Baseball

Blue Jays ink pitcher Victor Zambrano

The Toronto Blue Jays have added Victor Zambrano to their growing list of starting pitcher hopefuls for 2007, signing the former New York Met to a minor-league deal.

The Toronto Blue Jays have added Victor Zambrano to their growing list of starting pitcher hopefuls for 2007.

General manager J.P. Ricciardi signed the former New York Mets right-hander to a minor-league contract on Tuesday that includes an invitation to spring training on Feb. 16 in Dunedin, Fla.

Zambrano, who won 12 games for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2003, made five starts for the Mets last season before he came out of a May 6 game and was diagnosed with a torn flexor muscle.

"We've always liked his arm," Ricciardi told the Canadian Press. "We like that he's pitched in the AL [American League] East [with Tampa Bay] with some success.

"There's still some rehab that needs to go on, but we sent someone to Venezuela and it looks like he's coming back."

Zambrano, 31, could be ready to pitch for the Blue Jays by mid-season and help out a starting rotation led by Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and Gustavo Chacin.

Zambrano would battle newcomers John Thomson and Tomo Ohka, along with Casey Janssen, Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and Ty Taubenheim, for the final two spots.

"What we're trying to do is have lots of veterans around to carry the load and make the kids force our hand," Ricciardi said.

Zambrano, 31, posted a 1-2 record last season with a 6.75 earned-run average prior to elbow surgery on May 15.

He is a career 45-41 in 174 games, including 96 starts, with the Devil Rays and Mets.

Zambrano's best season was 2003 when he went 12-10 with a 4.21 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 188 1/3 innings pitched.

Zambrano is also known as the player the Mets obtained in the trade that sent promising young left-hander Scott Kazmir to Tampa Bay.

In other Blue Jays news, Ricciardi said he has made progress in salary arbitration cases involving outfielders Alex Rios and Reed Johnson plus lefty Scott Downs.

With files from the Canadian Press

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