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Monday, December 8, 2003
Sides working out conditioning clause

ESPN.com news services

The New York Yankees and David Wells are close to finalizing a minor-league deal that could put the tempestuous left-hander back in their rotation for the 2004 season, ESPN's Peter Gammons reports.

The Yankees offered Wells salary arbitration Sunday night because general manager Brian Cashman and Wells' agent Gregg Clifton were on the verge of working out the one-year contract.

"We're trying to finalize an opportunity for David and an opportunity for the Yankees that will be fair to both sides," Clifton said Monday.

The sides have discussed a minor league contract but have not finalized the amount of the guarantee for Wells, who had back surgery last week.

If Wells is added to the major league roster, the deal would carry a base salary of $3 million with incentives that could drive it toward $7 million.

In addition, the contract would contain clauses to ensure that Wells stays in good physical condition. Yankees manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre were angered when Wells stopped throwing between starts last summer and went winless in seven starts.

The deal will be completed when both sides agree on the weight-and-conditioning clause, Gammons reports.

Last month, New York declined a $6 million option on Wells, who earned $14 million during his two-year contract with the Yankees. The 40-year-old Wells was 15-7 with a 4.14 ERA last season and 19-7 with a 3.75 ERA in 2002.

"We made a lot of progress in the last 24 hours and we're optimistic David will have an opportunity to remain a Yankee," Clifton told reporters.

Wells left Game 5 of the World Series after one inning because of a back injury, and had surgery last Tuesday to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. He has angered the Yankees at times during his four seasons with New York, but also is a favorite of owner George Steinbrenner.

Wells, who has a career record of 200-128, defeated Minnesota and Boston in his first two 2003 postseason starts.

Wells was winless in seven starts from July 19 until Sept. 7, when he beat Boston 3-1 and prevented the Red Sox from closing to within a half-game of New York in the AL East.

The Yankees also offered left-hander Andy Pettitte salary arbitration on Sunday night, but the club and pitcher are far apart in their negotiations. Pettitte also is being courted by the Houston Astros.

New York also offered arbitration to left-hander Gabe White and backup catcher John Flaherty. The Yankees have agreed to a $775,000, one-year contract with Flaherty but not announced it. They are close to an agreement with White.

Relievers Jeff Nelson and Antonio Osuna were not offered arbitration and can't re-sign until May 1. New York also didn't offer arbitration to Roger Clemens, who is retiring.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.