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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Yankees take a flier on a couple of former Blue Jays

Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells waits to shag balls

Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells waits to shag balls during batting practice before a spring training exhibition baseball game against the Houston Astros at Steinbrenner Field. (March 26, 2013) Credit: AP


Vernon Wells, the Angels' castoff, took a five-hour flight from Phoenix. The very next morning, Lyle Overbay, dumped by the Red Sox, made the two-hour drive up I-75 from Fort Myers. When they found each other Tuesday afternoon, the two former Toronto teammates embraced in the middle of the clubhouse at Steinbrenner Field.

Feeling unwanted? Need a job? The Bronx has become a regular Land of Opportunity these days. Once reserved for the game's elite, the Yankees are settling for whatever's available, and they're not hesitating to collect it.

"You hope that talent rises," Joe Girardi said. "Anytime you feel like you can make a move to improve your team, you're going to do it. That's what the Yankees have done over the years."

Girardi's right. But that usually involves making a trade for a Curtis Granderson or signing a CC Sabathia. Not seeing what shakes loose during the final week of March from places like Tempe and Port Charlotte.

For a team like the Yankees, what's been happening lately feels like dumpster-diving. But we'll say this much: Over the last 24 hours, Brian Cashman has made the Yankees better by filling two significant holes with decent temporary solutions.

The Yankees completed the Wells trade Tuesday by sending a pair of minor-leaguers, outfielder Exircado Cayones and lefthander Kramer Sneed, to the Angels, who agreed to pay nearly $30 million of the $42 million owed to Wells through 2014.

In making the transition to New York, Wells is no dummy. He said he's "quietly been a Yankee fan" ever since playing against the Triple-A Columbus team (and the resurrected Darryl Strawberry) as a 20-year-old in the Blue Jays' system. Wells also couldn't wait to be counted among the Stadium's roll call and described getting traded to the Yankees as "somewhat of a dream come true." Probably loves bagels and riding the 4 train, too.

"It's going to be a little different hearing my name and being in pinstripes," said Wells, who started in leftfield and batted sixth last night against the Astros. "It gives me chills now."

Maybe those goose bumps will help trigger a resurgence for the righthanded-hitting Wells, who said he's been going opposite field more than in recent years, which should help him take aim at the Stadium's short porch in right.

"It's a beautiful place, isn't it?" Wells said, smiling. "It's just going to reward guys for taking quality swings. That's all that is."

Wells figures to be entrenched in leftfield, and Overbay should be a lock at first base. The best thing Overbay has going is that he's actually a first baseman, which gives him an obvious edge over a converted outfielder like Juan Rivera.

When Boston released Overbay Tuesday morning, his agent's first move was to call the Yankees "right away." A few hours later, Overbay showed up with a Red Sox duffel bag slung over his shoulder. He even arrived clean-shaven. No one had to tell him twice.

"There's not a lot of opportunity out there," he said, presumably referring to the other 29 major-league teams. "Hopefully I can show them something they haven't seen before."

The Yankees have witnessed plenty during the past six weeks. Freakish things. Broken bones. Torn tendon sheaths. A general manager forced to wheel himself around with his fractured leg propped up on a scooter -- one he borrowed from Derek Jeter.

But Brian Cashman isn't flying a white flag from that odd-looking contraption. He's added Wells and Overbay, all in a matter of hours. And the Yankees still could use a few more upgrades. Maybe Wells and Overbay can put in a good word for another ex-Jay, Rod Barajas.

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