Thursday, January 29, 2009

Braggin' on my Nephew

Zaun back with O’s

Baseball: Glendale native signs free-agent deal with team he began career playing for.
By Grant Gordon
Published: Last Updated Saturday, January 17, 2009 12:07 AM PST
GLENDALE — Gregg Zaun is returning to where it all started.

Where his 14-year Major League Baseball career started, anyhow.

As first reported by the Baltimore Sun late Thursday night, Zaun, a Glendale native, signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles, officially ending a five-season tenure with the Toronto Blue Jays and returning to the team that drafted him and he began his career with.

All signs point to Zaun beginning the season as the Orioles’ starting backstop.

“We expect him to do a lion’s share of the catching, and we’ll see how the season progresses,” Orioles President Andy MacPhail told the Sun.

The 37-year-old Zaun, who graduated from St. Francis High and is enshrined in the school’s athletic hall of fame, began his MLB career in 1995 with the Orioles and has played with seven teams. He’s accumulated a .251 average (783 hits in 3,125 at bats), a .344 on-base percentage, 405 runs batted in, 392 runs and 78 home runs in his career.

Last year with the Blue Jays, his playing time dwindled and he hit .237 with 30 RBI and 29 runs in 86 games. However, throughout his career and particularly in Toronto, Zaun has become well-regarded for his leadership and ability to handle a pitching staff. This season, he will handle a staff led by Jeremy Guthrie and Japanese import Koji Uehara.

“[Zaun’s] a veteran guy with some history here, and he’s got a good reputation for handling a pitching staff,” MacPhail told the Sun.

He will do so now with an Orioles team that finished last in the American League East Division at 68-93.

His joining the franchise, which also reportedly includes a $2 million pickup option for 2010 against a $500,000 team buyout, is still pending a physical and will likely become official on Tuesday. The deal had been reported to be imminent by multiple sites earlier in the week.

Many sites have also discussed the notion that Zaun will begin the season as a starter and serve as a bridge and mentor to prospect Matt Wieters eventually taking the job.

Zaun returns to Toronto for the first time on May 7 and returns to Southern California to play the Angels on July 2.

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