Yanks to make pitch for D. Martinez

November 30, 1993|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- Abandoning thoughts of Randy Johnson and Mark Langston, the New York Yankees began Phase II of their effort yesterday to secure a front-line starting pitcher.

A baseball person familiar with the Yankees' plans said the club has turned to the free-agent market. The person said one of the first steps was a conversation general manager Gene Michael had with Ron Shapiro, the Baltimore-based agent for right-hander Dennis Martinez.

Michael said last week he no longer would talk about his ongoing efforts to make trades or sign free agents. But he also said he wanted to try the trade route before plunging into the free-agent market.

He has taken that leap now because he concluded that the pitchers he was trying to get in trades would cost too much in terms of players and new contracts.

George Steinbrenner, of all people, has balked at approving hefty contracts for pitchers.

Martinez becomes attractive to the Yankees because at his age, 38, he seeks fewer years on a contract and less money than a Johnson or a Langston. Despite his age, on the other hand, the right-hander showed this year he still has a live and healthy arm.

Pitching in his seventh season with the Montreal Expos, he compiled a 15-9 record in 34 starts. Only 10 National League pitchers worked more than the 224 2/3 innings Martinez pitched.

His last victory, against Florida Sept. 28, was his 100th in the National League, giving him 100 or more in each league. Martinez, who came up with Baltimore in 1976, hasn't had more than 11 losses in a season since 1988. In the five years since, he has amassed a 71-50 record, averaging 32.4 starts.

* Pete Smith, the 27-year-old right-hander the New York Mets traded Dave Gallagher to the Atlanta Braves for, related during a conference call from Atlanta yesterday how he took an airplane ride last Wednesday and switched teams in mid-air.

"I was going to Michigan with my girlfriend when I found out," Smith said. "I called my mom on the plane and she told me I had been traded. I took off a Brave and landed a Met."

Up a Brave, down a Met. Smith couldn't have picked a better metaphor to describe being traded from a team that has won two of the last three National League pennants and three straight NL West titles to the club that had the worst record in the majors last season. Yet, he said he was optimistic about coming to New York.

"I'm excited actually," said Smith, a first-round selection in the June 1984 free-agent draft. "I have a house here in the Atlanta area, but as far as my career is concerned, it wasn't turning out the way I wanted it to. I look at this as a great career opportunity."

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