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Chan Ho Park thought 'Yankees' had a nice ring

New York Yankees' new pitcher Chan Ho Park

New York Yankees' new pitcher Chan Ho Park (left) joined the team for today's spring training workout at the George Steinbrenner field in Tampa Fl. Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

TAMPA, Fla. - Chan Ho Park was honest.

He didn't want to go anywhere during the offseason other than back to the Phillies.

But when terms couldn't be reached and Philadelphia went in another direction, the free agent's next priority was to find a team like the Phillies.

Meaning one that gave him a shot at winning a championship.

"Another chance to get the ring,'' Park said Sunday morning after finally arriving in camp nearly a week after the Yankees signed him to a one-year, $1.2-million contract. "That's why I chose the Yankees."

General manager Brian Cashman said he chose Park for several reasons, the primary one being that the righthander - whom the Yankees' pro personnel department had on its "interest list" the last three years - saw his market price drop into an acceptable range.

"Out of the bullpen, his stuff was different," Cashman said. "We noticed a change in his abilities so we stayed in the loop."

Park, 36, went 3-3 with a 4.43 ERA in 45 games (seven starts) with the Phillies last season. He was 2-2 with a 2.52 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 50 innings as a reliever.

He's 120-95 with a 4.35 ERA in his career (287 starts), holding righties to a .227 batting average and .311 on-base percentage. He's 7-9 with a 3.95 ERA in 136 games as a reliever.

Park appeared against the Yankees in the World Series, pitching 31/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.

"I faced him in the World Series and his ball had great movement. His velocity was in the mid-90s," Alex Rodriguez said. "He looked good. I thought he was a great weapon for Philly. Hopefully, he can be the same for us."

Cashman said signing Park isn't a reflection on the current bullpen, though the competition between Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves is likely to be raised a notch. There's a logjam of long relievers on the roster, even after Edwar Ramirez was designated for assignment Sunday to make room for Park.

For Cashman, it was a matter of being pragmatic, at the right price, to strengthen what already was a strength.

"I thought there was some real value there and so we tried to put ourselves in position to take advantage of it," Cashman said. "Does it mean it's going to work out? No, but it gives us clearly a deeper pen in a lot of different ways. If we have any injuries, if I have to make a trade in-season, I'm going to have to use our pitching to get it, so now we have more pitching. Now we're deeper because the strength of this organization right now, if you looked at it, is mostly on the pitching side in terms of depth."

The Yankees haven't had any pitching injuries in spring training, but Cashman knows that doesn't usually last.

"Hopefully, we can stay healthy,'' he said, "but it's unrealistic to expect health . . . so a lot of times this stuff works itself out. I just feel before we start games, I think we have a better foundation going into the games of spring training this year than we did last year. I think we're deeper, a little more flexible, so there's a lot of different ways we can go."

Not right away, though, for Park. He threw regularly in South Korea during the offseason and said, "I feel like I'm ready" to pitch, but the Yankees will be cautious.

Park will throw a bullpen session Monday and another one Wednesday and, maybe, throw a batting-practice session after that.

"I consider him about 10 or 12 days behind the other guys," Joe Girardi said.

Said Cashman: "Let's just take it baby steps. Spring training's long enough. We have time."

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