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11/17/2006

Tigers re-sign 1B Casey

Detroit loses LHP Walker to Orioles

DETROIT — Mighty Casey didn't strike out in his bid to return to Detroit.

Free agent first baseman Sean Casey, who came to the Tigers in an August trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates and went on to hit .529 in the World Series, signed a one-year, $4 million deal with Detroit on Thursday.

"I'm thrilled to be back,” Casey said from his Pittsburgh home. "I was treated first class all the way after I got here in August.

"I weighed all my options and I told my agent (Ron Shapiro) that when it's all said and done, if it worked out to come to Detroit, this was my first option.”

Casey, a left-handed hitter, said he was encouraged about his chances of returning to the Tigers after they acquired right-handed slugger Gary Sheffield from the Yankees last Friday. President/general manager Dave Dombrowski made it clear at the time that he wanted a left-handed hitter at first base.

"I almost felt like it was a perfect fit for me to come back to Detroit,” Casey said.

There was talk that Dombrowski might pursue Texas Rangers slugger Mark Teixeira, which would have cost Detroit a front-line pitcher, and those rumors heated up when Rangers officials sat down with Dombrowski at the GM meetings earlier this week.

But Dombrowski said he told Shapiro the Tigers were still interested in Casey, and "talks heated up Monday.”

"He's a tremendous fit for us,” Dombrowski said. "Sean helps us from both an offensive perspective and a defensive perspective.”

The enthusiastic and popular Casey, 32, batted .432 in 10 postseason games for the Tigers, culminating in a stellar World Series performance. He slugged two home runs, drove in five runs and became one of only 24 players in Series history to hit .500 or better at least 10 at-bats, but Detroit lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.

"Everybody is a piece to the winning team, and I felt like not winning last year, but getting there €” having that taste of what it would be like to win the whole thing €” for me it felt a little like unfinished business,” Casey said.

Casey hit .353 against the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. He missed most of the AL championship series against Oakland with a calf injury but said he's been healthy since.

"I'm 100 percent,” Casey said. "I felt 100 percent during the World Series.”

Casey is a .302 career hitter in 10 major league seasons, eight with the Cincinnati Reds.

While Dombrowski said he was "thrilled” to sign Casey, he also received some bad news Thursday when left-handed reliever Jamie Walker signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

Dombrowski said the Tigers offered Walker a two-year extension during the season, but Walker wanted to test the free agent market.

Now the search is on for a replacement. Other than filling that hole, however, Dombrowski said the Tigers are set heading into the winter.

"I'm not looking to make any moves with our position players,” Dombrowski said. "We'll always listen, but I don't anticipate any moves.”

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