ATLANTA — Jason Heyward was in the audience as B.J. Upton was introduced Thursday as Atlanta’s new centerfielder.
That made manager Fredi Gonzalez smile as he realized he didn’t have to worry so much about finding the third starter in his outfield.
“Shoot, we may not even need a left fielder,” Gonzalez said. “With him playing center and Jason, who just won a Gold Glove, in right, it’s going to be fun watching these guys cover some ground in the outfield.”
Upton was given a No. 2 Braves jersey after finalizing a $75.25 million, five-year contract — the biggest ever given a free agent by the franchise. He gets a $3 million signing bonus payable by Dec. 31 and salaries of $12.45 million next season, $13.45 million in 2014, $14.45 million in 2015, $15.45 million in 2016 and $16.45 million in 2017.
The 28-year-old spent his first eight big seasons with Tampa Bay. He hit .246 with 28 homers, 78 RBI and 31 steals last season and replaces Michael Bourn in center. He is not expected to fill Bourn’s role as a leadoff hitter.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said adding a right-handed hitter gives more balance to a lineup that includes left-handed hitters Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman and Heyward. Wren said the right-handed power from a centerfielder made Upton especially attractive.
Upton’s home run totals have increased in each of the last three seasons, but he has hit below .250 with more than 150 strikeouts in four straight years.
Nats acquire Span
WASHINGTON — The Washington Nationals have acquired outfielder Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins for minor league pitcher Alex Meyer, giving the reigning NL East champions a leadoff hitter and center fielder.
Span is a career .284 hitter with 23 home runs, 230 RBI, 90 steals and a .357 on-base percentage during five seasons with the Twins.
Pettitte back with Yanks
NEW YORK — Andy Pettitte agreed to a one-year deal with the Yankees worth $12 million, putting baseball’s biggest postseason winner back in pinstripes.
The five-time World Series champion turns 41 in June. He retired after the 2010 season to spend more time at home but then decided to come back last season — while working as an instructor during spring training.
Pettitte went 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts. He missed almost three months because of a broken lower left leg.
Report: Rivera staying put
NEW YORK — Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees agreed Thursday to a $10 million, one-year contract, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been announced. The person said the deal includes additional bonus opportunities, as did the team’s agreement with Andy Pettitte earlier in the day.
After missing most of the season because of a knee injury, Rivera accepted a cut in guaranteed money from his $30 million, two-year deal that had covered the last two years.
Rivera turned 43 on Thursday.