Yankees GM Cashman sees Igawa as back end starter

NEW YORK -- A day after securing the negotiating rights for
Kei Igawa, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman placed a call to
the Japanese pitcher's agent, Arn Tellem.

Cashman and Tellem have worked out contracts for
Hideki Matsui,
Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi, so striking a deal for Igawa doesn't
figure to be difficult.

"If we can secure him, we'll put him in the back of the
rotation," Cashman said Wednesday. "I've seen him on video and
we've had multiple looks over the last several years."

New York gained his rights with a bid of $26,000,194 -- the last
three digits matching Igawa's strikeout total this year. Cashman
credited the idea of the extra $194 to assistant general manager
Jean Afterman, who gained insight into Japanese players when she
worked for agent Don Nomura.

"The story within the story," Cashman said. "A little sign of

New York has until the end of Dec. 28 to agree to a contract
with Igawa. If there isn't a deal, his rights revert to the Hanshin
Tigers and the Yankees don't have to pay the fee they bid.

Igawa went 14-9 last season with a 2.97 ERA. He tied for the
Central League lead in strikeouts -- he won strikeout titles in 2002
and 2004. He already is looking ahead to possible pitching duels
with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Boston bid $51,111,111 for Matsuzaka and
has until Dec. 14 to sign the Seibu Lions' ace, the MVP of the
World Baseball Classic.

Even with Igawa, the Yankees are looking to add another starting
pitcher to follow Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson
in their rotation. While New York hopes Carl Pavano's injury
problems are over after 1½ years, the Yankees don't want to have to
count on him.

In addition to expressing interest in Ted Lilly and
Gil Meche,
the Yankees are waiting to find out whether Andy Pettitte intends
to pitch next year. Pettitte spent nine seasons with the Yankees
before signing with the Houston Astros before the 2004 season.