|Wednesday, July 16
Updated: July 17, 2:10 PM ET
Benitez will be new set-up man for Rivera
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. 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 hold a two-game lead over second-place Boston 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 Steve Karsay, out all year with injuries.
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 during the offseason 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 went on to 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."
"All three pitchers we've acquired from the Yankees have quality arms and we think all have a chance to help us one day at the major league level."
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. The teams have made 12 trades with each other.
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, and Garcia to Class-A Capital City. Bicondoa will join Class-A St. Lucie.