Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Cuban pitcher Gonzalez signs with Phillies

CHICAGO -- The first reports that the Phillies were on the verge of signing Cuban righthander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez surfaced near the end of July.

Cuban pitcher Gonzalez signs with Phillies

CHICAGO -- The first reports that the Phillies were on the verge of signing Cuban righthander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez surfaced near the end of July.

The move finally became official Friday when the Phillies announced the pitcher signed a three-year deal with a vesting club option for a fourth year. The deal, according to general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., is worth a guaranteed $12 million.

That is significantly less than the six-year, $60 million that initial reports said Gonzalez would receive. Amaro would not say why the deal took so long to complete after those initial reports, but it was likely because of concerns about the pitcher's arm that were discovered during a physical.

Gonzalez had bone spurs removed during surgery in 2010.

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"Any time you sign a free agent there is always risk and we had our doctors take a look at him and we were comfortable enough to go ahead and move forward with it," Amaro said.

The contract will begin with the 2014 season when the Phillies hope the 26-year-old righthander moves into their starting rotation. For now, Gonzalez will report to the team's spring-training facility in Clearwater, Fla. and participate in instructional league activities that begin next month.

"He's got great stuff," Amaro said, adding that Phillies scouts believe he can be a second or third starter in the big leagues. "It just all depends on how effective he becomes at the major-league level. He actually has a variety of pitches -- fastball, cutter, slider, curveball, changeup, split -- so he's got a variety and we just have to find out what ones work for him."

Gonzalez, 26, has not pitched a lot competively in the last two years. He was banned from pitching in Cuba after a failed defection in January 2012  and then successfully defected in February of this year. The Phillies saw him pitch several times in Mexico.

"We had (his velocity) at 93 to 97," Amaro said. "Where he settles in at as a major-league starter we don't know."

Though the deal wasn't close to initial reports, it was still the most lucrative international signing in Phillies history.

"More than anything else it's about finding different ways to find talent," Amaro said. "The free-agent market place is very difficult to navigate and risky. There will be risk on this player, too, but the history of what we've seen out of this guy, he has a chance to be pretty special."

Bob Brookover Inquirer Columnist
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