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01/19/2005 8:20 AM ET
Nationals agree to terms on one-year contract with free agent right-handed pitcher Esteban Loaiza
Two-time All-Star joins Nationals rotation
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The Washington Nationals today agreed to terms on a one-year contact with free-agent right-handed pitcher Esteban Loaiza. Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement from the club's Spring Training complex in Viera, FL.

Loaiza joins the Nationals just one year removed from going 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA for the White Sox and leading the American League with a career-high 207 strikeouts. He has eclipsed the 180-inning plateau four times in the last five seasons.

The American League's starting pitcher in the 2003 All-Star Game at U.S. Cellular Field, Loaiza led the AL in quality starts (27) and also ranked among the league's top three in strikeouts per 9.0 innings (second at 8.2), wins (tied for second) and ERA (third) that season. Loiza finished behind only Toronto's Roy Halladay in the 2003 AL Cy Young voting. He went 10-7 with a 5.70 ERA in 31 games (27 starts) for Chicago (AL) and New York (AL) in 2004.

Loaiza is 100-89 with a 4.70 ERA in 10 big league seasons with Pittsburgh, Texas, Toronto, Chicago (AL) and New York (AL). By signing with Washington, Loaiza returns to the National League for the first time since winning 27 games for the Pirates from 1995-98.

"Esteban Loaiza has proven he is capable of pitching 180 innings, and although he's coming off a subpar year by his own standards, we believe that he is well worth the risk," said Bowden. "This is a pitcher who has started an All-Star Game and performed at high levels in tight pennant races and the post-season, so he offers the veteran presence that we covet to help develop our young pitchers."

The contract agreement was contingent on Loaiza passing a physical that included MRI's on both his right shoulder and right elbow. Loaiza passed the required exam, which was administered earlier today by Dr. John Conway in Dallas, TX.

An American League All-Star the last two seasons, Loaiza posted a 1.08 ERA in three post-season games out of the bullpen for New York (AL) last October. Loaiza's career post-season ERA is 2.35. In five seasons beginning in 2000, Loaiza has averaged more than 29 starts per season and won at least 10 games four times.

Loaiza offers a rare blend of power and control. Including 2003, when he led the AL in strikeouts, Loaiza has averaged 7.1 strikeouts per 9.0 innings the last two seasons. Meanwhile, not only has Loaiza issued less than 60 walks in a season nine times in 10 big league seasons, he has averaged only 2.6 walks per 9.0 innings pitched during his career.

Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Loaiza joins fellow Mexicans Vinny Castilla (Oaxaca, MEX) and Luis Ayala (Los Mochis, MEX) in Washington. Loaiza ranks second all-time among Mexican-born pitchers with 100 career wins. Only Fernando Valenzuela (173) has more.

Off the field, Loaiza is active in Garth Brooks' "Teammates for Kids" foundation. He also contributes to Little League organizations in his native Mexico.

NATIONALS DESIGNATE OF BRANDON WATSON FOR ASSIGNMENT

To make room on their 40-man roster, the Nationals designated outfielder Brandon Watson for assignment. Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden made the announcement from the club's Spring Training complex in Viera, FL.

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