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Olerud determined to keep playing
02/03/2005 2:08 PM ET
Spring Training opens for position players in less than a month, and former Mariners and Yankees first baseman John Olerud remains on the free agent market. He's determined, however, to continue his 16-year Major League career.

"There is some game left in him, and he can help somebody out," said Olerud's agent, Joe McIntosh, on Thursday. "He wants to play, but we're kind of waiting to see how his foot progresses."

Olerud, released by the Mariners in July and signed by the Yankees in August, had surgery on his left foot in November to repair ligaments he tore in a freak accident during the third game of the American League Championship Series. When Olerud dropped his bat after hitting a ground ball in the sixth inning of New York's eventual 19-8 victory over the Red Sox, the bat hit the instep of his left foot.

Though the injury wasn't considered serious at the time, the slick-fielding first baseman missed the next three games and most of Game 7, as the Red Sox pulled off a remarkable comeback, becoming the first team in MLB history to overcome a 3-0 deficit and win a seven-game series.

Olerud had started all seven of the Yankees' postseason games, batting .200 with one home run and two RBIs. His two-run homer off Pedro Martinez at Yankee Stadium proved to be the game-winner in Game 2. It was the final hit of the season for Olerud, who limped back to his Seattle-area home.

"There are some small bones in the foot, and he had some torn ligaments in there," said McIntosh. "[The surgeon] had to fuse the bones together, and the surgery went fine. The foot is getting better and he continues to rehab it, but he's not running on it yet."

According to McIntosh, "several" MLB organizations have expressed interest in his client, who has a .295 career batting average, 248 home runs and 1,193 RBIs. But he wouldn't name the teams.

"All I can say is there is some interest, yes."

Olerud is one of the few players in Major League history to have never spent any time in the minors. He was drafted and signed by the Blue Jays in 1989 following a stellar career at Washington State. He made his big league debut that same year, going 3-for-8 with the Jays.

Olerud remained in Toronto for the next seven seasons, winning an American League batting title in 1993 (.363) and helping the Jays win back-to-back World Series championships in 1993 and 1994. After three years (1997 to 1999) with the Mets, he returned to his hometown prior to the 2000 season and became a fixture on a Seattle team that won at least 93 games over the next four seasons, including an AL-record 116 games in 2001.

Olerud hit .285, .302 and .300 in his first three seasons with Seattle, clubbing 57 home runs and driving in 300. His run production subsided in 2003 (10 home runs and 83 RBIs), but he won his third Gold Glove that year.

His struggles continued in 2004, when after 77 games he had a .245 batting average, five home runs and 22 RBIs. The Mariners attempted to trade him, working out a swap with the Giants for J.T. Snow, but Olerud used the no-trade clause in his contract to block the deal.

He eventually was released by the Mariners and joined the Yankees for the stretch drive.

The 36-year-old contributed 46 hits in 164 at-bats, hit four home runs and drove in 26 runs for the AL East champs. He then went 3-for-14 in the AL Division Series against the Twins and 2-for-12 against the Red Sox in the ALCS.

Then came the surgery, and now the waiting game.

"Until he starts running again, it's hard to tell [when he might sign]," said McIntosh. "But he wants to keep playing."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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