Pitcher agrees to four-year deal

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees haven't finished first
without a regular left-handed starter since 1947. Going into the
season with an all right-handed rotation doesn't bother general
manager Brian Cashman.

With five right-handed starters under contract, Cashman is
looking for a backup starting pitcher and sees better quality among
the remaining righties.

"There are very few quality left-handers out there," he said
Monday. "I'm not really concentrating on any available
left-handers out there."

New York hasn't gone with an all-righty rotation since 1992, and
hasn't made the postseason with one in 57 years, according to the
Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's statistician.

The current projected rotation has Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown,
Jose Contreras, Jon Lieber and Javier Vazquez, who agreed Monday to
a $45 million, four-year contract.

Vazquez was acquired Dec. 4 from the Expos in a trade that sent
Nick Johnson and two others to Montreal. Vazquez had been eligible
for free agency after next season.

"Obviously, pitching in Montreal is not the same as pitching
for the Yankees," Vazquez said Monday during a telephone
conference call. "All that's acceptable is winning."

The 27-year-old right-hander has been durable -- he's the only
pitcher with 200 innings, 170 strikeouts and an ERA under 4.000 in
each of the last three seasons. While he was 13-12 with a 3.24 ERA
last season, the Expos scored 21 runs in the 12 losses and blew
four games in which he left with a lead.

While some pitchers have thrived, others have flopped, such as
Jeff Weaver and Ed Whitson.

"There will be some adjustment period, there's no question
about it. But we believe in his abilities and Javy believes in his
abilities," Cashman said. "There's a big learning curve here.
Playing here is different than anyplace else. You just don't know
who is going to be successful and who is not."

Vazquez gets a $2 million signing bonus from the Yankees, $8.5
million next season, $10.5 million in 2005, $11.5 million in 2006
and $12.5 million in 2007. The deal left New York's payroll at $164
million for 23 signed players, with second baseman Alfonso Soriano
and left-hander Gabe White still eligible for arbitration.

"I want to have that opportunity of trying to win some
championships with the Yankees," Vazquez said. "It's very
refreshing to have an owner who wants to win more than anything
else, like George Steinbrenner."

New York's rotation needed a massive reworking after
right-hander Roger Clemens retired and its two left-handed starters
signed elsewhere -- Andy Pettitte with Houston and David Wells with
San Diego.

New York has not finished first with an entirely right-handed rotation since 1947, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's statistician

As for Soriano, Cashman said the Yankees probably will try to
negotiate a one-year contract instead of a multiyear deal. He made
$800,000 last season, when the Yankees renewed his contract, and is
eligible for arbitration for the first time.

New York is trying to finalize an agreement with free agent Tony
Clark, who would back up Jason Giambi at first base.

Vazquez wants to wear No. 33, which Wells wore last season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.