Jays trade Stewart to Twins for Kielty

Posted: Thursday, July 17, 2003

MINNEAPOLIS The slumping Minnesota Twins are looking for a spark to jump start the second half of the season. They hope outfielder Shannon Stewart can provide it.

The Twins acquired Stewart and a player to be named from the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday for outfielder Bobby Kielty.

''It's time we start shaking this ballclub up to see if we can get it going in the right direction,'' general manager Terry Ryan said.

Minnesota has lost 22 of 28 games and dropped to third place in the AL Central 7 1/2 games behind Kansas City. Last season, the Twins won the division and advanced to the AL Championship Series. The Jays will pick up the remainder of Stewart's $6.2 million salary, and the Twins will play the rest of Kielty's $325,000 contract.

''I had heard some things that maybe I would be traded but you don't really ever expect it, but when it happens you're in shock,'' Kielty said. ''I won't really know until I put on a different uniform.''

Yankees acquire Benitez from Mets for three prospects

NEW YORK Now Armando Benitez will really learn about pressure: Pitching the eighth inning for the Yankees could be even more stressful than closing out games for the Mets.

Benitez, the Mets' closer since 1999 and the team's only All-Star this year, was dealt across town Wednesday and will become the setup man for Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees will pay the remainder of Benitez's $6.75 million salary this year, which comes to $2,729,508, plus $456,434 in additional luxury tax. The Mets get right-handed pitchers Jason Anderson, Anderson Garcia and Ryan Bicondoa.

Benitez became the target of boos at Shea Stadium, blamed for his central role in the team's collapse.

''I know in this town some failures get magnified and talked about,'' Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. ''I think a change of scenery will do him good. ... Armando has the opportunity to show the New York scene he can be successful in tough spots, like he has been most of the time with the Mets. Armando has a fresh start to prove here, in the same city, that some of this stuff might be more overblown than it is.''

The 30-year-old right-hander, eligible for free agency after the season, is 3-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 45 games this season, blowing seven of his 28 save chances. Benitez, who has 197 career saves with Baltimore and the Mets, told Cashman he's willing to become a setup man.

''If there's an ego there, he's going to check it at the door,'' Cashman said. ''He's willing to make the adjustment here for a short period of time.''

The Yankees lead Boston by two games in the AL East. While Rivera has converted 16 of 17 save chances, the rest of the bullpen has been shaky in the absence of injured Steve Karsay.

Juan Acevedo was released after struggling, and Antonio Osuna was sidelined from June 14 until last weekend by a strained groin. Chris Hammond, who replaced Mike Stanton as the top left-hander in the bullpen, has been inconsistent. Stanton, unwanted by the Yankees, signed with the Mets.

Cashman said owner George Steinbrenner and manager Joe Torre supported the trade.

''George is supportive of this. I've talked to him and explained my rationale,'' Cashman said. ''He's a man among boys in terms of available players on the market. He stood out without question.''

While pitching for Baltimore on May 19, 1998, Benitez triggered one of the most vicious fights ever at Yankee Stadium when he hit Tino Martinez in the back right after giving up a three-run homer to Bernie Williams. Benitez dropped his glove, motioning for Darryl Strawberry to fight, and Strawberry landed a flying hook to Benitez's head before falling into the third-base dugout.

Steinbrenner called it ''the worst brawl I've seen in 25 years.'' Benitez was suspended for eight games and fined $2,000. He later apologized for his actions, saying, ''The Yankees, they have nice people there. I don't want to be an enemy.''

Cashman likened this to the acquisition of Roger Clemens, a Yankees enemy until he put on pinstripes in 1999.

''It's not an issue I'm worried about at all,'' Cashman said. ''There's been many a player over the years that we've brought in that people wondered how they'd fit, if it would work, things of that nature. We feel he's going to fit nicely in our clubhouse.''

Benitez has had lots of trouble at Yankee Stadium.

In the opener of the 1996 AL championship series, Benitez gave up the infamous Jeffrey Maier home run the eighth-inning shot by Derek Jeter that the 12-year-old boy reached over the wall to get. The Yankees beat Baltimore that afternoon and in the series.

Benitez then failed to hold a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning of the 2000 World Series opener, a game the Yankees won in 12 innings. It was his sixth blown save in the postseason the most in baseball history and fourth in six tries with the Mets.

Against the Yankees on June 22 at Shea Stadium, he blew a save in the ninth inning, walking four.

''The reputation that's followed him as not being a big-game pitcher, I think he looks forward to trying to put that to rest,'' Mets interim GM Jim Duquette said.

The Mets, whose 40-53 record leaves them at the bottom of the NL East, dealt second baseman Roberto Alomar to the Chicago White Sox on July 1 and outfielder Jeromy Burnitz to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.

''I don't think we should try to pretend and kid ourselves that we have a chance, a legitimate chance anyway, to get a wild-card spot,'' Duquette said. ''We're going to have some growing pains, no question about it, in the second half.''

The trade is the 12th between the teams, the first since the Yankees acquired third baseman Robin Ventura for outfielder David Justice on Dec. 7, 2001.

Anderson, 24, is 1-0 with a 4.79 ERA in 22 relief appearances for the Yankees this year. Garcia, 22, is 3-6 with a 3.32 ERA in 11 starts and five relief appearances for Class-A Battle Creek. Bicondoa, 24, is 3-2 with a 3.54 ERA in five starts and 10 relief appearances for Class-A Tampa.

The Mets assigned Anderson to Triple-A Norfolk, Garcia to Class-A Capital City, and Bicondoa to Class-A St. Lucie.

Notes: Yankees 1B Nick Johnson will begin a rehabilitation assignment Friday with Triple-A Columbus as he continues his comeback from a stress fracture in his right hand. Johnson has been out since May 15 and hopes to rejoin the Yankees late next week. ... Yankees RHP Jose Contreras, sidelined since June 7 by a strained right shoulder, had an MRI and was cleared Wednesday to start throwing off a mound next week. Cashman thinks he could return by mid-August.

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