Mariners add veterans Kuo, Camp to bullpen
Wilson, Gimenez designated to clear room on 40-man roster
SEATTLE -- Looking to further bolster their bullpen, the Mariners signed veteran free-agent relievers Shawn Camp and Hong-Chih Kuo to non-guaranteed one-year Major League contracts on Monday.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Mariners designated outfielder Mike Wilson and catcher Chris Gimenez for assignment and will now have 10 days to trade, release or outright their contracts.
Kuo, a 30-year-old lefty from Taiwan, was a 2010 All-Star for the Dodgers and posted a 3.73 ERA over seven seasons in Los Angeles, but was released after elbow problems and an "anxiety" issue left him with a 9.00 ERA in 40 appearances last season.
According to Central News Agency (CNA), he can earn $1 million by making the Mariners' 25-man roster, with a possible $2.25 million in additional bonuses if he meets various levels for games on the roster, appearances and games closed.
When healthy, Kuo was one of the Majors' top relievers with a 1.96 ERA in three seasons from 2008-10, when he allowed 110 hits with 201 strikeouts and 52 walks over 170 innings. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder had a 1.20 ERA with 12 saves in 2010, when his ERA was the 11th lowest by a reliever in Major League history (minimum 60 innings pitched) and his .139 opponents' batting average was the fifth lowest in MLB history.
Elbow problems have been Kuo's biggest problem since signing with the Dodgers as an international free agent in 1999. He missed both the 2000 and '03 seasons following Tommy John surgeries and has had three minor surgeries on the elbow since, including one last fall after finishing up a frustrating year in Los Angeles.
Kuo struggled with his control as well as his elbow and then talked of retirement after last season, but told CNA he expects to be ready for the start of training camp.
The right-handed Camp, 36, appeared in a team-high 67 games for the Blue Jays last year while posting a 6-3 record with a 4.21 ERA and one save in 66 1/3 innings.
Camp has pitched in 196 games in relief over the past three years, third-most in the American League in that span behind only the D-backs' Craig Breslow (219 while with Oakland) and the Mariners' Brandon League (202 with Toronto and Seattle).
Camp has pitched 432 games -- all out of the bullpen -- in eight Major League seasons with the Royals (2004-05), Rays (2006-07) and Blue Jays (2008-11). His career record is 25-26 with a 4.40 ERA and 10 saves and he went 15-13 with a 3.63 ERA over the past four seasons in Toronto.
Camp ranked 13th among AL relievers last year in ground-ball percentage (66.1 percent) and ground-ball-to-flyball ratio (1.95). He led all AL relievers with 12 ground-ball double plays and was third in ground-ball double plays per nine innings (1.63).
Since arriving in the Majors in 2004, Camp's 67.3 percent ground-ball rate is the 11th-best mark among AL relievers in that span.
Mariners pitchers and catchers report on Saturday and will be on the field for their first workout Sunday, with Seattle being the first team into camp due to its early start with two regular-season games against the A's in Tokyo on March 28-29.
Camp and Kuo give the Mariners' young bullpen an added veteran presence, much like Jamey Wright last season, and add further depth to a group that includes League, Tom Wilhelmsen, Shawn Kelley, Chance Ruffin, Steve Delabar and offseason addition George Sherrill.
Gimenez, 29, played 24 games and hit .203 for Seattle last year while starting at catcher, first base and left field. He was non-tendered on Dec. 12, then re-signed a Major League deal two days later for $500,000. In parts of three Major League seasons with the Indians (2009-10) and Mariners (2011), he has appeared in 97 games.
Wilson, 28, split the 2011 season between Seattle and Triple-A Tacoma. He made his Major League debut on May 10 at Baltimore and wound up hitting .148 (4-for-27) in eight games before being sent back to Tacoma. Wilson has spent his entire career in the Mariners organization since being selected in the second round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.