Baseball

Blue Jays' Zaun happy to play, not talk contract

Despite working out a deal to remain a Toronto Blue Jay, catcher Gregg Zaun wasn't fond of his first experience representing himself in contract talks.

A veteran behind the plate, Gregg Zaun isn't sure he has much of a future as a player agent.

Zaun is representing himself in contract negotiations for the first time this season and nearly found himself on the outside looking in as far as returning to Toronto.

"This was always where I wanted to be," Zaun told a news conference Wednesday. "It was tough for a little while. I think I'll give up the agent business, that's for sure. I found out that these guys [general managers] play rough in the deep end and it's not a business I want to be in.

"I think I'll go back to being a baseball player."

Zaun agreed Monday night to a two-year, $7.25-million contract with the Blue Jays after GM J.P. Ricciardi was rebuffed by another free agent, Rod Barajas.

Barajas, 31, declined to fly to Toronto for a physical that would have finalized a two-year, $5.25-million deal, so Ricciardi quickly picked up the phone Monday eveningand calledZaun.

"He was always our No. 1 choice," Ricciardi said of Zaun, who hit .272 in 99 games last season with 11 home runs and 40 runs batted in. "I hope he continues to play, I hope he continues to pursue his broadcasting career. But I definitely hope he stops trying to be an agent."

Talks bogged down

Zaun's initial talks with Ricciardi this off-season bogged down when he refused to accept an offer similar to that of Barajas, leaving the 12-year major-league veteran upset and disappointed.

"It's tough for players to understand sometimes that it's business, not personal, and to be able to have thick enough skin to weather any complications," said T.R. Lewis, Zaun's agent and close friend from their days in Baltimore's system. "Some things are difficult for a player to hear."

Zaun agreed: "You feel such a closeness with people and they tell you something you don't want to hear, sometimes it stings a little bit more than you thought it would. And something you think you would be able to handle on your own, you can't."

With talks stalled, Zaun started looking elsewhere. He discussed being a backup catcher with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and inquired about starting with San Francisco, San Diego and Colorado.

But deep down, Zaun was yearning to remain a Blue Jay.

"I can't tell you how much I feel at home here," Zaun said. "This is where my career turned around, or actually got started. I was just spinning my wheels as a major-league player for a long time and got an opportunity to get out there and really find out what kind of player I could be."

Zaun joined the Blue Jays in April 2004, signing a minor-league contract after the Montreal Expos had released him and Greg Myers suffered a season-ending injury.

He eventually took over as the No. 1 catcher and seemed to have entrenched himself in that role until the Blue Jays inked free agent Bengie Molina last winter.

However, Molina is a free agent and not in Toronto's plans, so Zaun will arrive at spring training in February as the undisputed starter. Jason Phillips will back him up, while prospect Curtis Thigpen develops.

With files from the Canadian Press

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