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Mets Sign Japanese Pitcher Yoshii

January 14, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ While Jason Isringhausen had season-ending elbow surgery, the New York Mets in effect replaced him by by agreeing to a one-year contract with Japanese right-hander Masato Yoshii.

In contrast to the Yankees, who gave Hideki Irabu a $12.8 million, four-year contract, the Mets made a much smaller commitment to Yoshii. Tuesday’s deal was guarantees him just $200,000 but allows him to earn up to $1.4 million in performance bonuses.

In addition, the Mets agreed they would place Yoshii on unconditional release waivers if the sides do not agree to a 1999 contract by Nov. 15, making him a free agent again.

``We expect he will make the major league team, but there are no guarantees to that effect,″ Mets general manager Steve Phillips said. ``He’s been a very successful pitcher in Japan. He’s not a power pitcher with an explosive fastball. He throws strikes and changes speeds and mixes up his pitches to be successful.″

Yoshii, 32, was 13-6 with a 2.99 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 174 1-3 innings last season, helping the Yakult Swallows win the Central League title and the Japan Series.

He was with the Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Pacific League from 1985-94, pitching primarily as a reliever. He was a teammate of the Dodgers’ Hideo Nomo from 1990-94, and was 73-51 with 61 saves and a 3.43 ERA during 13 seasons in the Japanese major leagues.

``It’s a test situation on both parts,″ said Yoshii’s agent, Don Nomura. ``If Yoshii does well, he’ll obviously be happy with the Mets and want to renew with the Mets.″

If he does very well, he’ll have the ability to become a free agent and negotiate with any team.

The Mets, increasing their international scouting, earlier this winter signed Juei Ushiromatsu, an 18-year-old left-hander bypassed in the Japan’s amateur draft. They also signed Jae Weong Seo, a 20-year-old pitcher from South Korea, and Jae Hwan Sea, his 22-year-old brother, who is an outfielder.

Phillips defended his moves this season, which included re-signing first baseman John Olerud and the acquisitions of reliever John Hudek from Houston for Carl Everett, reliever Dennis Cook from Florida for a pair of minor leaguers, and outfielder Rich Becker from Minnesota for Alex Ochoa.

``We don’t have that sexy name right now. There’s no dispute of that,″ Phillips said. ``There not a Gary Sheffield name or a Randy Johnson name or anybody like that.

``The team won 88 games last year. We have John Olerud back in place. We expect Carlos Baerga, a former American League All-Star, to play like he did in the last five months of the season and maybe a little better this year. We think (Rey) Ordonez is going to continue to improve and (Edgardo Alfonzo will continue to improve. To me, we have one of the best defensive teams, one of the more exciting defensive teams, in the National League.

``We expect Bernard Gilkey will move back toward what his average year is. We expect Brian McRae will move back toward what his average year is.″

But with catcher Todd Hundley recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery, the Mets still lack a top draw. Still, Phillips is optimistic.

``We’re going to be very, very competitive and be in position to make a run at least for a wild-card spot,″ Phillips said.

Isringhausen, another of their injured players had reconstructive elbow surgery Tuesday. Dr. David Altchek, who said 90 percent of the ligament in the right (pitching) elbow wasn’t supporting any tension, transplanted a wrist ligament during the one-hour procedure.

Altchek said Isringhausen could start soft-tossing in about four months and start throwing hard in about seven months.

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