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MLB approves Burnett trade to Pirates

The Yankees and Pirates appear close to a

The Yankees and Pirates appear close to a deal that would send A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh. (Sept. 27, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. -- A.J. Burnett officially has gone from the pinstripes to the Pirates.

Burnett passed his physical yesterday, and later in the day, MLB gave its approval -- required because of the amount of money involved -- to the Yankees-Pirates trade, meaning GM Brian Cashman now can address what he believes are his club's final two needs. First up is the likely signing of Raul Ibañez to be the DH against righties.

"Optimally, I would like to find a lefthanded bat with a defensive component," Cashman said Sunday before the Burnett deal was approved.

Cashman mentioned Ibañez, Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero and Hideki Matsui while listing the available candidates, but the 39-year-old Ibañez has been the organization's top choice for the role much of the offseason, and with the Burnett matter out of the way, a deal should be worked out.

Cashman said he still has interest in bringing back Eric Chavez, but indicated that he isn't sure ownership will allocate the money to sign both a DH and backup infielder.

Mo to report when ready

Sunday was report date for Yankees pitchers and catchers, except for one. Mariano Rivera, Cashman said with a laugh, can get to Tampa "whenever" he wants.

"He told me at the baseball writers' dinner [in January], 'Cash, I just want to give you a heads-up, I might be a little late,' " Cashman said. "I just said, 'Tell me when you're coming.' What am I going to do? It's Mariano Rivera."

Rivera's spring training regimen has become an annual source of humor inside and outside the clubhouse. He sets his own bullpen schedule and which games he'll pitch in, none of them on the road. "He knows what he needs to do," Cashman said. "He gets his eight innings in the spring. He's just amazing. He really is amazing."

No Johnny

Cashman said he has talked with Johnny Damon recently, telling the former Yankee that although the door isn't completely closed on a return, he's looking elsewhere for a DH for now.

"Optimally, I would like to find a lefthanded bat with a defensive component," he said.

Cashman didn't specifically mention Raul Ibañez, but the 39-year-old remains the organization's top choice and likely will be signed after the A.J. Burnett trade becomes official.

Big fan

Whatever form the implementation of the extra wild card takes -- whether it will be used this year hasn't been determined -- count Cashman as an enthusiastic supporter.

"I think Bud Selig did a remarkable thing by adding the wild card and he's now doing another remarkable thing by enhancing the playoff push," said Cashman, who added that the Yankees "conceded" the division title to the Rays in 2010 to be better lined up for the postseason. "It's going to create a lot of buzz and excitement and meaningful games deeper in the season, as it should be. And it certainly brings back the importance of being a division winner again."

Running late

Joe Girardi's 6 a.m. flight from Newark was delayed and he did not arrive in Tampa until just before 2 p.m., by which time staff meetings already had begun. Girardi, scheduled to meet with the media yesterday Sunday morning, will do so today Monday instead.

New York Sports