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12/15/08 4:09 PM EST

Lefty Capuano agrees to Minors deal

Former All-Star looking to work his way back from elbow injury

MILWAUKEE -- Former All-Star left-hander Chris Capuano was close to finalizing an incentive-laden Minor League contract with the Brewers on Monday, according to a baseball source.

Capuano, an 18-game winner in 2005 and an All-Star in 2006 who missed all of '08 after his second major elbow surgery, briefly became a free agent on Friday when the Brewers chose not to tender him a contract for next season. The move was purely procedural; because Capuano was arbitration-eligible, he would have made at least $3 million had he been tendered a deal. That was too high a price for the Brewers considering his injury.

Instead, Capuano will return to Maryvale Baseball Park on a "heavily incentive-based" contract, according to the source, who said the language was being finalized Monday afternoon.

Capuano originally underwent Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2002 when he was in Arizona's Minor League system. He was fighting for his spot in Milwaukee's starting rotation when he felt a pop in his elbow last March and tried to avoid a second surgery before succumbing to a procedure on May 15 with noted orthopedist James Andrews.

Whether Capuano is ready to pitch by 2009 Opening Day remains to be seen. He has been rehabbing at the Brewers' training facility in Phoenix, and assistant general manager Gord Ash, who oversees the team's medical program, said Capuano might need a few extra weeks to work into pitching shape. With a Minor League contract, he can do so with one of the team's affiliates.

The Brewers are much more in need of pitching today than they were at this time last year. CC Sabathia has already signed a free-agent deal with the Yankees and Ben Sheets might follow, leaving 22-year-old Yovani Gallardo as the Brewers' ace and 26-year-old Manny Parra its only left-handed starter.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.