With job security out of the way, White Sox left-hander Matt Thornton can now turn his attention to proving he should be Chicago's closer.
The reliever agreed to a $15 million, three-year contract Sunday that adds two years and $12 million to his previous deal.
The 34-year-old Thornton, who started his career with the Seattle Mariners, went 5-4 with a 2.67 ERA and a career-high eight saves last season. He had 81 strikeouts in 602/3 innings to become the first from the White Sox to lead American League relievers in strikeouts since Keith Foulke in 1999.
“It was an easy choice with an organization like this, with what they’ve done the last five months or so, retaining the core guys, adding the pieces and expecting to win,” Thornton said.
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The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Thornton, who has become an All-Star since he was traded by Seattle before the 2006 season for outfielder Joe Borchard, gets $3 million this season. That was the salary called for in the option year of his previous contract, which was exercised in October. His new contract adds salaries of $5.5 million each in 2012 and 2013 plus a $6 million club option for 2014 with a $1 million buyout.
Manager Ozzie Guillen hasn’t chosen who will be Bobby Jenks’ replacement as the closer, but indicated at times during the offseason that he would prefer Thornton in the role.
While he has made it clear he would like to be go-to guy in the ninth inning, Thornton knows the decision is not up to him.
“I’ve made that clear that I will do what they want, even before the deal,” he said. “They gave me security and trust me. My goal is to stay in Chicago the rest of my career.”
Jenks signed a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox this offseason.
UMPS, PLAYERS TALK
The unions for major league baseball players and umpires held a rare joint meeting with management in Fort Myers, Fla.
The 21/2-hour session was originally set at the request of the players’ association in early October after a series of missed calls in the playoffs.
“We had a productive exchange about a range of issues of concern to players, umpires and the commissioner’s office,” players’ union head Michael Weiner said.
Several former players attended the session, including Tony Clark, Steve Rogers, former Mariners outfielders Phil Bradley and Stan Javier, Bobby Bonilla and Rick Helling. Clark is the director of player relations of the players’ association.
Attending for MLB were executive vice presidents Joe Torre and Rob Manfred, senior adviser Frank Robinson and senior vice president Dan Halem.
“Just a conversation about areas of mutual concern,” Manfred said.
AROUND THE HORN
Cliff Lee threw four shutout innings, Ryan Howard hit his second home run of the spring and a split squad of Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-4, in Clearwater, Fla. Phillies rookie outfielder Domonic Brown is likely to have surgery Tuesday on his broken right hand. The team said he is likely to need up to six weeks to heal. Texas Rangers closer Neftali Feliz has a bruised shin after being hit by a line drive during batting practice. The American League Rookie of the Year, who had 40 saves last season, was carted off the field as a precaution. X-rays were negative for broken bones. Alex Rodriguez hit his first home run of the spring and the New York Yankees outslugged the Houston Astros, 10-8, in the wind in Kissimmee, Fla. With girlfriend Cameron Diaz cheering from a front-row seat near the Yankees dugout, Rodriguez extended his extra-base hit streak to five games. Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar was scratched from the lineup after a bug bite caused an infection on his right arm. The Royals say Escobar is being treated with antibiotics and is expected to miss a few days. Home run champion Jose Bautista went 3-for-3 with two doubles for Toronto in a 5-0 win over Pittsburgh in Bradenton, Fla.