Tommy John, the 46-year-old whose surgically-rebuilt arm extended his career by 15 years, was told Monday he would be released by the New York Yankees within 24 hours unless he retired.
John, the oldest player in the major leagues, has a 288-231 record. He's been trying to reach 300 victories, a goal achieved by only 19 pitchers, but the Yankees told John he faced a Tuesday release deadline. His quest of No. 300 will continue."I'm not retiring," John told The New York Times in a telephone interview Monday night. "If I retire, it will be later on. I'll keep working out and throwing. You never know. Some ball club might be looking around and saying, `For $46,000, we can get a cheap insurance policy."
John had been scheduled to pitch Tuesday against Seattle, but will be replaced by 25-year-old Jimmy Jones, who was sent to Class AAA Columbus of the International League at the end of spring training.
"We have to prepare for the future, and the future is younger pitching," New York manager Dallas Green said.
John, who beat Minnesota 4-2 on opening day, is 2-7 this season with a 5.80 earned-run average.
"It's a tough call when you have the class of a Tommy John," said Green, who had been deliberating the move for several weeks. "I think that he desperately wants 300 wins and it's our opinion it'll be difficult to get."
Before the game, Green indicated the move was imminent. He said later the Yankees had spent the afternoon attempting to trade the left-hander, who is making $500,000 this year.
"He's no dummy. He saw the handwriting on the wall, the way we were going about it," Green said. "We were trying to place Tommy, see if there was anyone in baseball who would give him the opportunity to pursue his goal."
John left immediately after the game to consult his wife, Sally, on his his future. He asked through a club spokemsan that he be left alone until Tuesday to make his decision.
The only other club that may be interested is the Chicago White Sox, whose manager, Jeff Torborg, is a former Yankees coach and a friend of John. He indicated that Chicago probably would not make an offer.
"It's very hard for me to comment on somebody who is such a good friend," Torborg said "But, the way for the White Sox is with youth. Other than that, I just don't want to make any statement."
John has given up 87 hits in 63 2/3 innings. Opposing batters are hitting .336 against him.
"He knows down deep that he hasn't pitched well. It's been frustrating for us, too, because of the goal he wants to get," Green said.
John was released by the Yankees after last season, but New York owner George Steinbrenner invited him to spring training as a non-roster player over Green's objection.