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Reliever Park finalizes deal with Yanks

Reliever Park finalizes deal with Yanks

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Sometime between the moment Chan Ho Park announced his decision to sign with the Yankees and his arrival at camp on Sunday, he carved out a few minutes to find a razor and chop off his long locks.

Now clean-cut to Steinbrenner standards, Park officially joined the defending World Series champions on Sunday, suiting up in pinstripes for the first time after signing a one-year contract to work out of the bullpen.

"I've got to do what I've got to do," Park said, rubbing his cheek.

As soon as he adjusts to the time difference from Korea and gets his bullpens under way, the 36-year-old reliever is hoping that the rest of the acclimation process to life with the Yankees will fall right into line.

Park told the media in a press conference on Monday that he had decided to take the offer from the Yankees, a club that had kept tabs on him for at least the last two seasons, according to general manager Brian Cashman. The Cubs and Rays were also among the teams reported to be interested.

"It wasn't easy to make a decision, because a lot of teams asked," Park said. "But I'm trying to get a ring. That's the most important thing."

The contract is worth $1.2 million, with incentives that could net an extra $300,000. Park was 3-3 with a 4.43 ERA in 45 games for the Phillies last year, and the Yankees had a close look when he pitched against them in the World Series, striking out three in 3 1/3 scoreless innings over four appearances.

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"He had a great year last year," Alex Rodriguez said. "I faced him in the World Series. He had great movement and his velocity was up in the mid-90s. He looked good. I thought he was a great weapon for Philly, and hopefully he can be the same for us."

Cashman said that Park's adjustment to the bullpen piqued their interest.

"He throws harder," Cashman said. "We saw it in the postseason here and we saw it in the Dodgers-Phillies postseason the previous year, where he just came out of the 'pen with a plus fastball and a snap-dragon breaking ball.

"He just goes right after hitters. His personality and his tool-set seem to play up out of the 'pen. He'll just have to do it without a beard."

In order to create room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated right-handed reliever Edwar Ramirez for assignment.

"Selfishly, we hope that we can keep him in the organization," Cashman said. "We'll know in the next 10 days how realistic that is."

Park said that he would have liked to remain with the Phillies, lauding their fans, Korean community and clubhouse, and Philadelphia did tender him a contract offer -- reportedly one year at $3 million. But Park hesitated and said Sunday that it was "too late" to go back after negotiations fell off.

"Philadelphia was the number one choice, and I had a tough time to leave there," Park said. "Now, it's a new team, so let's go to the next step."

In order to stay sharp during his extended winter, Park said that he worked out with two Korean amateur teams, including throwing batting practice to high school kids.

"They helped me and I helped their young guys," Park said. "I had a lot of fun. I'm in good shape. I feel like I'm ready."

The Yankees will treat Park as though he is 10 to 12 days behind the rest of their pitchers, having him go through Day 1 of workouts on Sunday and scheduling his first bullpen session for Monday.

"The one thing that we want to express to him is, don't rush," Cashman said. "You've got plenty of time. I know [he] was throwing a lot at home, but we've got to make sure that he's physically even before we start throwing him into games."

The first Korean-born player to appear in a Major League game and the first native of South Korea signed by the Yankees, Park owns a career record of 120-95 with a 4.35 ERA in 423 games (287 starts) over 16 Major League seasons with the Dodgers, Rangers, Padres, Mets and Phillies.

"This is the future and a good team and another chance," Park said.

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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