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Mariners Sign Pitcher Jose Mesa

The Seattle Mariners wasted no time in filling a void in their already shaky bullpen Thursday, signing veteran free agent Jose Mesa to a two-year contract and immediately naming him their closer.

Financial terms were not disclosed but the deal includes a club option for 2001. Mesa made $1.7 million last season for the Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants.

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The Mariners announced Mesa's signing minutes after losing right-hander Mike Timlin to the Baltimore Orioles via free agency. On Monday, Seattle acquired closer Mark Leiter from the Philadelphia Phillies for left-hander Paul Spoljaric.

"Our priority this offseason is upgrading our bullpen," said Mariners general manager Woody Woodward. "We wanted more depth and more pitchers that have had success. With Mesa, and previously Leiter, we feel we are getting deeper in the bullpen, although I am still willing to add more to the mix."

Mesa is a 32-year-old right-hander who started last season with Cleveland and went 3-4 with one save and a 5.17 ERA in 44 relief appearances. He was traded to the Giants on July 23 and went 5-3 the rest of the season with a 3.52 ERA in 32 games.

Although Mesa blew three of four save opportunities last season, Mariners manager Lou Piniella declared, "Mesa will be our closer next season. He has a proven record of success and I'm confident he'll do a good job for us. We're pleased to have him in Seattle."

Mesa had a sensational season for the Indians in 1995. In his first year as a closer, he went 3-0 with 46 saves and a 1.13 ERA. He followed that up with 39 saves in 1996 but the total dropped to only 16 in 1997 and Mesa lost the closer's job last season to formeMariner Mike Jackson.

Piniella tried almost everyone in an attempt to find a closer last year. Timlin proved to be the most effective, converting 19 of 24 saves chances, but he signed a four-year deal with the Orioles Thursday.

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