Sherrill Dealt To L.a.

Dodgers Send 2 Prospects --third Baseman Bell And Former St. Paul's Pitching Standout Johnson

July 31, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Closer George Sherrill, whose flat-brimmed cap and ninth-inning tightrope act made him a fan and club favorite in his two seasons in Baltimore, was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday for two minor leaguers, including the son of a former Orioles pitcher.

Furthering his desire to rebuild the Orioles' once-barren farm system, club president Andy MacPhail swapped Sherrill for switch-hitting Double-A third baseman Josh Bell, the Dodgers' eighth-ranked prospect according to Baseball America, and right-handed starter Steve Johnson, a 2005 St. Paul's graduate and the son of former Orioles right-hander and current MASN broadcaster Dave Johnson.

"These are never easy trades to make. It's with mixed emotions that we announce this," MacPhail said. "On the negative side, we had to trade a very highly valued member of our team ... who not only did an outstanding job on and off the field, he really helped facilitate what this franchise is trying to do."

Trading for Sherrill in February 2008 as part of the Erik Bedard deal with the Seattle Mariners breathed life into MacPhail's rebuilding effort. Thursday's move signifies Phase Two, converting a piece from the Bedard trade into two more prospects - both of whom likely won't be ready for the majors until 2010 at the earliest.

"There does come a time when the standings are the standings, and there does come a time when we have to try to address our needs going down the road so we can get the group of talent together for the long term. And we think that's what this trade represents," MacPhail said. "We will have to endure some short-term pain, but we're pretty confident we are going to get some long-term gain."

The price, however, was steep.

Sherrill, the Orioles' lone All-Star in 2008, saved 51 games in 1 1/2 seasons for the club, ranking him ninth on the franchise's all-time saves list. But he's 32, is making $2.75 million in 2009 and has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining. And, as a closer on a noncontender, he was viewed as a luxury.

MacPhail wasn't optimistic that he would move another veteran by today's 4 p.m. nonwaiver trade deadline but said nothing had been ruled out.

Sherrill, who has been the subject of trade rumors for more than a year, learned the news after he had left Camden Yards following the Orioles' 7-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.

"It's tough," Sherrill said. "It was fun getting to play here in Baltimore, and it was one of those things that it was flattering to be in trade talks coming here and getting to pitch in this division and getting to know the team and seeing the direction it is going in."

Right-handed setup man Jim Johnson, 26, will likely get the first opportunity to claim the closer's role. Meanwhile, reliever Kam Mickolio will be recalled to fill the bullpen vacancy while Steve Johnson and Bell will report to Double-A Bowie.

MacPhail said he talked with several teams about Sherrill and focused on two - believed to be the Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers - but the Dodgers' depth of quality third basemen was the deciding factor.

Bell, 22, was batting .296 with 11 homers and 52 RBIs at Double-A Chattanooga. A fourth-round pick out of Santaluces (Fla.) High in 2005, Bell, 6 feet 3 and 220 pounds, fits the club's biggest need: a power-hitting corner infield prospect.

Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora and first baseman Aubrey Huff are free agents at year's end.

"When it comes down to it, me personally, I feel like I've got a good shot with the Orioles as a third baseman," said Bell, who lost 30 pounds this offseason to become more fluid at third. "If I keep up what I have been doing and get better, I have a straight shot there, whereas here I was blocked."

Steve Johnson, 21, posted a 9-5 record and 3.61 ERA at two levels this year, including 16 starts at high Single-A Inland Empire and two at Chattanooga. He was a 13th-round pick in 2005 and was ranked 15th among Dodgers prospects by Baseball America. He grew up in Baltimore and was The Sun's 2005 All-Metro Player of the Year.

"It's always nice to play for your hometown team," Johnson said. "I am glad the Dodgers drafted me four years ago and gave me a chance. Hopefully, I get the chance to be up there with the Orioles sometime soon."

Sherrill, who was 0-1 with a 2.40 ERA and 20 saves in 23 opportunities this season, will join a Dodgers team that has a commanding lead in the National League West.

He is expected to set up All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton.

"I really don't care whether I am getting to close," Sherrill said. "I'm honored I had the opportunity to close, and if I can get that opportunity again, fine. My goal is to win, and I'll do whatever I have to do."

It's Sherrill's second change of scenery in 17 months.

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