Do The El Duque?

The Yankees are interested in bringing back Orlando Hernandez, who is attempting a comeback following shoulder surgery, to fill a long-relief/swingman role. Other pitchers are being considered, but Hernandez could be doing the 'El Duque' very soon.

The Yankees are interested in bringing back Orlando Hernandez, who is attempting a comeback following shoulder surgery.

"I'm not 100 percent, but by spring training I should be 100 percent," said Hernandez, who went 53-38 in five seasons with the Yankees and carved a reputation as a big-game pitcher. "I'm at about 85 percent. I've been coming back quicker and quicker every day.

"I just want to get back and get a job. If I was the owner of a team, I'd sign myself right away. But I'll just have to wait and see."

The Yankees' rotation currently is comprised of Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Javier Vazquez, Jon Lieber and Jose Contreras, with all but Mussina having questions.

Brown is pushing 40 and has been a regular on the disabled list since 1999; Vazquez is new to New York and the pressures of winning; Lieber is a reclamation project; and Contreras still has to prove he can pitch in the major leagues.

The prospect of a healthy Hernandez has the Yankees' interest.

"He looks like he's in really good shape," scouting director Damon Oppenheimer said. "He was a heck of a player for us. We have a lot of respect for him, so we wanted to make sure we were down here."

The Yankees are also interested in signing pitchers Scott Erickson and John Burkett to minor league deals.

NOTES, QUOTES

--2B Alfonso Soriano avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $5.4 million contract. Soriano made $800,000 last season while hitting .290 with 38 home runs and 91 RBI.
--When the Yankees play in Japan at the end of spring training, although they would technically be the road team, will wear their home pinstripes. "I never thought I'd be playing in Japan in the Yankee uniform," said Hideki Matsui, a three-time MVP for the Yomiuri Giants before signing with the Yankees prior to the 2003 season.
--Gordon Blakeley, who was replaced as senior vice president of baseball operations by Mark Newman, is back in a scouting role.
--The Yankees were talking with free agent RHP John Burkett about a minor league contract.

BY THE NUMBERS: $4.6 million -- The amount of Alfonso Soriano's pay raise. He signed a $5.4 million contract after earning $800,000 last season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "For eight years, I gave my best for my country and now they treat me this way. I'm not a politician. I'm a sportsman, and if my country had treated me better, I would not be here, I'd be in Cuba." -- Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras on the country he left.

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