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Braden Looper


Looper left Tuesday's game in the eighth inning with a sore back, and manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday he expected Looper to be sidelined for a few days.


Looper agreed to a $13.5 million, three-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday. The right-handed pitcher had 28 saves in 36 opportunities and posted a 3.94 ERA for the New York Mets last season. The 31-year-old will receive $3.5 million in 2006, $4.5 million in 2007 and $5.5 million in 2008.


The Mets opted to pass on their $5.5 million option to retain Looper for next season, electing instead to pay him a $250,000 buyout.


Looper revealed on Thursday that he has been bothered by a damaged AC joint in his right shoulder since the end of last season. The Mets' reliever bypassed relatively minor shoulder surgery, so that he would be ready for the start of the 2005 campaign, but now he is likely to go under the knife to repair the damage. The procedure could be as soon as Monday.


Looper is expected to undergo an MRI exam Thursday to determine the extent of a season-long injury to his right shoulder. His velocity has been inconsistent, and he's been roughed up for 12 hits, eight runs and three blown saves in seven September appearances. He's allowed runs in five of those seven games.


Looper has allowed runs in five of his seven appearances in September, and he's blown all three of his save chances. The righthanded reliever is not guaranteed to get the call in the ninth inning for the Mets over the final 10 days of the season.


Looper was unable to secure the victory for starting pitcher Pedro Martinez and the New York Mets, blowing a save in the ninth inning of Monday's season opener against the Cincinnati Reds. The righthander failed to record an out, giving up three runs on three hits, including a two-run homer to Adam Dunn and a walk-off solo shot to Joe Randa.

Obviously, Looper has nowhere to go but up following Monday's outing. Last season, he was 2-5 with a 2.70 ERA and 29 saves in 71 relief appearances. With the Mets' bolstered lineup, he should get more save opportunities in 2005.