The Mariners have signed Kevin Millwood to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to Spring Training, the team announced. Richard Walker of Millwood's hometown newspaper, the Gaston Gazette, first reported the news and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports confirmed it (Twitter links).
“Kevin brings a great deal of experience as a veteran pitcher and will compete for a spot in our starting rotation,” GM Jack Zduriencik said in a statement. “His leadership and experience will be a benefit for our young pitchers and we look forward to seeing him in Spring Training.”
Millwood, who turned 37 recently, pitched 54 1/3 innings of 3.98 ERA ball for the Rockies in 2011, with a 6.0 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 with a 42.2% groundball rate. He reportedly declined a $1MM contract offer from the Rockies prior to the Winter Meetings in hopes of securing a $3MM guarantee.
Millwood signed a five-year, $60MM contract with the Rangers prior to the 2006 season, and has spent exactly 1,000 innings since that date calling a hitter-friendly ballpark his home (he also pitched at Camden Yards for the Orioles and Coors Field last season). A pitchers' haven like Safeco Field in Seattle will likely benefit the veteran right-hander in 2012.
Millwood, who is represented by Scott Boras, will provide depth in a Mariners rotation that lost Michael Pineda in the Jesus Montero trade. Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, and Hisashi Iwakuma figure to be locks for the rotation, while Millwood, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan, and Charlie Furbush are also candidates. Heyman feels that Millwood has a "good chance" to make the team, and notes that he played for manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis during his Cleveland days.