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04/07/09 8:10 PM ET

Mariners ink Zimmerman to Minors deal

Seattle signs righty with high hopes he will pitch this season

MINNEAPOLIS -- In another low-risk, high-reward transaction, the Mariners on Tuesday signed former Rangers right-hander Jeff Zimmerman to a Minor League contract.

It has been more than eight years since the 36-year-old reliever pitched in the big leagues, but Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said a recent tryout in Arizona was impressive and the hurler passed a physical that spanned Monday and Tuesday in Seattle.

Zimmerman will begin workouts at the Peoria Sports Complex on Wednesday, and he will be on a program that, according to Zduriencik: "Will get him ready to pitch for us this year. I can't tell you the time frame."

The Mariners worked out Zimmerman in Minor League camp last week, and Zduriencik said he was impressed with the way the "ball was coming out of his hand, especially for a guy who has been through what he has been."

Zimmerman was the Rangers' closer in 2001, when he saved 28 games and was selected to the American League All-Star team. During a three-year period from 1999-'01, he had 17 wins, 28 saves and a 3.27 ERA in 228 2/3 innings in 196 games.

He signed a three-year, $10 million contract after the 2001 season, but Zimmerman suffered an elbow injury the following spring and has had two Tommy John ligament-replacement surgeries since.

Zimmerman has been battling his way back ever since.

Zimmerman reached 90 mph on the radar gun during his recent workout, something that impressed Mariners officials watching him.

"Where he ends up, I don't know," Zduriencik said, "but it was certainly good enough to sign him and give him an opportunity to see where this takes us."

Zimmerman will join relievers Chad Cordero and Tyler Johnson in an extended spring program in Peoria, Ariz.

"That might be the best extended group ever assembled," Zduriencik said.

Zimmerman, from British Columbia, Canada, is the brother of former Mariners pitcher Jordan Zimmerman.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.