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Yankees reach out to relievers

Yankees reach out to relievers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Backing away from the blockbuster neighborhood at the Winter Meetings, the Yankees hope to at least upgrade part of their bullpen before checking out.

The Yankees made contact with the representatives for free-agent relievers Ron Mahay and Luis Vizcaino on Wednesday, looking to other routes to add pitching and complete the always-important bridge to closer Mariano Rivera.

A person with knowledge of the Yankees' plans said that general manager Brian Cashman was scheduled to meet with Mahay's representatives on Wednesday evening, while Cashman confirmed that he had already spoken with Vizcaino's agent, Bean Stringfellow.

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Saying that he was not overly optimistic the Yankees would leave town with a new addition, Cashman said that there were "a couple of things" that might work out before the Meetings conclude on Thursday.

"The bullpen is obviously something that we'd like to find a way to get anywhere from the sixth to seventh to the eighth inning," Cashman said.

The Yankees are considered to be the front-runners for Mahay, who posted a 2.55 ERA and limited opponents to a .218 batting average in 58 combined appearances with the Braves and Rangers this past season.

It is believed New York may offer as much as three years and $12 million for the 36-year-old left-hander. Cashman said on Wednesday that the club would like to add a capable left-hander into the mix, supplementing internal candidates Sean Henn, Kei Igawa and Chase Wright.

"It's reasonable, but I wouldn't go as far to say that it's close," a person with knowledge of Mahay's situation said on Wednesday.

The Yankees have also had interest in retaining Vizcaino, who made a career-high 77 appearances in 2007 after being acquired from the Diamondbacks in January. But the sizable four-year, $19 million deal given to reliever Scott Linebrink by the White Sox may have skewed the market somewhat, and the 33-year-old Vizcaino could look for a similar offer.

Cashman said that the Yankees would continue to watch the trade market for relief pitching.

"It's not a very strong free-agent market, in terms of talent," Cashman said. "If you can find something that matches up on the trade front, we're certainly willing to do that."

And if not, the Yankees insist they could hold out and attempt to convert more of their Minor League starting pitchers into capable big league relievers -- a formula that worked with great success for Joba Chamberlain.

To that end, Cashman rattled off the names of Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez and Steven White; all will be in Spring Training with the Yankees on Feb. 14 preparing as starting pitchers, but if necessity arises, the club could transition those pitchers over to a different work assignment with little advance warning.

"You might go that route just by default, because the evaluation might not match up with the cost," Cashman said.

Winter Meetings

Prospective bullpen construction, while important, played as decidedly less sexy than the rumors and speculation that had marked the Yankees' first two days in Nashville. But senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner put an end to discussions with the Twins regarding Johan Santana, and the Yankees remained out as of Wednesday. New York checked in on right-hander Dan Haren of the A's but found the cost to be prohibitive, leaving the Yankees similarly uninterested.

Cashman said that he was happy to be proceeding with Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera -- the confirmed bait dangled for Minnesota -- in pinstripes, saying that he had predicted the Yankees' faith in their young players was to be challenged during these Winter Meetings.

"Sure enough, we were," Cashman said. "They're still standing, hopefully to our benefit for a long time."

The Yankees did complete one order of relief improvement on Wednesday, officially announcing their acquisition of right-hander Jonathan Albaladejo from the Washington Nationals.

Acquired late Monday for right-hander Tyler Clippard, the 25-year-old Albaladejo went 1-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 14 relief appearances for Washington, striking out 12 in 14 innings.

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Albaladejo owns a low- to mid-90s fastball and an above-average slider, impressing the Yankees' scouts as early as Double-A. He joins a continuing trend of large-body, good-velocity prospects acquired by the Yankees, like Chris Britton and Humberto Sanchez.

"If he replicates what he did last season, then he will be an interesting character for us," Cashman said. "He's a big, strong, imposing guy. We're hopeful that he can help us."

Nothing on Duncan: The Yankees were unable to officially comment on a reported circulatory problem that briefly put Shelley Duncan in a hospital last month. Cashman would say only that he is not actively looking for more first basemen, but manager Joe Girardi said that Duncan had "some circulatory issues" and would be evaluated before Spring Training.

Gator Aid: Girardi said that the Yankees are considering inviting Ron Guidry to Tampa, Fla., as a guest instructor this spring, but those arrangements have not been finalized. Guidry served two years as Joe Torre's pitching coach but was not invited back for 2008 as the club selected Dave Eiland, who held the same position at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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