They tried to trade for him at the winter meetings last year, and when that didn't work out, the Baltimore Orioles kept on guard for the moment that Jim Poole would become available.
On May 31, the Texas Rangers placed Poole on waivers to clear a spot on their 40-man roster, and the Orioles struck with their claim.
They haven't regretted it.
Last night, Poole was thrust into the middle of the American League East pennant chase and handcuffed Boston for five innings to spark the Orioles to a 4-3 victory that slowed the Red Sox's pursuit of first-place Toronto.
The left-hander was virtually unhittable, surrendering only a harmless, two-out single to Jody Reed in the eighth inning to protect a one-run lead achieved in the bottom of the fourth on Mike Devereaux's run-scoring single.
Poole's numbers speak volumes. Excluding two intentional walks, only 17 of 109 batters he has faced have reached base against him since July 30, when he was recalled from Rochester.
He has 28 strikeouts, five walks and a 1.50 ERA. Of his 18 appearances, 14 have been scoreless.
Manager John Oates extended Poole into his longest outing of the season because "he was going so good. That was one inning farther than I would have liked, but you get excited about guys like him and [Todd] Frohwirth."
Poole entered in the fourth with the bases loaded and the Orioles leading, 3-2. He induced pinch hitter Tom Brunansky to bounce into a double play (the tying run scoring) and proceeded to get 14 outs from his first 13 hitters until Reed singled.
He then struck out Phil Plantier and turned the game over to Gregg Olson for the ninth. Olson induced Mo Vaughn to hit into a game-ending double play after falling behind 3-and-0 in the count and the Orioles clinched their first season series against Boston (7-4 with two to play) since 1983.
Olson has seven straight scoreless appearances and 30 saves.
"I was pumped up to play against a team in the pennant race, and I almost hyperventilated," said Poole. "I came in [to the clubhouse] every inning to calm down. My heart was really beating. "I'm superstitious anyway and when it worked the first time, I kept doing it."
Oates said he knew Poole's name but had no memory of "him ever throwing a ball against us. The word we had was that he was nasty against left-handers and starting to be able to get right-handers."
So far, it hasn't mattered if the opposition is cross-handed.
"I feel confident about right-handers," he said. "I always felt I could get them out. But with the Dodgers [his original team] and Rangers it was one lefty at a time. Here, they're letting me go."
Poole said he bears no ill will toward Texas and said "you'll have to talk to them" about why he was left unprotected. "The Rangers knew what they were doing. I should be doing nothing but thanking them for letting me come here."
Red Sox manager Joe Morgan said the double-play ball Poole induced from Brunansky was one of the keys to the game.
"He [Brunansky] is the big man. The way the bottom of the order is hitting, if he doesn't do it . . . I had Brunansky getting a big hit there. He hit it well, but in the wrong direction," said Morgan.
The omens were not good for the Red Sox. A black cat jumped over the railing near their dugout before Devereaux reached on Rivera's error and a big run scored.
But they were philosophical about the defeat, which temporarily left them two games behind Toronto, which was playing on the West Coast.
"There's no reason to get too high or too low," said Wade Boggs. "We lost, so we just have to go out and play better tomorrow."