Originally created 12/16/05

Hernandez officially joins Pirates



PITTSBURGH - Right-handed reliever Roberto Hernandez finalized his $2.75 million, one-year contract Thursday with the Pittsburgh Pirates after passing a physical.

The 41-year-old Hernandez adds a veteran's presence to a mostly young Pirates bullpen after going 8-6 with a 2.58 ERA and four saves in 67 games with the New York Mets last season.

Hernandez said he was offered a contract by the New York Yankees, but chose the Pirates because he expects to pitch in more late-inning situations with them. He has 324 career saves but has not been a closer since 2002.

Hernandez and Salomon Torres will be the top right-handers in the Pirates' bullpen and will complement left-handers Damaso Marte, John Grabow and Mike Gonzalez. Gonzalez is expected to get the first shot to be the closer despite having only four career saves, and Hernandez believes he can fill that role if necessary.

After losing 95 games last season, the Pirates reconfigured their bullpen by dropping right-handers Jose Mesa, their former closer; Brian Meadows and Rick White.

Hernandez's contract includes bonuses of $100,000 each for 35, 40, 45, 50 and 55 games finished and $25,000 for making the All-Star team.