the Braves felt a sense of desperation. Medlen went a team-leading 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA last season, while Minor was 13-9 with a 3.21 ERA. The team also was counting on a full recovery for Beachy, who was one of the NL's most effective pitchers in 2012 before he underwent season-ending elbow surgery.
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