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News in Brief

February 14, 2004

Yankees Sign Defector Duenas

When Drew Henson left baseball to pursue a career as an NFL quarterback, it left the Yankees without a Triple-A third baseman. They filled that void by signing Cuban defector Yobal Duenas for $60,000.

The Yankees arent looking at Duenas as a possible fill-in for big league third baseman Aaron Boone, who may miss the season after injuring his left knee playing basketball. Primarily a second baseman in Cuba, where he hit .321 in 14 seasons, Duenas simply will fill a hole on the Columbus roster.

Duenas and righthander Maels Rodriguez defected from Cuba by boat in October after being left off the national team roster. Duenas was suspended for reportedly funneling money to the family of fellow defector Jose Contreras, who signed with the Yankees last offseason.

Duenas and Rodriguez established residency in El Salvador and worked out for 15 teams in San Salvador, the nations capital, on Jan. 22. Neither lived up to his billing.

Duenas showed average raw power, speed and arm strength, but looked shaky at second base. Scouts also raised questions about his age, which is listed as 31.

JIM CALLIS

Baseball Loses Two Lifers

Baseball lost a pair of ambassadors, as scout Jim Russo and longtime coach Hub Kittle both died in February.

Kittle, the only player to pitch in six decades, died Feb. 10 in Yakima, Wash. He was 86.

Kittle broke into baseball with the Los Angeles Angels in 1936. He pitched through the 1940s, and got stints on the mound in the 50s, 60s and even the 70s as a manager, then retired the only four batters he faced for Springfield (American Association).

Off the field, Kittle had a lengthy career as a minor league manager and general manager and was The Sporting News minor league executive of the year in 1960. He later served as a major league pitching coach for the Astros (1971-75) and Cardinals (1981-83), winning a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 1982. At the time of his death, Kittle was working as a special-assignment instructor for the Mariners.

Russo died Feb. 8 in Wildwood, Mo. He was 81. He spent 33 years as a scout for the Orioles, signing Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Eddie Watt, Boog Powell and Davey Johnson. Last year, the Orioles named their award for the clubs top scout in Russos honor.

Aussies Advance To Athens

Australia swept South Africa in three games to claim the eighth and final berth in the baseball tournament at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Australia won the series, played in Sydney, by scores of 8-1, 6-4 and 13-1.

The Aussie team featured familiar names such as Dave Nilsson, Blue Jays minor leaguer Glenn Williams and pitchers Craig Anderson (Mariners), Chris Oxspring (Padres), Ryan Rowland-Smith (Mariners) and John Stephens (Orioles), as well as newcomers such as shortstop Luke Hughes (Twins).

Along with host Greece, the Olympic field will feature Canada, Cuba, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Taiwan.

Corrections

With the Royals Top 10 Prospects list, Craig Struss should have been credited as the signing scout for No. 10 prospect Byron Gettis (BA, Feb. 16-29).

In the same issue, the wrong photograph accompanied the writeup on No. 9 prospect Chris Young on the White Sox Top 10 Prospects list. The correct picture appears here.

Also in that issue, No. 29 high school prospect Blake DeWitt should have been listed as a lefthanded hitter.

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