Orioles acquire K-Rod to bolster bullpen
Brewers get infield prospect Delmonico in exchange for reliever
KANSAS CITY -- The Orioles acquired veteran pitcher Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, adding the right-handed reliever they coveted in exchange for promising infield prospect Nick Delmonico.
"We like Franky Rodriguez's experience, especially in pitching in the seventh, eighth and ninth inning," executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "And he's done it well. He gives us a little more depth to our bullpen. We really like his changeup, his signature pitch that has had success against left-handed hitters. And he's a Major League veteran. He has got experience and he's a competitor."
The 31-year-old Rodriguez is 1-1 with 10 saves, a 1.09 ERA, 26 strikeouts and nine walks in 25 appearances. He has recorded double-digit saves in nine of the last 10 seasons, including a Major League record 62 while with the Angels in 2008. His 304 career saves are third-most among active pitchers.
"Definitely, it's nice," Rodriguez said of joining a team in a pennant race. "I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but we're not playing for [anything] here [in Milwaukee]. Going there now, every game is going to count, especially in an American League East that is really strong. I have to be on top of my game as much as possible."
He will presumably take over a late-inning role in the Orioles' bullpen, giving manager Buck Showalter another option in close games, which Baltimore plays on a near-nightly basis. Closer Jim Johnson is on pace to record more save opportunities than last year, and even with the team's rotation -- bolstered by the recent acquisition of starter Scott Feldman -- looking improved, the O's never filled the relief spot vacated by power arm Pedro Strop.
"We are pretty solid defensively and we've got some pretty solid players in the lineup," Duquette said. "We were trying to upgrade the pitching to give us a chance to make the run for the AL [East] title and the pennant. So, we did what we had to do to help the team now and we have enough players having good years at the plate. It's my hope that we can have a steady stream of prospects going through the system so we can have some that we can trade to supplement the Major League team."
Delmonico, ranked as the Orioles fifth-best prospect by MLB.com entering the season, hit .244/.351/.471 in 60 games for Class A Advanced Frederick. The organization's sixth-round Draft pick out of Farragut (Tenn.) High School, Delmonico played 43 games at third base, 13 at designated hitter and one at first.
The Brewers asked for Delmonico three weeks ago but were told he was unavailable. But Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was able to get six teams involved in Rodriguez, a list he whittled to three serious American League suitors. When he checked back Tuesday, Duquette was willing to part with Delmonico.
"Nick Delmonico shows a lot of promise as a hitter," Duquette said, "But the Major League club needed a little more depth for our pitching staff to accomplish what we want to accomplish this year."
The Orioles' acquisition of Rodriguez, one of the best right-handed relievers available, also keeps him away from other suitors, including the Tigers and divisional rival Red Sox. Rodriguez has held left-handed hitters to a .102/.185/.186 line this year and over his career has been able to defend himself on both sides of the plate. He owns a .214/.297/.346 mark against left-handed hitters and a .192/.282/.287 mark against righties.
"I cannot say that I was not expecting it, but I'm definitely sad, I'm not going to lie," Rodriguez said of the news, delivered by Melvin about 30 minutes prior to the Brewers' game against the Padres at Miller Park. "I'm extremely sad because I don't want to leave this organization. But at the same time, you realize this is a business and I do understand that it's part of the game coming in. This is a new opportunity for me and I am looking forward to this challenge once again."
The trade, coupled with the deal for Feldman earlier this month, have the O's likely done dealing in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"The addition of [Scott] Feldman and, of course, the return of [Wei-Yin] Chen has helped stabilize the team and we hope the addition of Frank Rodriguez will be additive as well," Duquette said. "It's a tough league and a tough division we are competing in. Again, we have a number of position players having good years. I think our pitching needed to be bolstered and that's what these two trades are trying to do. To help make our pitching stronger."
To clear a 40-man roster spot for Rodriguez, the Orioles moved Nolan Reimold -- who had season-ending surgery on Tuesday -- from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list. The team will have to make a corresponding move to add Rodriguez to the 25-man roster when he joins the team in Kansas City on Wednesday.
Melvin praised Rodriguez as a "true pro" and wished him well with the Orioles.
"I spent years in Baltimore, and it's a great experience when you're in a pennant race there," Melvin said. "He jumped back in there and is pitching really well right now. I think he's a guy who can be a difference-maker when you get into postseason, or you get into pennant races in August or September. You always need more than one guy who can pitch in the ninth inning, and he's capable of doing that."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.