The Mets decided they'd rather have Orel Hershiser than Hideo Nomo, and the former Cy Young Award winner decided New York had a chance to get into the postseason.
The 40-year-old right-hander, who went to spring training with Cleveland, agreed Thursday with the Mets on a $2 million, one-year contract that gives him the chance to earn $500,000 more in performance bonuses.
"I think all of the contenders had a chance, but the other criteria came into play," Hershiser said during a news conference in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
"I knew the chance to win and to win in New York - people say the greatest city in the world - was an opportunity that I wanted to have," he said. "I enjoy the pressure, I enjoy the spotlight and I enjoy the competition. I don't want to go off to some city where it's ho-hum, let's go watch the game, I want go some place where we're going to get after it and that's what New York is all about."
Atlanta, Florida, Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs also sought Hershiser. He would have gotten only a $400,000, one-year contract if he had made Cleveland's opening day roster. Indians manager Mike Hargrove decided there was no room for him in his team's rotation but was willing to keep him as a reliever.
"The problem we had here all along is that we didn't have an open spot for him in the rotation," Indians general manager John Hart said. "We were not going to take any of our starters out of the rotation. Orel knew that. We addressed it with Orel. We would have liked to have had him here as a protection guy, it would have been a great fit for us. In reality, Orel got a nice contract with a team that has a chance to win and he's going to get the ball every five days. So I'm happy for him."
The agreement came one day after the Mets sent Nomo, another former Los Angeles Dodgers star, outright to the minors.
Mets manager Bobby Valentine appeared to be upset at the demotion, saying Wednesday he had told his players not to worry about their performance in the spring.
"Things have changed, I guess," Valentine said. "It's regretful. I said it wasn't a tryout camp and that they should work on things they needed to work on."
Valentine softened his tone Thursday but clearly remained upset.
"I'm ecstatic," he said. "As down as I was yesterday over losing a player that I had a lot of sweat equity in and a guy I was pulling for to do well, I'm even higher that than today knowing one of the greatest competitors and one of the best pitchers I'vever seen is lined up on our team."
| Orel Hershiser is taking his act to New York. (AP)|
In three spring appearances, Hershiser was 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA. He allowed three runs and 10 hits in 10 innings, striking out four and walking three. Last year with San Francisco, Hershiser was 11-10, with a 4.41 ERA in 34 games covering 202 innings.
Hershiser has a 190-133 career record and admits he'd like to win at least 10 more to reach 200 and improve his chances of being elected to the Hall of Fame.
A three-time All-Star, Hershiser won the 1988 NL Cy Young Award with the Dodgers after going 23-8 and setting a major league record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings. He also was MVP of the NL championship series and the World Series, going 3-0 in the postseason.
Nomo, the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year while playing for the Dodgers, was liked by Valentine, but general manager Steve Phillips made the decision to cut him.
"It's a difficult decision because it involves a player of his stature and given what he's done in his career," Phillips said. "But I've got to make a judgment in what I can do to have us win as many games as we can, and this starts the process."
Nomo joined the Dodgers in 1995 and won 45 games in Los Angeles, but struggled last season and was traded to the Mets in June. He went 4-5 with a 4.82 ERA in 17 games with New York and was ineffective this spring, going 0-2 with a 7.62 ERA in four appearances.
If Nomo doesn't report to Triple-A Norfolk, the team would save Nomo's entire $2,925,000 salary. If he does report, the Mets will probably place Nomo on unconditional release waivers next Wednesday and give him only 45 days' termination pay, $719,262
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