Hitchcock returns to Yankees

By Jim Callis

July 30, 2001

The Yankees hadn’t added a significant player as the trade deadline approached. They had acquired Jay Witasick (from the Padres for minor league shortstop D’Angelo Jimenez) and Mark Wohlers (from the Reds for minor league righthander Ricardo Aramboles), giving up quality prospects for setup men. New York made its biggest move yet on Monday, getting Sterling Hitchcock from San Diego, at a much cheaper cost than its previous deals: minor leaguers Brett Jodie and Darren Blakely.

Hitchcock, 30, originally signed with the Yankees as a ninth-round pick in 1989 and was traded by New York in a 1995 deal for Tino Martinez. He gives the Yankees another veteran in a rotation that has been lacking behind Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte. The 1998 National League Championship Series MVP, Hitchcock won a total of 55 games from 1995-99 before blowing out his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery in 2000. He usually works off of his fastball and splitter. He didn’t rejoin the Padres until July 4 and subsequently missed time with an infected toe. In three starts this year, he’s 2-1, 3.32 with 15 strikeouts in 19 innings. He’s expected to replace erratic rookie Randy Keisler in New York’s rotation and could start for the club as early as Wednesday. As part of the deal, the Yankees agreed to assume responsibility for a $1 million signing bonus due Hitchcock on August 1 as part of his three-year, $15.5 million contract. It expires after the season, making him a free agent.

Jodie is a 24-year-old righthander who flunked a brief major league audition on July 20, giving up six runs in two innings and taking the loss in a start against Toronto. A 1998 sixth-round pick out of the University of South Carolina, he has an above-average fastball and fine command. He has spent most of this year in the minors, going a combined 12-4, 2.64 in two starts at Double-A Norwich and 18 at Triple-A Columbus. He also had a 73-26 strikeout-walk ratio in 133 innings.

This is the second trade in five months for Blakley. The Angels sent him to New York in March for Glenallen Hill. A 1998 fifth-round pick from the University of Hawaii, the 24-year-old Blakely is an athletic outfielder who’s still learning to hit. Blakely was at high Class A Tampa at the time of this trade, having hit a combined .258-12-41 in 96 games between there and Norwich. He had 27 steals in 40 attempts, plus 43 walks and 98 strikeouts.