01/06/2003 6:12 pm ET
Cardinals sign Levine and Hamilton
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The ink is still drying on the contracts... and on the reports from the physicals.
After coming to preliminary agreements last week, the Cardinals signed right-handed pitchers Joey Hamilton and Al Levine to one-year contracts Monday. Neither deal includes an option year. Both Hamilton and Levine are expected to pitch out of the bullpen for St. Louis in 2003. The two veterans underwent physical exams during the day Monday, removing the final potential obstacles to signing.
"We stressed pitching as a priority for this offseason," Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said. "There have been several changes made to our pitching staff and the recent addition of Joey Hamilton and Al Levine gives us two proven pitchers who can help us in a variety of ways."
Levine, 34, spent the last four seasons with the Anaheim Angels. He has also pitched for Texas and the White Sox. Hamilton, 32, pitched for the Padres and Blue Jays before joining the Reds in 2001. He won 40 games between 1996 and 1998 for San Diego, and has topped 200 innings three times in his career, but the Cardinals envision him as a reliever and possible emergency starter.
Levine and Hamilton add depth to a bullpen that has lost several key members since midseason 2002. Right-handers Dave Veres and Rick White departed via free agency. Right-hander Mike Timlin was traded in late July in the deal that brought Scott Rolen to St. Louis. And the Cardinals traded righty Luther Hackman to San Diego for starter Brett Tomko.
"What went into it," said John Mozeliak, the Cardinals director of baseball operations, "was (that we are seeking) guys who finished strong or showed a lot of life on their arms."
The left side of the Cardinals bullpen is relatively set, with Steve Kline and Jeff Fassero signed, and Rick Ankiel and Lance Painter possibly getting chances to be the third lefty. Left-hander Mike Matthews was traded to Milwaukee for starter Jamey Wright in August.
In four years as an Angel, Levine never had an ERA worse than 4.24 -- and that was in 2002, when he was bothered by injuries. He enjoyed a superb 2001 season, notching a 2.38 ERA in 75 2/3 innings. He was on the disabled list for more than three weeks in June and July of this past year. In seven Major League seasons, Levine is 18-23 with nine saves and a 3.91 ERA. He has pitched 423 1/3 innings in 288 appearances.
During his time with the Angels, Levine managed a 3.46 ERA. He attended Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, not far from St. Louis.
Hamilton was the Reds' Opening Day starter in 2002. He is 74-73 with a 4.38 ERA in 239 Major League games, 209 of them starts. He helped the Padres to division titles in 1996 and '98 as a mainstay of the starting rotation. Hamilton went 4-10 with a 5.27 ERA in 39 games (17 starts) for the Reds in 2002. He was considerably more effective in relief, with an ERA more than a run lower out of the bullpen as compared to when he started.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at
Matthew_H_Leach@yahoo.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.