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Pirates Sign Meares To Extension

April 30, 1999 GMT

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Pat Meares’ first six games in the National League must have impressed the Pittsburgh Pirates _ they signed him today to a $15 million, four-year contract extension.

Meares reached terms only a week after returning from a three-week layoff with an injured left wrist and 4 1/2 months after a contract impasse caused him to part ways with the Minnesota Twins.

Meares, who is making $1.5 million this season, will be paid $3.75 million a year from the 2000 through 2003.

``Pat Meares is the guy we wanted playing shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates,″ general manager Cam Bonifay said. ``He’s been a big addition to the ballclub and he’s the type of player who can help make us a championship team.″

The longterm contract is the second given a Pirates regular since funding was approved in February for a new ballpark that will open in 2001. First baseman Kevin Young signed in March a $24 million, four-year deal that is the richest in team’s history.

Meares’ contract is the third most expensive signed by the Pirates, surpassed only by Young’s contract and Jay Bell’s $17.5 million contract in 1993. The Meares deal is worth more than the $14 million the Pirates paid their entire roster last season.

``I like it here and wanted to stay here,″ Meares said. ``I heard Pittsburgh was like the Twin Cities and my wife and I really liked it up there. The people here have been very welcoming, very friendly and I look forward to playing shortstop here another 4-5 years.″

Meares, 30, didn’t really want to leave after five years with the Twins, especially after driving in 70 runs last season. But, amid a round of off-season salary slashing, the Twins balked at his request for $4 million a year and subsequently failed in late December to offer him a 1999 contract.

The move left Meares a free agent but, with most teams’ off-season moves already completed, the Pirates were the only team that offered a chance to start.

``That was the thing, I wanted to play every day,″ he said.

Meares’ signing muddies the future of one-time Pirates shortstop heir apparent Abraham Nunez, who began the season in Pittsburgh but was sent to Triple-A Nashville once Meares was activated on April 23.

``Abraham Nunez will be a starting shortstop in the major leagues sometime soon _ either for the Pirates or some other team,″ Bonifay said.

Meares took a .259 average, no homers and two RBIs _ and no errors _ into Friday night’s game against Colorado.