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12/08/09 1:12 AM EST

Duchscherer rejects arbitration with A's

A's will be eligible for Draft pick if pitcher signs elsewhere

INDIANAPOLIS -- Interest has been high in Justin Duchscherer, the high-ceiling right-hander who sat out all of the 2009 season prior to becoming a free agent.

So it came as no surprise when Duchscherer, confirming afternoon rumors, officially rejected the A's offer of salary arbitration.

Nor is it surprising that Oakland general manager Billy Beane kept the door open for Duchscherer.

The 32-year-old pitcher had until 8:59 p.m. PT tonight to make a decision on acceptance, as did the other 22 free agents offered binding arbitration by their respective club.

However, Duchscherer and his agent, Damon Lapa, apparently didn't need a deadline-decision based on the number of teams that have expressed interest in signing him to host his comeback.

But one thing Beane made clear in a briefing of reporters earlier in the day is that he intends to continue negotiations with someone he values as a starter.

"We've made that clear since the end of the season," Beane said. "He would have the biggest impact with us as a starting pitcher, and we'll continue our conversations with him even if he declines the arbitration.

"If he declines, obviously one of the advantages is that we would receive a compensation pick for him if he goes elsewhere, but it would not eliminate the chance that he could be back with us. We'll continue to talk, as we have the last couple of months."

Duchscherer, as a Type B free agent, is the only one of Oakland's five free agents to be rated, and the only one affected by the arbitration issue. The A's will be qualified to get a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of the First-Year Player Draft in June if Duchscherer signs with another club.

Formerly a mainstay of the A's bullpen, Duchscherer made an All-Star conversion to the rotation in 2008, going 10-8 with a sharp 2.54 ERA prior to being waylaid by a chronic hip injury.

He underwent operations on his hip and pitching elbow, and was in the process of rehabilitating from those procedures when a diagnosis for clinical depression in August diverted him into treatment.

Duchscherer has been cleared physically and mentally to resume his comeback, and his long list of suitors headed by the Red Sox.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Change for a Nickel. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.