03 July 2006

YANKS: VIVA VENEZUELA!


The Bombers inked Venezuelan catcher Jesus Montero almost immediately after the international signing period opened late Saturday night, sources said.

Montero, 16, is a right-handed hitter with tremendous power, according to scouts and the Yanks lured him away from the Mets and Red Sox, sources said, by offering the top bid of $2 million.

There had been talk of Montero switching positions (likely to first base) if he signed with other clubs, but the Yankees will keep him behind the plate.

“He’ll instantly become the highest catching prospect in our system,” GM Brian Cashman said. “One of our scouts believes he’s the best prospect to come out of Venezuela since Miguel Cabrera.”

Another top international catching prospect is Francisco Pena, who is the son of Yankees first-base coach Tony Pena. The Yankees had looked at the younger Pena but were targeting Montero all along, intrigued by his ability to hit to all fields with power.

In Montero, the Yankees hope they have finally found Navarro’s replacement as the catching jewel of their organization - and one that will stay with the Yankees a lot longer, too.

“The idea,” Cashman said, “is that in five years everyone will know who he is for the next 20.”

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