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08/01/10 12:04 AM ET

Yankees designate Park for assignment

ST. PETERSBURG -- While Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns dressed and greeted their new teammates at Tropicana Field, Chan Ho Park quietly said his goodbyes, packed a bag and slipped out a side door.

The 37-year-old right-hander was designated for assignment on Saturday, likely closing another chapter of his career and leading him to wonder if another club will come calling.

"I'm sad, but this is business," Park said. "I understand. I just think about the next step. Hopefully, I can keep pitching. It's been a long time."

Park was 2-1 with a 5.60 ERA in 27 appearances for New York, allowing 40 hits and 22 earned runs in 35 1/3 innings. He walked 12 and struck out 29, working off a one-year, $1.2 million contract.

"The stuff is still good," general manager Brian Cashman said. "I think he can help somebody. For some reason, it just didn't translate here. But the ability and stuff are still there. Sometimes these things in bullpens are very volatile. For whatever reason, we couldn't get anything consistently going with him."

After 452 games (287 starts) in 17 big league seasons, the native of South Korea appreciates the chance to wear pinstripes.

"I had a lot of fun with the Yankees," he said. "If this is [the end] for my career, I got to play for the Yankees. I'm happy to get experience with the Yankees before I finished in the Major Leagues.

"Who knows? Maybe I've got a couple of years left. I think I've got some more."

The Yankees will ask newly acquired right-hander Kerry Wood to assume the role Park had filled.

Puma finds that pinstripes fit quite nicely

ST. PETERSBURG -- The thought hit Lance Berkman as he was traveling to meet his new employer on Saturday, with blazing Florida sunshine baking the highway and Tropicana Field slowly coming into view.

"I was like, 'Man, I'm coming to play for the New York Yankees, against the Tampa Bay Rays, basically for first place in the division,' " Berkman said. "[With the Astros] I'd be going up to play the Milwaukee Brewers. There's a definite difference."

Berkman did not waste any time getting into the action, as manager Joe Girardi slotted him second in the lineup. He went hitless in four at-bats, but the Yankees won, 5-4 -- a perfect outcome for the 34-year-old, who just wants to be "a spoke in the wheel."

"They were in first place before I got here, and they can win the division without me," he said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to help where I can. I'm going to try not to put pressure on myself to come in here and set the world on fire.

"I would like to be a little better than I was tonight, but I think that'll come as I get acclimated and get some of this travel behind me."

It wasn't the easiest day for Berkman, as he woke up at 7 a.m. ET to catch a flight to Florida after spending most of the night lying in bed, a million thoughts racing through his head about being away from home and his family for two or three months. Facing Matt Garza on the other end of the plane ride didn't help.

"We all know [Berkman's] a guy that has great numbers in his career," Girardi said. "He's going to be a big hitter for us. It makes the lineup even stronger."

Envisioned mostly as a designated hitter, Berkman does not mind where he hits in the lineup or if he plays in the field -- "I'll hit ninth. I'll catch. Whatever they want me to do, I'll do it" -- and told Girardi not to be shy about trying him in the outfield if needed.

"It gives you a very accomplished switch-hitter who knows how to hit in the middle of the order. He's an RBI guy, a run-producer," Girardi said.

After spending his entire career with the Astros, the five-time All-Star -- who was hitting .245 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs in 85 games for Houston -- is looking forward to the challenges of playing in New York.

"I'm 34 and not necessarily ancient, but definitely getting on toward more yesterdays than tomorrows in the game," he said. "You start to see your window for an opportunity to win and feel the rush of the playoffs close. Where we were with Houston, it seemed like we were at least two or three years away from getting back to that level."

The Yankees are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Speaking to the media wearing an "NY" cap and a pullover jacket with "NEW YORK" embroidered across the chest, Berkman acknowledged that the Yankees gear seemed to fit him rather nicely -- once he got past the initial double-take.

"My dad's favorite player was Mickey Mantle. He's probably one of a billion people that would say that, but that's the truth," he said. "One of the reasons I'm a switch-hitter is [because] he was such a huge fan of Mickey Mantle and wanted me to switch-hit.

"I grew up hearing about the Mick and the Yankees. It's surreal in the sense that, with the situation I had in Houston, I never thought there was any way in the world that this could happen. But now that it has happened, it feels good. This is a great uniform to put on."

A-Rod: 'It's probably going to take a while'

ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Rodriguez departed New York looking for a milestone home run, and he just might return without it.

Rodriguez posted a ninth consecutive homerless game on Saturday as he seeks career homer No. 600, going 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in the Yankees' 5-4 victory over the Rays.

He has now gone 37 at-bats and 42 plate appearances since clubbing No. 599 off the Royals' Robinson Tejeda on July 22 at Yankee Stadium.

"The way I'm swinging now, it's probably going to take a while -- everybody get comfortable," Rodriguez said. "I'm just glad to be out there helping the team somehow. I scored a run.

"People are asking me about home runs. I'm asking for a hit-by-pitch, infield hit, bunt single, error. I'll get on base anyhow. The home run will come."

Rodriguez is 9-for-37 (.243) with eight RBIs as he waits to connect on the pitch that will make him the seventh member of the 600-homer club. His wait is the longest to get into that select group and has exceeded the 28 at-bat delay between his own No. 499 and No. 500 in 2007.

"He took a walk in the first [inning]," manager Joe Girardi said. "His at-bats have been fine. He's just missing some balls. He'll start squaring them up again.

"I really believe it's going to happen. We should have told him this was 601."

Kearns fine with spelling regulars

ST. PETERSBURG -- Austin Kearns isn't sure how much playing time he will be receiving with his new team, but he already knows the Yankees have a little more power on the bench than they might think.

Kearns' role will be as a right-handed bat who can see time at all three outfield positions, but he knows that the Bombers also have a dangerous left-handed option just waiting on the sidelines -- ace CC Sabathia.

"Me and him were in a showcase together when we were 18, and I got to see him in a home run derby," Kearns said. "I used to say in Cincinnati, when we'd play Cleveland in Interleague [Play], 'Man, don't throw cookies in there. The big fella can swing the bat.' "

Kearns said that he is fine with spelling the Yankees' outfield regulars. Manager Joe Girardi said that one way he might use Kearns is to give Curtis Granderson a day off against left-handed pitching, using Kearns in left field with Brett Gardner shifting to center field.

"I'm definitely excited," Kearns said. "It's the best chance you have to win, obviously, coming here. And that's what it's all about. I'm happy to be a part of it."

Worth noting

With the addition of Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood, the Yankees have 10 players on the roster who were selected in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft (along with Phil Hughes, Derek Jeter, Dustin Moseley, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira). Joba Chamberlain was taken in the supplemental first round of the 2006 Draft. ... New York's first-round selection in the 2010 Draft, shortstop Cito Culver, was in the clubhouse before Saturday's game. ... Brett Gardner has been named the Yankees' winner of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association 2010 "Heart and Hustle Award."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.