Suppan finalizes deal with Brewers
Veteran right-hander signs largest deal in club history
MILWAUKEE -- Jeff Suppan passed a physical Friday morning, formally clearing his path into the Brewers' starting rotation.
Suppan and the team came to terms Christmas Eve on a free agent contract that guarantees $42 million over the next four years, plus an option for a fifth. It's the largest contract in franchise history, and will become official next week when the team files paperwork with the Players Association.
"Will there be any extra pressure? There could be," Suppan said on a conference call with local beat writers on Friday. "But there could not be. I don't really know. I've never really made this kind of money, and it's a new organization so there are always going to be different things distracting you.
"As a pitcher or a player, you have to learn how to deal with distractions. That's what I try to do."
Suppan traveled from his Los Angeles home to Milwaukee on Thursday night, and woke early for Friday's physical exam with head team physician Dr. William Raasch. Afterward, Suppan drove around the city scouting potential new homes before stopping at Miller Park.
The mandatory physical was the only hurdle between the right-hander and by far the biggest contract of his career. He insisted he was not nervous.
"I didn't think much about it, to be honest with you," he said. "I feel strong. I feel healthy. I think I've proven that my health, throughout my career, has been there, and I plan on continuing that."
Suppan turns 32 on Tuesday. He has made at least 31 starts in eight consecutive seasons, and had pitched at least 200 innings in five straight seasons before his most recent three-year tenure in St. Louis under manager Tony La Russa.
Barring injuries, Suppan will join a rotation that includes right-handed ace Ben Sheets, whose four-year, $38.5 million deal had been the biggest in club history, plus left-hander Chris Capuano and right-handers Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas. Suppan will reunite with Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux, who was with the Boston Red Sox when Suppan made his first brief stops in the Majors in 1995 and 1996 and served as "a big influence" according to Suppan.
The Brewers coveted Suppan for his durability and experience. Capuano, Sheets and Vargas will all be 28 years old on Opening Day, and Bush will be 27. Suppan said he has no problem playing the role of old sage.
"That's how I learned," Suppan said. "Obviously, pitching in the World Series for a championship team was a great experience, and what I try to do is bring all of my experiences to wherever I'm at. If guys have questions, I'll try to give them my honest answer."
Suppan made nine postseason starts for St. Louis from 2004-2006, appearing in a pair of World Series and winning a championship ring this year. He was named MVP of the '06 National League Championship Series, allowing one earned run over two starts against the Mets.
For his career, Suppan is 106-101 in parts of 12 seasons, including 12-2 against Milwaukee. He has a 5-0 record in seven starts at Miller Park, a run of success he cannot quite explain.
"I don't know that there's an answer for that," Suppan said.
Suppan traveled to Milwaukee just as news of free agent left-hander Barry Zito's seven-year, $126 million agreement with the San Francisco Giants began to circulate. Several of the teams seeking Zito's services were looking at Suppan as Plan B, and even Brewers general manager Doug Melvin wondered whether Suppan would wait for Zito to sign before making his own decision.
"That had no bearing on my decision," Suppan insisted. "I was looking for the right team for me. I wasn't strategizing and waiting for Barry to sign or whomever to sign. I was trying to find the best fit for me, and I found it here in Milwaukee. That's why I decided to sign here."
Suppan will be back in town on Jan. 11 for the team's Winter Warm-Up, an invitation-only event featuring a number of players at Miller Park. Brewers pitchers and catchers formally report to Spring Training on Feb. 17.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.