Cards may be close to getting closer

Saturday, December 8, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals continue to negotiate with free-agent closer Jason Isringhausen, but no deal is imminent, Cardinals spokesman Brian Bartow said Friday.

A report in Friday's Dallas Morning News said Isringhausen had selected the Cardinals over the Texas Rangers. Bartow said no deal has been finalized, though Isringhausen is the team's top choice for a closer.

"Right now, the focus is centrally on Jason," Bartow said.

Isringhausen, 29, had 34 saves in 43 chances and a 2.65 earned run average for the Oakland Athletics last season, and 67 saves over the past two seasons. He is a native of Brighton, Ill., near St. Louis.

Rangers owner Tom Hicks told the Morning News that Isringhausen wanted to play near his hometown. The Rangers had offered Isringhausen, a right-hander, nearly $30 million over four years.

The Cardinals essentially went to a closer-by-committee format last season after Dave Veres was injured and often ineffective. They had also expressed some interest in John Smoltz, who has since re-signed with Atlanta, and Jeff Shaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hicks said improving the bullpen remains the top priority for the Rangers. While Texas has signed middle reliever Todd Van Poppel, formerly of the Chicago Cubs, they have missed out on their top two targets: Isringhausen and Steve Karsay, who signed Friday with the New York Yankees.

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