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Yankees Bolster Pitching Staff

The New York Yankees wanted Denny Neagle and they got him, giving up highly ranked prospects to fill in the gap in their rotation.

The Yankees traded minor league third baseman Drew Henson, outfielder Jackson Melian, right-hander Brian Reith and left-hander Ed Yarnall on Wednesday to the Cincinnati Reds for Neagle and minor league outfielder Mike Frank.

"We like these guys, but we've made the decision to go for it," general manager Brian Cashman said.

The trade represented a turning point for two franchises headed in different directions as the season resumes after the All-Star break.

The two-time defending World Series champions are trying to patch holes in the roster that have left them in a three-way contest for the AL East. By contrast, the Reds have gone back to rebuilding only a few months after winning 96 games, trading for Ken Griffey Jr. and becoming a favorite to win the NL Central.

The Neagle deal is similar to the one the Reds made in 1998, trading top starter Dave Burba to Cleveland on the eve of the season opener, and similar to a move the Chicago White Sox made in July 1997.

The White Sox traded for prospects that year even though they were 3 1/2 games out of first, a move that has paid off in the AL Central lead this year. Cincinnati trails St. Louis by eight games in the NL Central.

"I know this deal's going to be unpopular for the present," general manager Jim Bowden said. "The White Sox took a lot of grief when they made a similar trade a few years ago. But in the end, that's how you win."

"The Yankees knew they needed another run prm definitely open-minded," said Neagle, who makes $4.75 million. "I would be foolish not to entertain offers from the Yankees. Let's put it this way: They were on my short list of teams I would consider in free agency."

While the Reds get back to rebuilding toward a new stadium in 2003, the Yankees will try to elbow their way into the playoffs with a rotation that includes Neagle, Roger Clemens, David Cone, Andy Pettitte and Orlando Hernandez.

"I'd like to get another World Series start and be on that mound in the ninth inning," Neagle said. "It would be a dream come true for me to be able to finish out a game for the Yankees in the World Series."

The key to the deal was Henson, who hasn't decided whether to play baseball or go into the NFL. He's expected to be the starting quarterback at Michigan this fall.

"Henson is the wild card in the deal," Bowden said. "If in the future he plays major league baseball, I think in the end this is a real good deal for the Reds. If he does play football, I still think it's a good deal considering the circumstances."

Henson is hitting .287 for Double-A Norwich. Melian, 20, hit .252 with nine homers in 81 games at Norwich this season. Reith, 22, went 9-4 with a 2.18 ERA for Class A Tampa. Yarnall, 24, was 2-1 with a 4.56 ERA in 10 starts for the Yankees this season.

Frank, 25, played in 28 games for the Reds in 1998, hitting .225, and has been at Triple-A since.

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