Amid flurry of moves, O's deal Gonzalez
Lefty Phillips recalled; Hendrickson, Ballard and Atkins out
BALTIMORE -- Michael Gonzalez's mercurial tenure with the Baltimore Orioles officially ended Wednesday afternoon when the lefty reliever was dealt to Texas -- in exchange for right-handed pitcher Pedro Strop -- on the final day for contending teams to set their postseason roster.
"Gonzo is going to be a really nice piece for Ron Washington and the Rangers," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the much-maligned lefty, who showed flashes -- particularly the last few weeks -- of being the dominant late-inning arm Baltimore envisioned when they signed him to a two-year, $12-million deal in December 2009.
"He's pitching as good as any American League reliever,[as a] left-hander [and a] reliever period," Showalter said of Gonzalez, who has is riding a 12 1/3 scoreless inning streak. "They're catching him at a great time. He's familiar with the American League, so there should be little transition. He's obviously familiar with the state of Texas. So it's a really good situation for them."
For Gonzalez, who learned of the trade -- which was all but done Tuesday -- around 3 p.m. ET Wednesday afternoon, the news was bittersweet. The 33-year-old is a Texas native who has never been in a pennant race, but leaves Baltimore -- where he was well liked by teammates although subject to plenty of fan ire -- wistful about his limited performance and wishing he could have done more to live up to his deal.
"I'm excited [to go to Texas]. I'm going to go out there and I'm going to try to win the championship now, and especially right now that I'm feeling good," Gonzalez said. "The bad part is, obviously, I wanted to do more here in Baltimore. It's one of those things where I'm very thankful for [president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail] giving me the opportunity and having faith that I could come and get it done. Like I said, I wish would've been able to be better for the fans"
Signed to be the team's closer, Gonzalez blew two of three save opportunities in his first week as an Oriole and landed on the disabled list with left shoulder inflammation soon after. He went on to miss three-quarters of the season and while Gonzalez pitched admirably down the stretch, Baltimore went out and signed Kevin Gregg this winter to be the new ninth-inning man, a shift that relegated Gonzalez to mop-up duty to start the year.
But the Trade Deadline deal of Koji Uehara -- who he will be reunited with in Texas -- gave way to more opportunities late in the game and Gonzalez showed his resilience in bouncing back from a 5.46 ERA in 32 first-half games. Since the All-Star break, he has held opposing hitters to a .154 batting average while posting a 1.80 ERA in 17 games, including his current streak of 13 consecutive scoreless appearances.
"More than anything, it's kind of a pride thing for me," Gonzalez said when asked if he regretted not showing Oriole fans more what he's been doing lately. "It's understanding and knowing what you're capable of doing, and that's being able to go out there and show what's what, especially when you hear people talk about the 'Beast of the East' and it's one of those things where you know if you're healthy, you can go out there and get it done. I think that was the most frustrating for me. It was that I was obviously brought here to help the team win in those types of situations, and not being able to do that was tough for me."
A free agent at season's end, Gonzalez said he wouldn't necessarily close the door on a return to Baltimore, although his immediate focus is getting to know his new teammates in Arlington. Gonzalez joked if all the Rangers were as outgoing as new acquisition Tommy Hunter, he'd be fine.
"Everything about here is great," Gonzalez said of the Orioles organization. "I liked everything having to do with it. Like I said, the only thing that I'm disappointed about is not being able to go out there and show what I'm capable of doing."
Strop is 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA and 11 saves in 39 games at Triple-A Round Rock. He was 0-1 with a 3.72 ERA in 11 games for the Rangers earlier this season. To replace Gonzalez on the active roster, the Orioles recalled left-hander Zach Phillips from Triple-A Norfolk. Phillips, acquired from the Rangers on July 19, was 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 14 games.
The club also announced three other moves: Left-hander Mark Hendrickson was optioned to Norfolk, right-hander Mitch Atkins was outrighted to Norfolk and lefty Mike Ballard was outrighted to Double-A Bowie. The moves clear room on the 40-man roster for Thursday's September callups, with pitchers Rick VandenHurk and Jeremy Accardo two likely candidates who would need to be added to the 40-man.
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.