27 January 2006

Pending Pinstripes Yankee Prospect of the Week: Kevin Reese

Kevin Patrick Reese, OF
Born: March 11, 1978
Height: 5-11 Weight: 195
Bats: Left Throws: Left
College: University of San Diego
Drafted: San Diego Padres' 27th round pick in 2000 amateur draft

Kevin Reese, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, was named the 2006 Columbus Clipper of the Year, and now, as an added bonus to his resume, he'll be made the 27 January 2006 Pending Pinstripes Prospect of the Week! I'm sure his family is very proud.
2006 Clipper of the Year and Pending Pinstripes Prospect of the Week Kevin Reese

Read the rest at Pending Pinstripes...

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26 January 2006

Public Announcement: Columbus Clippers' 2006 Winterfest

Today, Thursday, January 26th, is the

Columbus Clippers' 2006 Winterfest.

The Columbus Clippers invite you to meet new manager Dave Miley and Clipper of the Year Kevin Reese at the Arena Grand Theatre.

Reservations are $10 and are Buy One Get One FREE!

There will be a question and answer session for Dave and Kevin beginning at 6:45 PM and will be followed by the new movie Glory Road. Your reservation is good for both the Clipper of the Year Reception and the movie. Complimentary soft drinks and popcorn will be served. All guests must check in at the Clippers table to gain entrance.

Parking is on the Clippers when you park in the Arena Grand Parking Garage. Redeem your parking ticket when you check in at the Clippers table inside the theatre lobby.

The theatre has a limited number of seats, so it is first come first served basis. For reservations call (614-462-5250) or stop by the Clipper ticket office at 1155 West Mound Street. (Technically you should have signed up by Monday, but since I only got this notification via email yesterday, there's not much I could do about that. If there's room, I'm sure they'll still be accomodating.)

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24 January 2006

All-Baseball.collumn: Red Sox Ripe for Return to Rest of League

The Boston Red Sox are reportedly nearing deals for Indians outfielder Coco Crisp and former Marlins shortstop Alex Gonzalez. This Alex Gonzalez is not to be confused with Alex S. Gonzalez, former Toronto, Cubs, Expos and Devil Rays shortstop and thirdbaseman. Actually, come to think of it, you can confuse them all you want. Aside from the fact that the other Alex Gonzalez is about three and a half years older than this one, the two players have almost exactly identical skill sets, which is to say that neither of them can hit his way out of a paper bag.

Coco Crisp, on the other hand, is a pretty solid player.

Read the rest at All-Baseball.com...

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Boys of Summer National League Team Nickname

To Whom It May Concern:

Whomever has been looking for multiple variants of "Boys of Summer National League Team nickname" for the last two days, the answer is "The Brooklyn Dodgers".

Former Brooklyn beat writer Roger Kahn wrote a book of that title and the nickname, though it originally referred to baseball players in general, came to be associated nostalgically with the Brooklyn club. (The book was published after the team moved to Los Angeles.)

Not that I mind the traffic you're bringing my website, but I thought it might be nice if you just had a direct answer right here.

Hope that helps.


Travis M. Nelson

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20 January 2006

Slow Week for Baseball News...

Is it my imagination, or has this been an exceedingly slow news-week for the baseball world? The following were among the most prominent headlines today and during the past week:

Red Sox Re-Hire Epstein, Position Undetermined

The man who engineered the first Red Sox World Series Title since the end of World War I just walked away from the best job in the business two or three months ago. Everyone sorta figured he'd be back because, really, where could he go that would have been better than what he'd been doing in Boston? Right? So that actually happens, and it's "News".

Alex Rodriguez Decides to Play for U.S. (Again) in WBC

That's right, A-Rod will challenge Hasim Rahman for the World Boxing Council's heavyweight championship. No, wait. That should be the World Baseball Classic. Never mind.

Seriously, though, is anyone really going to watch this? Will anyone really care who wins? And if not, who cares who plays for which team? I mean, Ron Villone will be pitching for Italy, and he was born in New Jersey! At least Nomar Garciaparra can justify playing for Mexico because he was born in California, which is part of Mexico. Isn't it?

Cuba Allowed To Compete in WBC

"...And in this corner, sporting the green fatigue trunks and a cigar, Fidel Castro!!!!" OK, sorry. I'll stop with the boxing jokes. Since the US Treasury Department decided to "allow" Cuba into the WBC, we'll get to see a bunch of AA_level players you've never even heard of competing against some of the best players in the world! Most of them on the Dominican team! Of course, I'm not any sort of fan of Communists, per se, but then neither am I sure the U.S. Treasury Department should have any more jurisdiction over who plays in this thing than, say, the Nevada Boxing Commission. In either case, as I mentioned previously, does anybody really care?

Pete Rose Wants Second Third Another Chance at Hall of Fame; No, Really

That's right. Difficult as it may be to believe, in early January, just after the Hall of Fame announced its induction for 2006, Pete Rose announced that he too would still like to get in somehow. And he even (wait for it...) gave an Exclusive Interview to discuss the issue, in which he mentioned that he was "...shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here." And did he mention that he wrote a book last year?

Dontrelle Willis Wins Warren Spahn Award

Did you even know that there was a Warren Spahn Award? I didn't. I think it goes to the left-handed pitcher with the highest leg-kick, but I can't be sure.

Joe Torre Not Getting Fired

Whew! That's a relief. It's good to know that a guy who's under contract for two more years and hasn't missed the playoffs, well, ever, since he's been the Yankee Skipper, has some job security. Bob Klapisch must have been under heavy pressure from his editor to write something by Friday afternoon. It was either this story, or

"U.S. Department of Transportation Bans Iran From WBC; Iranian President Ahmadinejad Denies Baseball Ever Happened "

Anywho, I sure hope something actually happens next week...

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19 January 2006

Pending Pinstripes Yankee Prospect of the Week: Eric Duncan

See? I told you that you'd be hearing more about Eric Duncan!

Eric Anthony Duncan

Position: 3B
Born: December 7, 1984
Height: 6-1 Weight: 205
Bats: Left Throws: Right
High School: Seton Hall Prep High School (West Orange,NJ)
Drafted: New York Yankees, 1st round (27th overall) of 2003 June draft

Duncan, as I mentioned last week, is the Yankees' #2 prospect, according to Baseball America. The Yanks took him with their first pick in the 2003 draft, right out of Seton Hall Prep, and according to The Baseball Cube, by making it to AA ball he's already advanced farther than anyone else ever drafted from that school. Yep, all six of 'em.

Duncan was immediately sent to the Yankees Gulf Coast (Rookie) League affiliate and hit OK, but nothing special (.278/.348/.400, with only 2 homers in 47 games but 18 walks). They promoted him to Staten Island of the short-season New York-Penn League (Low-A) and he tore the cover off the ball, hitting .373/.413/.695 in his 14 games there. Hard to blame him for wanting to get away from Staten Island as soon as possible. That got him sent to Low-A Battle Creek to start the 2004 season and a solid performance there got him sent to High-A Tampa.

Take a look at his combined line in A-Ball from 2004:

129 461 75 119 43 4 16 83 7 3 69 131 .258 .360 .473

OK, so a .258 batting average doesn’t look all that exciting, and striking out once a game even less so, but he also walked more than once every other game and he piled up 63 hits for extra bases, including 43 doubles. All of this at the tender age of 19! That made him the Yankees’ #1 prospect in Baseball America’s 2004 list, so why is he only #2 this year?

Bad Luck, essentially.

Baseball America indicates that he got off to a slow start at AA Trenton and then, to make matters worse, got hit in the head with a pitch. That generally screwed him up for the rest of the year, but he did hit .362/.423/.734 with 8 homers and 27 RBI in only 23 games to win the MVP of the Arizona Fall League. (NOTE: Another Yankees prospect, recently acquired 2B Kevin Howard, won the AFL batting title with a .409(!) average in 25 games. Howard looks like a fringe prospect at best, and had never hit over .296 in a season of his minor league career, so AFL numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Maybe a whole shaker full of it.)

What’s he got going for him?

Duncan’s still very young, having just turned 21 a month ago. He hits left-handed, always a good fit for Yankee Stadium, and has power that is already above average and developing. His homer totals have gone from 4 to 16 to 19 in his three years of pro ball, and those 19 bombs in 2005 came despite a .235 batting average. He’s also shown some patience, walking at a reasonable rate, which is impressive considering his youth. “He’s coachable and willing to make adjustments,” according to John Manuel of BA.

What’s he got going against him?

His batting stroke generates power, but isn’t particularly short, so he strikes out a lot. Even while piling up those pretty numbers in the Arizona Fall League, he also struck out 29 times in 23 games. Like most young players, he has some trouble with good breaking stuff, part of the reason his numbers suffered at AA Trenton last season.

Defensively, he has two problems:

1) His arm isn’t really strong enough to play the position in the majors (which contibuted to his Eastern League-high 27 errors) and…

…he’a already got the Best Thirdbaseman on the Planet and reigning American League MVP in front of him on the organizational food chain.

Prognosis for 2006:

Given his impressive performance in the Fall, the AFL website speculated that the Yankees may be more willing to push Duncan up to AAA Columbus to start 2006, but I doubt that. Most of the players with whom he competed in November were also AA-level players, and heck, it was only a month. He still seems to have some work to do, both on offense (bringing up that average and bringing down the strikeouts) and on defense (moving across the diamond to first base, a switch he began in Arizona). It makes more sense for the Yanks to allow Duncan to work on both issues in Trenton next year, where he may be a little more comfortable, and where he’ll still be among the younger players in the league (only 21, remember). If he hits like crazy for two or three months and learns First Base quickly they may move him up to AAA, but Rodriguez’s continued excellence and the re-emergence of Jason Giambi as an offensive contributor mean that there’s no rush to get Duncan to the show this year.

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17 January 2006

Trending Upwards: Future Hall of Famers?

Last week the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced the lone inductee of the Cooperstown Class of 2006: Bruce Sutter. Normally, I would use this space to lament the fact that Richard "Goose" Gossage, a relief pitcher roughly half again as good as Sutter was, did not get elected. However, as people with more influence than me, namely ESPN's Rob Neyer and the Goose himself, are already doing that, I suppose I don't need to echo them. The half-dozen or so of you who read my work with any regularity already know what I think about Goose's qualifications, so I won't belabor that point. What's more interesting than my opinion, however, is whether or not Gossage (or Bert Blyleven, or Jack Morris, or Jim Rice, or anyone else for that matter) ever will get the call from Cooperstown.

The truth is that Sutter only made the grade in 2006 for two reasons: For one thing, the rest of the ballot was pretty weak. Nobody on the 2006 list had gotten more than Sutter's 344 votes (66.7%) in 2005, and nobody new with any clout was going to be on the ballot. (Indeed, Orel Hershiser got the most votes of all the first-timers in 2006, with only 58, good for 11.2% of the vote, or roughly 330 votes short of those needed for enshrinement.) The second reason is that there were some pretty substantial media personalities campaigning for him.

If those two items are the main criteria next year, then things are not looking good for Gossage or any of the other holdovers who may have his hopes set on a 2007 induction. In the 2007 election, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn and Mark McGwire (not to mention Harold Baines, Jose Canseco, and Bret Saberhagen) will all be eligible for induction for the first time, will probably all be elected easily. That is, barring a "tell-all" book by a source more credible than Jose Canseco that proves that McGwire really did use steroids, Tony Gwynn's 5.5 hole was artificially enlarged and/or Cal Ripken's "streak" was due to hair dye. (Of course, finding a source more credible than Canseco is not such an accomplishment. Stevie Wonder could probably say he saw McGwire take steroids and more people would believe him than believed Jose.)

Historically, though, does the advent of two or three super-qualified applicants really detract from another player's candidacy?

Continue reading at All-Baseball.com...

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12 January 2006

Pending Pinstripes Yankee Prospect of the Week: Philip Hughes

Baseball America just released its list of the Top Ten Yankee Prospects last week, so this seems like a good source of material for my own analysis/commentary. The list is as follows:

1. Philip Hughes, rhp
2. Eric Duncan, 3b/1b
3. Jose Tabata, of
4. C.J. Henry
5. Austin Jackson, of
6. Eduardo Nunez, ss
7. Marcos Vechionacci, 3b
8. Christian Garcia, rhp
9. Jeff Marquez, rhp
10. Tyler Clippard, rhp

Most of these guys, excepting perhaps Duncan at #2, will be completely unfamiliar to most of you. Duncan's name came up in trade rumors last summer, which is the only reason you'd have heard of him, but as he is still with the Yankees and is considered their second-best prospect by a pretty substantial source, you'll be hearing a lot more of him soon. Let's look at Hughes first though...

Philip J. Hughes, rhp
Born: June 24, 1986
Height: 6-5 Weight: 220 Bats/Throws: Right
High School: Foothill High School (Santa Ana,CA)
Drafted: NYY 1st round (23rd overall) of 2004 amateur entry draft (June Regular Phase)

W  L   ERA   G   IP    H   R  ER  HR  BB   SO   h9    hr9   w9    k9   whip
9 1 2.07 20 91.3 58 25 21 1 20 101 5.72 0.10 1.97 9.95 0.85

What’s he got going for him?

Hughes reportedly throws a 92-94 mph fastball and can throw even harder if necessary. His curveball is supposedly above average and his slider, which was his best pitch before the Yankees forced him to develop the curve in 2005, bites late and hard. His command of the fastball and solid mechanics have led one Yankees official to refer to him as “Mark Prior lite”, but it should be noted that historically the Yankees tend to hype their own prospects more than anyone else does.

What’s he got going against him?

In a word: History.

Hughes was drafted out of high school last year, which may not bode well for him. A lot of organizations with higher draft picks than the Yankees decided to focus on college pitchers, and with good reason. In the 2004 draft, only 7 of the 28 pitchers selected in the first round were drafted out of high school, and only 3 of the 14 pitchers taken before Hughes were high school pitchers. There is a movement away from the high risk/high reward idealogy associated with drafting pitchers this young.

For example, the last time the Yankees used their first pick to draft a pitcher out of high school was 2002, when they took Brandon Weeden. His stats looked much like those of Mr. Hughes after his first two years in the minors:

W L ERA G IP H R ER HR BB SO h9 hr9 w9 k9 whip
4 4 2.70 23 80.0 60 36 24 1 39 68 6.75 0.11 4.39 7.65 1.24

Admittedly, not quite as good, with slightly worse hit, walk and strikeout rates, but still looking like a decent prospect. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, they thought so too, and they took him (along with Jeff Weaver and Yhency Brazoban) in the trade that sent Kevin Brown to New York. For whatever reason, Brandon regressed considerably and started weedin’ himself out of the Dodgers’ talent harvest, going 9-18 with an ERA around 5.50 in the last two seasons for the Columbus Catfish of the Low-A Sally League.

A better illustration of this might be found by looking at the comparative numbers of draft picks that actually have major league careers from either high school or college. I looked at the 1999 amatuer draft because it was convenient, the Yankees drafted a pitcher in it, and it was long enough ago that anyone who graduated from high school that year is now 25 or so, and probably already in the majors if he ever will be. Here’s what I found:

Total Players Drafted: 51
Pitchers: 36
High School Pitchers: 15
College Pitchers: 21

Of the 15 high school pitchers, only four (27%) have made it to the majors:

Jimmy Gobble (14-14, 5.27 ERA, 254 innings in three MLB seasons)
Jerome Williams (23-22, 3.92 ERA, 383 innings in three MLB seasons)
Casey Daigle (2-3, 7.16 ERA, 49 innings in one MLB season)
Josh Beckett (41-34, 3.46 ERA, 609 innings in five MLB seasons)

Of the 21 college pitchers, 11 (52%) have made it to the majors. They include:

Mike “Mac the Ninth” MacDougal, who has closed most of the few games the Kansas City Royals have won since 2003. He’s got 49 saves and a 3.97 ERA in 170 MLB relief innings.

Jason Jennings (49-43, 5.02 ERA in 729 MLB innings, all with the Rockies), who was the 2002 NL Rookie of the Year.

Brett Myers (42-33, 4.47 ERA in 656 MLB innings). Last year his 3.72 ERA was 20th in the NL and his 208 strikeouts tied him for 3rd place in the Senior Circuit.

Ben Sheets (55-62, 3.83 ERA in 982 MLB innings over five seasons), who has won at least ten games in each of his five seasons in the majors despite not even pitching enough to qualify for the ERA title in 2005 or 2001, and despite pitching for the Brewers. His 2.70 ERA ranked 3rd in the NL in 2004 and his 264 strikeouts were second only to Randy Johnson.

Barry Zito (86-53, 3.50 ERA in 1209 innings over six MLB seasons), who won the 2003 AL Cy Young Award. He’s pitched 213 or more innings in each of the last five seasons, with a better than average ERA each season and a career ERA 29% better than the adjusted league average.

And Matt Ginter, who isn’t much of a pitcher but can play the banjo!

Anywho, that was a considerable digression, and only one of dozens of drafts, but you get the point: High school pitchers taken in the first round tend not to make it to the majors as frequently as college pitchers do, and once there, they don’t have the same success. College pitchers are older when drafted, have less “growing” left to do, know their bodies better, and have faced tougher competition, which makes them more polished. We can see some of these issues in Hughes already. Baseball America’s scouting report on him indicates that “the biggest hurdle he must overcome with regard to his health is getting to know his body better“. He has already been injured several times, with shoulder and elbow tendinitis, a tired arm and a stubbbed toe, at different times, all of which helped limit him to those 91 innings over two years. This may not be a bad thing, as young pitchers who throw a lot of innings have a tendencty to get seriously hurt. Perhaps it’s better to bring him a long slowly. Of course, young pitchers who get into bar fights tend to get hurt, too, so maybe it’s best to keep Hughes at the ballpark as much as possible.

One thing the Yankees’ organization did to help keep him healthy was to prevent him from using his slider. More important, this also forced him to develop his curveball, which has become a plus pitch when thrown hard enough. The Phillies did this with Brett Myers, banning his curveball to get him to work on his fastball and change-up, and it worked.

Prognosis for 2006:

Hughes is expected to start 2006 in High-A Tampa, but if his curve, slider and low-to-mid 90’s heater are all working, he’ll move up through the rankings quickly. John Manuel of Baseball America says, “…he should be in the mix for a rotation spot in New York in 2007—as long as he stays off the disabled list.” But I would add another caveat to that statement: As long as he doesn’t get traded, either. The Yankees have not drafted and signed a first-round pitcher who actually started more than one game for the major league club since…are you ready for this? Bill Burbach. You’ve never heard of him because he got drafted in 1966 and spent parts of three seasons with the Yankees from 1969-71 and then hung up his spikes for good. More often than not, Yankee draftees become prospects and then promptly become trade bait, as per Eric Milton and Scott MacGregor. So unless the Yankees are running away with the AL East division next July, look for Hughes to be dealt somewhere for pitching help. You heard it here first.

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10 January 2006

All.Baseball.collumn: The 2006 Hall of Fame Ballot

If Travis Nelson had a Hall of Fame Ballot…

In the Yard:

ALBERT BELLE: Belle will have a lot more trouble convincing the baseball writers of his Cooperstown worthiness than he does convincing me, mostly because he never threw a baseball atone of my co-workers. Belle was nothing if not surly, but that shouldn’t factor into whether or not he gets a plaque in the national Baseball Hall of Fame. He was consistently one of the best hitters in the league for a decade and he should have gotten more support in the MVP voting. He was every bit as good as Frank Thomas in 1994 and Juan Gonzalez in 1996, and he was better than Mo Vaughn (or anyone else, for that matter) in 1995, but lost votes due to his contentious nature and fiery relationship with the news media. A degenerative hip condition ended his career at age 33, but Kirby Puckett suffered the same fate due to glaucoma, and the BBWAA let him in on his first attempt.

Read the rest at All-Baseball.com...

For other opinions on the 2006 Hall of Fame Ballot, including David Pinto of Baseballmusings.com, San Diego Padres broadcaster Bob Scanlan and Bob Rosen of the Elias Sports Bureau (an actual BBWAA member and HoF voter), check out The Writers on Eric Mirlis' website, The Mirl...

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06 January 2006

Pending Pinstripes Prospect of the Week: Colter Bean

Colter Bean (Randall Colter Bean)
Position: P
Born: January 16, 1977
Height: 6-6 Weight: 255
Bats: Right Throws: Right
College: Auburn University
Drafted: Signed as undrafted free agent by New York Yankees in 2000

Colter Bean was added to the Yankees' major league roster in September 2005, during which he pitched only one game, two innings, allowing one hit and one run. He struck out two and walked two. That's just about as small a sample size as you can get, so it doesn't help us much. His minor league numbers, encompassing stints with six different teams over three levels in six seasons, should be more telling.

Level W L ERA G IP IP/G H/9 HR/9 W/9 K/9 WHIP
A 10 3 2.39 99 131.67 1.33 5.81 0.21 3.62 13.12 1.05
AA 0 3 4.96 16 16.33 1.02 9.37 1.10 4.96 9.92 1.59
AAA 17 12 2.70 168 223.33 1.33 7.01 0.52 3.59 10.52 1.18
Total 27 18 2.69 283 371.33 1.31 6.69 0.43 3.66 11.42 1.15

I’ve broken down his stats at each level, and as you can see he spent only about 16 innings at AA (over three seasons) so it’s probably best to mostly ignore that small sample as well. I have provided his rate numbers for Hits, Home Runs, Walks, and strikeouts per nine innings, as well as WHIP (Walks + Hits per Inning Pitched) and Innings per Game. I’m going to try to post at least one analysis like this every week, and I expect that this is the basic formula I’ll use, though for starting pitchers, I may include other complete games or something else.

What’s he got going for him?

Bean is a big dude, 6′6″, 255 lbs, but he doesn't throw hard. He relies on a funky sidearm delivery, and though his fastball gets up to about 87 mph once in a while, most of his offerings are in the 76-78 mph range. Despite the lack of velocit, his strikeout rates have been consistently high throughout his career, never dipping below one per inning for any whole season. His hit rates have generally been good, usually floating around seven per nine innings, which keeps his WHIP (baserunners per inning) right around 1.1, which is quite good. He’s never allowed many homers, with only 18 total given up in almost 400 minor league innings.

What’s he got going against him?

Colter will be 29 years old in a couple of weeks, which is pretty old to be calling him a “prospect” but he’s certainly got talent. The organization has not been high on him until recently, as his 2005 numbers at Columbus don’t look much different from his 2003 or 2004 numbers, and they didn’t bring him up then. He walks a good number of batters, 3 or 4 per nine innings in the minors, and of course major league hitters not named “Neifi Perez” generally tend to be more patient than those at AAA. Bean has been used exclusively as a relief pitcher in the minors (and he only started two games in his entire college career at Auburn) and has only been asked to get about four outs per game on average, so this is his lot. Statistically speaking, minor league closers don’t usually graduate into effective major league closers, but perhaps Bean has a shot as a setup man.

Prognosis for 2006:

With two other hard-throwing righties, Octavio “Don’t Ask” Dotel and Kyle “What do You Think This” Farnsworth, in the Yankees’ bullpen, Bean won’t likely see a lot of nail-biting action in the 7th and 8th innings, but he could get his feet wet with some mop up duty. I for one would love to see him succeed, but the reality is that he’ll probably have some growing pains and bounce back and forth between Columbus and the majors a lot this year. That walk rate makes me especially nervous. Bean may have been able to fool the novices in the International League, but the likes of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez will simply wait for their pitch and clobber it if Bean makes a mistake over the plate. He’s going to need to improve that walk rate to have a major league career.

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02 January 2006

All-Baseball.collumn: Bronx Bombers Bolster Bullpen

The New York Yankees recently announced the signing of right-handed relief pitcher Octavio Dotel to a one-year, $2 million contract. Dotel had been with the Oakland A's but had Tommy John surgery in May on his pitching elbow and missed the remiander of the 2005 season. Dotel is not expected to be ready to join the team until May at the earliest, given that the usual rehabilitation timeframe for such a procedure is about one year. The Dotel signing, which was known about weeks ago but just became official recently, marks the completion of a completely revamped relief corps for the Yankees, who are looking to improve on an area the team considered a weakness in recent years.

Read the rest at All-Baseball.com...

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