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Arbitrators side with Brewers in Veras case

Arbitrators side with Brewers in Veras case

Arbitrators side with Brewers in Veras case
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers on Tuesday won their arbitration case against reliever Jose Veras, whose first pitch for his new team came in a hearing room instead of on a baseball field.

Veras, acquired in a December trade with the Pirates, will earn $2 million in 2012 instead of the $2.35 million he'd sought. Agent Bryce Dixon downplayed an awkward beginning by pointing to another player who faced a Monday hearing in St. Petersburg, Fla. Veras traveled from his home in the Dominican Republic on the same flight as Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who wound up avoiding arbitration with a last-minute, $14.575 million compromise.

"If the Red Sox were almost willing to take 'Big Papi' to arbitration, [Veras] understands this is part of the business," Dixon said. "You just have to roll with it. With relievers, there are just a ton of variables you can nit-pick on, and you never know what the arbitrators are going to hang their hat on.

"We're surprised by the outcome, but Jose is fine with it. Jose is looking forward to being a Brewer, and he's hoping that the Brewers have the same type of success this year as they did [in 2011]."

The Brewers improved to 3-4 in arbitration hearings since 1974 and 1-1 under the club's current regime.

"You just have to go in and put your best foot forward. We felt we did that," said Brewers senior director of business operations Teddy Werner, the club's point man on arbitration. "It's not a reflection at all of the club's opinion of a player or his ability. If you cannot come to an agreement, this is the setting that one finds themselves in."

He added, "We're excited about having Jose Veras on our roster for 2012, or we wouldn't have traded a very productive position player for him."

The Brewers sent third baseman Casey McGehee to the Pirates for Veras in a mid-December swap of arbitration-eligible players. Veras appears to be a leading candidate for the key seventh-inning role, a bridge between the Brewers' quality starting rotation and co-closers Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford.

Veras, 31, has posted sub-4.00 ERAs and has struck out about 10 batters per nine innings in each of the past two seasons with Florida and Pittsburgh. He made $1.35 million from the Pirates in 2011; a $1 million base salary plus $350,000 in incentives.

The sides did have some last-minute discussions Monday about a settlement but could not bridge the gap. The Brewers were able to do so 10 days earlier with starting pitcher Shaun Marcum, settling at the midpoint of filing figures mere minutes before Marcum was to sit in on his hearing.

In Veras' hearing, each side employed outside counsel who had one hour apiece to present a case to a panel of three, affirming the salary figure proposed back in January. After a half-hour break, each side had 30 minutes to rebut the others' case. Veras and Dixon attended in person, as did Werner and Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash. The three-member panel of labor judges then had 24 hours to choose one figure or the other.

The two closest comparable players were fellow Brewers reliever Kameron Loe, who settled last month for $2.175 million plus incentives, and Giants reliever Santiago Casilla, who settled for $2.2 million plus incentives.

Interestingly, both sides used Loe to argue for its figure; the Brewers because Loe settled slightly below the midpoint in the Veras case and the player's representatives because they viewed Veras as superior in several statistical categories, most notably holds (27 to 16 in 2011), and that Veras was coming from a slightly higher salary. Among the complicating factors was that Loe spent time in Japan before signing with the Brewers, and that Veras had been previously nontendered and signed his 2011 contract with the Pirates outside of the arbitration system.

"Obviously, we're disappointed. We thought we were the favorites going into it or we wouldn't have gone," Dixon said. "But Jose understands that this is just part of the business. He had a taste of the postseason with the Yankees early in his career, and he wants to go back and hopefully win a World Series."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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