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Braves Agree to Castilla Deal

December 8, 2001

ATLANTA (AP) _ Free-agent third baseman Vinny Castilla agreed Saturday to an $8 million, two-year contract with the Atlanta Braves, allowing five-time NL All-Star Chipper Jones to move to left field.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for the 34-year-old Castilla, who is expected to add some punch to the Braves lineup. He began his minor league career with the Braves organization in 1990.

Castilla, released early last season by Tampa Bay after hitting only .215 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 24 games, signed with Houston and hit .270 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs in 122 games for the Astros.

Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz said Castilla would likely play third base and that Jones would move to left.

B.J. Surhoff, who played left field last season, could either be switched to first base or be traded.

``We’ve always had high regard for Castilla,″ Schuerholz said. ``When he joined the Astros earlier this year, he demonstrated the ability offensively and defensively to play on a playoff-caliber team.″

Castilla, an All-Star in 1995 and 1998 when he was with the Colorado Rockies, has a batting average of .288 with 234 home runs and 744 RBIs in 1,187 games in his career of 10-plus years.

The Braves are hoping Castilla can add some offense that struggled most of last season with an offense that scored just 729 runs.

``I’m very excited to come back to the Braves, the team that gave me my first chance in the big leagues,″ Castilla said. ``It’s great to be joining a team that has a good shot at the playoffs every year.″

Castilla played in 21 games with the Braves in 1991-92 before being selected in the expansion draft by Colorado. He was traded to Tampa Bay as part of a nine-player, four-team trade in December 1999.

Castilla gets $3.5 million next season and $4.5 million in 2003.

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