The New York Yankees added Lance Berkman, the Los Angeles Dodgers picked up Ted Lilly and the Philadelphia Phillies traded for Roy Oswalt as contenders scrambled to improve themselves for the stretch run. Backed up against the July 31 MLB deadline for non-waiver trades, winning teams pushed to add talent even as losing teams rushed to off-load expensive veterans for promising young players. The Yankees, the defending champions locked in a three-way battle atop the American League East, were among the most active teams, obtaining Berkman, a 34-year-old slugger, from the Houston Astros to be their designated hitter. "It gives us a very accomplished switch-hitter who knows how to hit in the middle of the order," Joe Girardi, the Yankees manager, said. "He's been an RBI guy, he's been a run producer." The Yankees also made two trades with Cleveland, gaining Austin Kearns, a reserve outfielder, and, more importantly, Kerry Woods, the relief pitcher who is expected to help bridge the seventh- and eighth-inning gap between the starting staff and Mariano Rivera, the closer.
Mark Teixeira, the Yankees first baseman, expressed satisfaction at the addition of Berkman and Kearns. "We're a team that's all about winning and anyone who can come in here and help us score more runs is great," he said. "I know both of them real well and they're two quality guys who are going to be great for this clubhouse." The Yankees sent away young players in each of the three deals. The Dodgers traded Blake DeWitt and two minor-league pitchers for Lilly, 34, a left-handed pitcher. The Dodgers retain notions of catching the San Diego Padres in the National League West but need more pitching to make it happen. The Dodgers also added Octavio Dotel, the relief pitcher, from Pittsburgh, the outfielder Scott Podsednik from Kansas City and the infielder Ryan Theriot, who was part of the Lilly deal. The Padres, surprise leaders in the NL West, picked up Ryan Ludwick, a power-hitting outfielder, from the St Louis Cardinals, who in turn added the pitcher Jake Westbook from the Indians. The Los Angeles Angels traded for Dan Haren, the Arizona pitcher. Philadelphia also added a prominent veteran pitcher in Oswalt, in a trade with Houston. Several teams looking to the future cleared out numerous expensive players. Kansas City, Cleveland, Arizona and Houston were among the most aggressive teams in pruning payrolls in lost seasons. * Agencies