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Teams bolster pitching staffs

Giants, Yankees, Twins deal to beat deadline

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A recent slump motivated the Minnesota Twins to make a deal before the trade deadline. A four-game sweep of Arizona did the same for the San Francisco Giants.

While many general managers scrambled to make deals before Tuesday's trade deadline, others got their shopping done early.

The surprising Twins, knocked out of first place by a post All-Star slump, acquired All-Star pitcher Rick Reed from the New York Mets for outfielder Matt Lawton on Monday night.

The Giants, riding the momentum of a four-game sweep in Arizona, got starter Jason Schmidt and outfielder John Vander Wal from Pittsburgh for outfielder Armando Rios and pitching prospect Ryan Vogelsong.

"We really thought this would give us a great chance to get into the postseason and have success," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said.

Also, San Diego sent left-hander Sterling Hitchcock to the Yankees for two minor leaguers; and Milwaukee traded reliever David Weathers and a minor leaguer to the Chicago Cubs for two prospects.

Other big names could also be on the go before 4 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, including Colorado's Pedro Astacio, Montreal's Ugueth Urbina and Toronto's Shannon Stewart.

Teams can still make trades after the deadline, but players need to pass through waivers first. While that can happen — especially with high-salaried players — general managers have become more aggressive about blocking such deals in recent years.

The most surprising move might have come from the Twins, who had the game's lowest opening-day payroll at $24.35 million.

But after watching his team go from five games up to a half-game behind Cleveland in the AL Central, general manager Terry Ryan got the OK to add Reed and the approximately $19.4 million that remains on his contract that runs through 2003.

"We're looking to stabilize our pitching staff," Ryan said. "We've struggled since the break. We felt like Reed was the best available."

Reed adds a veteran presence for the young team down the stretch. Reed, who turns 36 on Aug. 16, was 8-6 with a 3.48 ERA for the Mets.

The Twins, who traded for reliever Todd Jones on Saturday, might not be finished dealing. They are also interested in adding Cincinnati outfielder Dmitri Young to replace Lawton.

The defending NL champion Mets, 11 1/2 games behind Atlanta, in the NL East, have begun preparing for next season.

Last week, New York traded relievers Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook to Philadelphia for Bruce Chen, who will replace Reed in the rotation. Lawton provides needed production in the outfield.

After watching the Dodgers add James Baldwin, and the Diamondbacks trade for Albie Lopez, the Giants felt the need to shore up their rotation to compete in the tight NL West. Los Angeles leads Arizona by 1 1/2 games and San Francisco by four.

The Yankees, leading the AL East by 3 1/2 games over Boston, didn't want to head into the stretch with rookies Ted Lilly and Randy Keisler in the rotation.

Hitchcock, 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three starts back from elbow surgery, will likely take Keisler's spot and provide insurance if Orlando Hernandez isn't healthy by October. The Yankees sent pitcher Brett Jodie and outfielder Darren Blakely to San Diego.

"This upgrades the one area that might be a question mark to some degree with two rookies at the back end of the rotation," GM Brian Cashman said.

The NL Central-leading Cubs added Weathers (3-4, 2.03 ERA) to an already deep bullpen. They also got minor league pitcher Roberto Miniel in exchange for minor league pitcher Ruben Quevedo and minor league outfielder Peter Zoccolillo.

The Red Sox, who were also interested in Hitchcock, might choose to upgrade their bullpen with Urbina or Pittsburgh's Mike Williams.

But with Frank Castillo expected to come off the DL soon, either Rolando Arrojo or Tim Wakefield will shift back to the bullpen. Pedro Martinez also should be back for the stretch run.

"We have the people here to accomplish what we need to accomplish," GM Dan Duquette said. "We just have to get them healthy and back out there."

Most contenders are looking for pitching, but there's no Curt Schilling or Randy Johnson available at the deadline this year.

So many have had to lower their targets to players like Astacio, who is 6-13 with a 5.49 ERA for the Rockies. Toronto is probably Astacio's biggest suitor.

"I want to stay here. I like Colorado," he said. "It's good that people want me, but it's nothing I have any control over."

Other pitchers who could be available include Woody Williams, Kelvim Escobar, Sidney Ponson, Jose Mercedes and Chris Holt.

The Braves, usually busy on deadline day, could be in the market for a replacement for shortstop Rafael Furcal. Rookie Mark DeRosa is batting .342 in Furcal's place, but GM John Schuerholz might feel more comfortable with Kansas City's Rey Sanchez, Cincinnati's Pokey Reese or the Mets' Rey Ordonez.

"That's one thing that's always been a positive about playing here," third baseman Chipper Jones said. "Our front office usually brings in some help at one or two positions."