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Lowe finalizes $60 million, 4-year deal with Braves
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ATLANTA — The Braves finalized their $60 million, four-year contract with Derek Lowe on Thursday after the right-hander passed a physical.

Lowe went 14-11 with a 3.24 for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He likely will become the top starter in Atlanta's restructured rotation, joined by fellow newcomers Javier Vazquez and Kenshin Kawakami.

The 35-year-old Lowe will be introduced at Turner Field on Friday, capping a comeback week for the Braves after longtime starter John Smoltz signed with the Boston Red Sox, stirring up bitter complaints by fans and even star third baseman Chipper Jones about the direction of the team.

"This has been a very slow-developing offseason. I think the economy probably has a lot to do with that," general manager Frank Wren said. "I can understand people getting a little impatient. We were getting impatient. We were wanting to get things done and have an idea what our club was going to look like."

They have a much better idea now.

On Tuesday, the Braves announced the signing of Kawakami, a Japanese league all-star, and Lowe fills out a rotation that was devastated by injuries a year ago. Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Tim Hudson all underwent season-ending surgeries.

Lowe will receive $15 million a year in a contract that runs through 2012. Most enticing for the Braves, he's never been on the disabled list, making him one of only three current players (along with Livan Hernandez and Brad Ausmus) to play at least 12 years without ever going down with an injury.

The 42-year-old Glavine had hoped to start throwing off a mound this week, but had to push back those plans as he continues his slow recovery from elbow surgery. The Braves have said they'll hold off on offering him a contract until they know more about his health, and the 300-game winner has said he'll retire if he's not pitching in Atlanta.

Hudson, who underwent ligament replacement surgery on his elbow, isn't expected back until August, sending the Braves into the offseason with only one healthy starter under contract who had at least 10 wins in 2008.

Now, Jair Jurrjens (13-10, 3.68 ERA) has some help. Vazquez, who won 12 games for the Chicago White Sox, was acquired in a trade for a package of minor leaguers. Lowe has at least 12 wins in each of the last seven seasons and is one of the NL's top pitchers at keeping the ball on the ground.

Wren said that was a priority in rebuilding the rotation, especially since one of Atlanta's top rivals, defending World Series and NL East champion Philadelphia, has a home stadium that favors hitters. He's also heard the New York Mets' new park will have similar tendencies.

"Philadelphia is a hitter's ballpark," Wren said. "If you've got guys hitting the ball on the ground, it stays in the park."

The Braves also have Jorge Campillo, who went 8-7 with a 3.91 ERA as a rookie.

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