White Sox agree to $11 million, 2-year contract with Dotel

CHICAGO – Octavio Dotel knows he’s joining a team that struggled last season. He also sees an opportunity to play in the World Series.

Dotel and the Chicago White Sox agreed Tuesday to an $11 million, two-year contract, bolstering a bullpen that ranked among the majors’ worst last season.

“I think they’ve got good starting pitchers, and they’ve got a great bullpen,” he said. “The chance to be in the World Series is the reason I signed with the White Sox.”

The 34-year-old right-hander spent last season with the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves, but a shoulder injury limited him to 33 appearances and 30 2-3 innings. He went 2-1 with a 4.11 ERA and was dealt from Kansas City to Atlanta at the July 31 trade deadline.

Dotel had reconstructive elbow surgery in 2005 while with Oakland and pitched for the New York Yankees the following year. He has 82 career saves in nine major league seasons.

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    White Sox general manager Ken Williams said Dotel probably came back too quickly from the elbow surgery and added he passed an MRI and physical exams “with flying colors.”

    Dotel added he’s 100 percent and feeling “better than before.”

    “If you can assess that he’s going to be healthy and return back to his normal production level, then the money is secondary at that point and we focus on getting the team to be the best we can possibly be,” Williams said.

    Dotel said Cleveland, San Francisco, both New York teams, Baltimore and Pittsburgh were interested in him. He’s joining a team that won 72 games, thanks in part to a bullpen that blew 23 save chances, had a 19-25 record and a 5.49 ERA. He’ll slot in behind closer Bobby Jenks along with Scott Linebrink.

    “Kenny was the one who showed more interest in me,” Dotel said. “That’s the reason. He thinks I’m a great key for the bullpen in 2008, even though we have Linebrink and Jenks as the closer. I see help for me, too. When I come into the game, I know I’m going to have help.”

    Upgrading the bullpen was a major goal for Williams, who signed Linebrink to a $19 million, four-year contract in November. Now, the White Sox have several right-handed setup men for Jenks, who had 41 and 40 saves, respectively, in the past two seasons.

    “I’ll be OK to set up for Jenks,” said Dotel, who will earn $5 million this year and $6 million in 2009. “He’s a great closer, one of the best in the league. It’ll be good for me. There are going to be some days he won’t be available, and I’ll be there.”

    But his main job will be to set up Jenks.

    “What we needed to do was make sure we had a bridge to get the ball to Bobby,” Williams said. “Now, I believe we’ve got multiple options – not just with Dotel but obviously Linebrink. I expect Matt Thornton to rebound and Mike MacDougal to rebound from disappointing years. We feel good about the quality. We feel good about the depth of our bullpen. We also feel good about the ability to not tax Bobby Jenks to the point where we wear him out.”

    Chicago also agreed to a $4.75 million, four-year contract with Cuban slugger Alexei Ramirez and designated pitcher David Aardsma for assignment.

    The deal with Ramirez, who batted .335 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs last season in Cuba, had been in place for a month. An infielder and outfielder, he will receive a $500,000 signing bonus and be paid $950,000 this year and $1.1 million annually from 2009 to 2011.