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Wohlers is one loyal soldier

Special to

December 15

If you are worn down by all the stories on Alex Rodriguez's contract for a quarter of a billion dollars, Mark Wohlers is your Christmas story.

The 31 year old relief pitcher, who sat out almost 2 years first with control then an elbow problem that required surgery, turned down a guaranteed offer of more than $2.5 million to remain with the Reds for $1.5M for one year.

"I felt that this is the right thing to do," says Wohlers. "With easily reachable incentives, I could have made twice as much as I will in Cincinnati, but some things are more important than money.

"I have great appreciation to (Reds general manager) Jim Bowden, the trainers, doctors, physical therapists, (pitching coach) Don Gullett and all the coaches and people in Cincinnati. You can't put a dollar figure on what those people have done for me."

There were nine other teams in on Wohlers when he made up his mind on Friday. After elbow surgery in May, 1999, he got all the way back to the majors with the Reds and made 20 appearances. Then this winter the Reds were under a cash crunch and Bowden on Monday told Wohlers' agent Seth Levinson that he could not re-sign him. But Levinson and Wohlers made it clear they wanted to give Bowden and the Reds every chance to stay in the hunt, and Bowden creatively figured out a way to defer part of the salary until the Reds' 2001 pay calender ends October 31.

"When I was at bottom, they were there for me," says Wohlers. "There are some things that are right, and one of those is my forgetting whatever the difference in money is and remembering that loyalty is a two-way street."

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