Mets on verge of dealing for L.A.'s Ishii

The Mets are on the verge of filling the hole left in their rotation by Steve Trachsel's ailing back, moving closer to acquiring left-hander Kazuhisa Ishii from the Los Angeles Dodgers. <P> Catcher Jason Phillips would be the player sent in return to Los Angeles, where Phillips would become the Dodgers' starting catcher, numerous media outlets reported.

Ishii, 31, projects as a spare part of the Dodgers' pitching rotation once injured hurlers Odalis Perez and Brad Penny re-join Los Angeles' staff.

Meanwhile, Phillips – hitting .550 this spring – does not figure to be anything more than a backup for Mike Piazza with the Mets and is coming off a 2004 campaign in which he batted just .218.

Swapped between clubs, both players would suddenly be moved to the forefront, with Ishii taking over the fourth or fifth spot in New York's rotation following Trachsel's surgery to repair a herniated disc Saturday.

Club sources from both teams reportedly confirmed that the Mets and Dodgers had discussed the trade, which would involve the Mets taking on Ishii's considerable salary. Ishii is due $5.4 million this season and has a buyout in his contract for 2006, while Phillips is due just $330,000 this year.

In three seasons with Los Angeles, Ishii showed a knack for ringing up the strikeouts, although his command left something to be desired. Last season alone, he was twice banished to the bullpen by Dodgers manager Jim Tracy in the midst of a season in which he went 13-8 with a 4.71 ERA in 31 starts, pitching two complete game shutouts but striking out just one more batter (99) than he walked (98).

Over his Major League career, Ishii is 36-25 with a 4.30 ERA in 86 starts. In 473.0 innings, he has walked 305 and struck out 382.

If Phillips exits the Mets picture, the backup catcher's job appears to be Ramon Castro's for the taking. Mike Jacobs appears headed for Triple-A Norfolk and Joe Hietpas is hoping to latch on at Double-A Binghamton.

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