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YANKS SIGN HOLMES; METS OBTAIN HUDEK

Unable to add a top starting pitcher, the New York Yankees decided Monday to go for a versatile reliever who also can move into the rotation, agreeing to a $6.4 million, three-year contract with Darren Holmes.

The 31-year-old right-hander was 9-2 with three saves and a 5.34 ERA in six starts and 34 relief appearances for the Colorado Rockies last season. He was 2-0 with a 6.25 ERA as a starter and had a 4.84 ERA as a reliever.

Holmes has a 28-22 career record with 55 saves. The starts last season were his first since the minor leagues.

"When I talked with (manager) Joe Torre, he thought with that versatility, he might fit in as a possible fifth starter," Yankees general manager Bob Watson said. "Or he can be worked out of the bullpen."

In other baseball news:

Ridding themselves of a troublesome situation, the New York Mets traded outfielder Carl Everett to the Houston Astros for reliever John Hudek.

Everett's tenure in New York has been tenuous since Aug. 7, when his two children were taken into custody by New York City officials after a Shea Stadium child care worker noticed bruises on Shawna, 6. Five-year-old Carl also was placed in foster care although he was not injured.

A New York Family Court judge dropped child abuse charges against the outfielder and his wife Oct. 29 but ruled that Linda Everett inflicted "excessive corporal punishment" on their two children and that her husband did little to stop her.

Since then, the Everetts have been allowed supervised visits with the children.

Hudek, a right-hander, was an NL All-Star in 1994, when he had 16 saves. He was 1-3 with four saves and a 5.98 ERA in 40 games for Houston last season, striking out 36 in 40 2/3 innings. He was sent down to Triple-A New Orleans from June 3-22 and July 14-Aug. 13, getting seven saves in 19 games.

The Kansas City Royals, searching for a designated hitter to replace Chili Davis, signed Hal Morris.

Morris, 32, a first baseman, hit .276 with one home run and 33 RBIs in 96 games for the Cincinnati Reds last season. He injured his right shoulder May 11 diving for a ground ball, and had arthroscopic surgery Aug. 4.

Davis, who hit .279 with 30 homers and 90 RBIs last season, signed a two-year contract for $9.8 million with the New York Yankees.

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