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Yankees' Dotel fires first big-league pitch in 14 months

NEW YORK -- Octavio Dotel returned to the major leagues 14
months after a ligament was replaced in his right elbow, and the
hard-throwing righty threw 13 pitches Wednesday night in a relief
appearance during the New York Yankees' 3-2 loss to the Baltimore
Orioles.

Dotel, operated on in June 2005, spent most of this year
rehabilitating his elbow at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla.

"Finally, I made it," he said.

He started by striking out Melvin Mora on eight pitches in the
eighth inning, his fastball reaching 97 mph, then gave up a single
to Miguel Tejada and walked Jay Gibbons on four pitches.

Yankees manager Joe Torre came to the mound, patted Dotel on the
back and brought in Scott Proctor. After a walk loaded the bases,
Kevin Millar grounded into a double play.

"Everything I threw today feels pretty good. I don't know if it
was great," Dotel said. "I feel like I'm almost 100 percent
back."

Dotel said he had been throwing 94-95 mph.

"I guess New York made me have a couple more miles," he said.

For now, he figures to join Proctor and Kyle Farnsworth as
late-inning setup men for closer Mariano Rivera.

"I expect him to be more comfortable after that," Torre said.
"His stuff was fine. Basically, I think he has to settle in. I
didn't plan on bringing him into the eighth inning of a close game
like that, but we decided it was as good a time as any."

Signed in December to a $2 million, one-year contract, Dotel had
36 saves for Houston and Oakland in 2004. But last year he was 1-2
with seven saves and a 3.52 earned-run average with Oakland and blew four saves in
five outings from April 30 to May 11. He went on the disabled list
May 20, then had surgery June 6.

To open a roster space, the Yankees optioned reliever Jose Veras
to Triple-A Columbus.