ARLINGTON (AP) – The Texas Rangers got some needed help for their bullpen a day before the non-waiver trade deadline.
The AL West leaders acquired right-hander Koji Uehara from Baltimore on Saturday night, sending right-hander Tommy Hunter and infielder Chris Davis to the Orioles. The Rangers also receive cash in the deal.
“I think this takes the edge off,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said during a conference call.
There had been no secret of the Rangers’ desire to get a reliever.
Countless reports all week had Texas in serious conversations with San Diego about acquiring All-Star closer Heath Bell, or talking with other West Coast teams about relievers.
Daniels didn’t rule out the possibility of another deal before Sunday’s deadline. But he said acquiring Uehara “really fills a need” and allows them to step back and evaluate where they stand.
Uehara has an incentive-laden $3 million contract for this season, with a $4 million option for 2012 that kicks in if he pitches in 12 more games this season. The likelihood of having Uehara back next season was a bonus, along with not having to give up any top prospects.
Uehara said he was surprised at being traded. He said goodbye to his teammates before the second game of the Orioles’ day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
“I have two contradictory feelings,” Uehara said through a translator during the first inning of the second game. “Part of me says a contending team is interested in me and wants me. That’s very gratifying. At the same time, to leave Baltimore, that I’ve been here for more than two years is pretty sad.”
Uehara is 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA in 43 appearances for Baltimore, primarily in an eighth-inning role. The right-hander has a shutout streak of 15 innings in 13 outings since June 19 at Washington.
The 36-year-old Uehara is in his third season in the majors after a successful 10-year run with the Yomiuri Giants. He is 4-7 with 13 saves and a 3.03 ERA in 98 games since becoming the Orioles’ first Japanese player. He signed a $10 million, two-year contract in January 2009.
Once a top starter in Japan, Uehara is the best among AL relievers this season with opponents hitting only .152 against him and 7.8 strikeouts for every walk.
Texas (61-47), which went to its first World Series last season, leads the Los Angeles Angels by two games in the AL West. But the Rangers’ bullpen has an AL-high 19 losses along with 15 blown saves.
Neftali Feliz has converted 21 of 26 save opportunities, and manager Ron Washington said recently he wanted to see more fire from the hard-throwing right-hander who last season set a major league rookie record with 40 saves, with only three blown chances.
Frank Francisco, who had been a primary setup reliever for the Rangers, was traded to Toronto during the offseason for Mike Napoli.
Hunter injured his groin on the same day he made the Texas rotation the last week of spring training and started the season on the disabled list for the second year in a row. He returned July 1 as a reliever, and had a 2.93 ERA in 15 1-3 innings over eight appearances.
When Hunter got hurt, the Rangers filled his rotation spot with Alexi Ogando. The former reliever became an All-Star starter and is 10-5 with a 2.88 ERA.
Texas got Hunter as a supplemental pick after the first round of the 2007 draft. He was 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 23 games, 22 starts, for Texas last season, and started Game 4 of the World Series.
All five starters who began this season in the Rangers rotation have made at least 20 starts. Four are already 10-game winners — Ogando, C.J. Wilson (10-4) and Derek Holland (10-4), who threw his fourth shutout Saturday in a 3-0 win at Toronto. Matt Harrison, the other starter, has nine wins.
Davis, a fifth-round pick in 2006, hit .250 with three home runs and six RBIs in 28 games over three stints with Texas this season. He hit 24 home runs in 48 games at Triple-A Round Rock.
Though Davis started at third base Saturday, he had been a standout defensive first baseman for the Rangers the previous three seasons. He had only six errors in 192 games at first base, where he is likely to play for Baltimore.
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