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Indians and Masterson suspend contract talks

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 21, 2014 at 9:07 pm •  Published: March 21, 2014
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GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — The Indians are going down a familiar path with a star pitcher.

Cleveland has suspended talks on a contract extension with ace Justin Masterson, agreeing that it's time to focus on the upcoming season.

Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said Friday that the club made a "very competitive" offer to Masterson, but the sides couldn't find common ground. Negotiations broke down with agent Randy Rowley on Thursday.

"I met with Justin this morning," Antonetti said. "At this point we both agreed to table discussions on a multiyear contract and potentially revisit it down the road. But right now the focus will be on preparing for the season."

Masterson, who avoided arbitration and agreed to a $9,726,000 salary for 2014, can become a free agent after the season. The right-hander is scheduled to pitch on opening day against Oakland on March 31.

Masterson continued his strong spring Friday by allowing two runs and five hits with six strikeouts in six innings of a 14-3 victory over Colorado.

He was smiling and upbeat after the start, and maintained he would like to stay in Cleveland.

"We tried hard. We enjoy each other. But at this moment, we can't necessarily make it happen," Masterson said. "So that's fine. We'll continue to go through the season. And those doors are technically closed, but they all have doorknobs that you can, at one point, open again."

Antonetti said the sides may discuss a new deal at a later time.

"We made an earnest effort to find common ground and get something done. In the end we weren't able to align," Antonetti said. "We have a profound belief in Justin. He embodies everything we want our players to be. He's a great teammate, a great person and an exceptional performer.

"There remains a desire from our side that he remains here long term. I believe he'd like to be here long term."

Masterson reportedly gave the Indians proposals on two- and three-year contracts at roughly $17 million per season. The Indians are believed to have offered packages at $14 million per year.

"Though you're taking less years, where do you put the amounts to make it fair and that stuff?" Masterson said without getting into specifics on the proposals. "You're giving up a couple things. So you're just working through all that."

The situation isn't a new one for the Indians, who were unable to reach long-term deals in the past with CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee and ended up trading the former Cy Young Award winners.

The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Masterson emerged as the team's No. 1 starter last season, when he went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA. He made the All-Star team for the first time.

It's the Indians' preference not to negotiate any player contracts during the season, but the club is aware of fan reaction concerning its long-term goals.

"We are fortunate that Justin is here for this season," Antonetti said. "There will be other junctures where we can explore an extension with him — it's just not right now. We don't want any distractions but if there is a right time to talk about it, we're open to it."

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