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Yankees get closer Wohlers from Reds

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2001

NEW YORK -- Five years after helping the New York Yankees win the World Series, Mark Wohlers has a chance to try to do it again.

Only this time, he'll be on their side.

The 31-year-old reliever became the latest Yankees acquisition when he waived his no-trade clause and Cincinnati dealt him to New York on Saturday for minor league pitching prospect Ricardo Aramboles.

''When you find out the New York Yankees are interested and you have the opportunity to go to the World Series, to me it as a no-brainer,'' Wohlers said in Cincinnati.

The right-hander was among baseball's top closers in the mid-1990s, getting the final out in Atlanta's World Series win over Cleveland in 1995. A year later, the Braves were five outs from taking a 3-1 World Series lead over the Yankees when Jim Leyritz turned a Wohlers slider into a three-run, game-tying homer.

New York won in extra innings and went on to start a streak of four Series titles in five years.

''You not only let your organization down, but your teammates and your city as well,'' Wohlers recalled Saturday.

Then in 1998, an injury to his side got his delivery out of whack, he lost his ability to throw strikes in the majors or the minors, and the Braves traded him to the Reds in 1999. He overcame an anxiety disorder and was pitching well in the minors later that season when he tore the ligament in his right elbow, requiring reconstructive surgery.

''It was probably a blessing in disguise because it kept me away from baseball,'' he said.

Wohlers went 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 20 games last season and had no problems with his control this season, going 3-1 with a 3.94 ERA in 30 relief appearances with a fastball regularly clocked at 97 mph. He walked only seven in 32 innings.

He knows his past will become an issue in New York, where every errant pitch could turn into a headline. Wohlers remembers how his control once vanished.

''Is the thought still in your head? Sure, sometimes it is,'' he said. ''I don't think it ever leaves.''

''No risk, no reward'' was a phrase repeated by Wohlers, Yankees manager Joe Torre and New York general manager Brian Cashman. Following the departure of Jeff Nelson, who signed with Seattle, the Yankees' bullpen has struggled to hold opponents until Mariano Rivera comes in to close.

Mike Stanton has been overworked, Ramiro Mendoza had to make some spot starts, and Brian Boehringer and Randy Choate lack much experience. Just a week earlier, the Yankees acquired right-hander Jay Witasick from San Diego for minor league infielder D'Angelo Jimenez.

''We want to give Joe five legitimate options before we get to Mo,'' Cashman said.

Three games shy of the season's midpoint, New York is just 31-6 when leading after six innings after going 72-8 last year. Wohlers can throw 97-98 mph and take some of the setup the load off the left-handed Stanton.

''He has the experience,'' Torre said. ''Our reports are real good. We've been going back and forth with his name for a while.''

Stanton, Wohlers' friend, was consulted by Cashman last weekend.

''He adds great stuff,'' Stanton said.

Wohlers, called off the field in Cincinnati while running sprints in the outfield, plans to arrive Sunday. He made a favorable impression on the Yankees' veterans.

''I remember him from his heyday,'' Paul O'Neill said. ''If he's anything close to that, he can help us.''

Cincinnati saved $1.25 million with the trade, a big consideration for the budget-strapped club.

Wohlers has a $500,000 base salary this season and a mutual option at $4 million for 2002 with a $1 million buyout. He was the only Cincinnati player with a no-trade clause and stayed with the Reds this season out of loyalty.

''He could have gone to other clubs during the offseason for more money and security, but he chose to stay with the Reds because of all that we had done for him,'' Cincinnati general manager Jim Bowden said. ''It's tough to give up Mark. He's back and he's got a chance to help the Yankees get to the World Series.''

Aramboles, 19, signed with Florida in 1996 but the commissioner's office voided the contract. He signed with the Yankees in February 1998, getting a $1.52 million bonus.

The right-hander needed reconstructive elbow surgery in 1999. He was 5-13 for Class A Greensboro in 2000, and went 7-2 with a 4.06 ERA for Class A Tampa this year before his first promotion to Triple-A. He was 1-3 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts with Columbus.



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