Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Yankees look to fill hole at first by signing Olerud

Baseball notebook

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Recently released John Olerud signed with the New York Yankees on Tuesday, giving the team insurance at first base while Jason Giambi is treated for a benign tumor.

Olerud, is a two-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner and was the 1993 AL batting champion. But he started slumping in the second half last season with Seattle, and the Mariners cut him last month.

"I've definitely struggled, but I believe I can turn it around," Olerud said before Tuesday night's game against Oakland. "I don't feel like I'm that far off. I think I'm still that same player."

Olerud was hitting .245 with five home runs and 22 RBI in 78 games. The Mariners released him July 27, shortly after he turned down a trade to the San Francisco Giants. He was in the final year of a contract that guaranteed him $7.7 million this year.

"When you bring in an Olerud, you put him out there and see what you have," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He's probably a little more of an established player."

Wearing No. 18, Olerud was not in the starting lineup on his first day with the Yankees. Tony Clark has been playing first base lately with Giambi out.

To make room for Olerud, right-hander Juan Padilla was optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Right-hander Sam Marsonek was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

"I'm here to help out, trying to provide good defense at first base," Olerud said.

DIAMONDBACKS: Arizona left fielder Luis Gonzalez, bothered by a sore throwing arm all season, had reconstructive surgery on his right elbow Monday.

A tendon was transplanted in the area of the torn ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. The Diamondbacks said Gonzalez should be able to start physical therapy in three to four weeks.

"Everything went very well in surgery," head team physician Dr. Michael Lee said. "At the time of the surgery, we found that the tear in the ligament had progressed from the last MRI scan and there was no doubt that the surgery was necessary at this time."

DODGERS: Manager Jim Tracy gave his No. 12 uniform to newly acquired outfielder Steve Finley on Tuesday.

After he was obtained from Arizona last weekend, the Dodgers first assigned Finley No. 16, Paul Lo Duca's old number.

"It's the same thing I've been preaching in here for four years - unselfishness," said Tracy, who had worn No. 12 in his 3 1/2 seasons as manager and is now wearing No. 16. "Steve Finley's worn that number for a long time. Steve Finley deserves to wear it.

"But," he added, "the number I have on now means a lot to me, too. There's a guy who left here who also means an awful lot to me. So I put this shirt on as proudly as proudly as the one that had No. 12 on it."

Under Tracy's guidance, Lo Duca went from a perennial minor-league prospect to a two-time All-Star catcher and inspirational leader. Lo Duca was dealt to Florida with Juan Encarnacion and Guillermo Mota on Friday.

TRADE: The Cleveland Indians traded minor-league left-hander Jeriome Robertson to the Montreal Expos for minor-league left-hander Pierre-Luc Marceau.

Marceau went a combined 1-1 with a 4.45 ERA in 31 appearances for Single-A Savannah of the South Atlantic League and Single-A Brevard County of the Florida State League. Robertson went 1-1 with a 12.21 ERA in 14 games with Cleveland earlier this year.

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