Orioles players applaud Millwood trade

Veteran's ability as starter, mentor cited

December 11, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

INDIANAPOLIS — - Brian Roberts was playing golf in Arizona on Wednesday when Florida Marlins outfielder Cody Ross alerted him that the Orioles had just traded for a starting pitcher.

Brian Matusz was in Hawaii on vacation and learned about the trade on a phone call from his brother. Jeremy Guthrie had heard the rumors for much of the day, but he didn't hear that the deal was final until he was preparing to play in Pam Shriver's charity tennis event at 1st Mariner Arena.

All three were pleased to learn of the trade that landed veteran starter Kevin Millwood from the Texas Rangers for reliever Chris Ray and Rule 5 selection Ben Snyder.

"I think it's huge," said Roberts, the Orioles' veteran second baseman. "For our young guys to be around somebody that has been doing it for 10-plus years, and he'll give you 200 innings every year and 12 to 17 wins probably, it's a great thing for us as a team right now."

Matusz, who remembers watching Millwood pitch for the Atlanta Braves, said his first reaction upon hearing the news was, "Wow."

"It was huge excitement, not only for our pitching staff and the entire team, but for a young pitcher looking for a mentor who has playoff experience," said Matusz, who was 10 when Millwood, 34, broke into the big leagues with the Braves. "I don't know him, obviously, but I really feel like he's the type of guy you can look up to and take information from. This guy has been through it all. He is the type of piece we needed."

Millwood went 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA in 31 starts for the Rangers last season. He logged 198 2/3 innings, the sixth time in eight seasons that he has pitched 170 or more innings. Millwood appealed to the Orioles for a variety of reasons, but it was his reputation as a staff leader and mentor that was perhaps most attractive to team officials.

"I had the opportunity to play with Kevin and see him lead the league in ERA back in '05, and as far as his ability to pitch and be a tremendous pitcher over the course of his career, that speaks for itself," said Guthrie, who was a teammate of Millwood's with the Cleveland Indians in 2005. "His ability to pitch and his knowledge of the game is going to set a good example for each one of us on the staff."

Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said Millwood will likely be the team's No. 1 starter, meaning he's in position to end Guthrie's two-year reign as the club's Opening Day starter. Guthrie said that wouldn't bother him.

MacPhail also said he hoped Millwood's presence will take some pressure off Guthrie, who went 10-17 with a 5.04 ERA last year while leading a staff that consisted of four rookies for much of the season. While praising the trade, Guthrie disputed the notion that he felt any extra burden last year because of all the rookies in the rotation.

"Does it alleviate any pressure in my mind? No. As a pitcher, I take the ball every five days. You're all alone every fifth day, and it's your responsibility to throw a strike, stay down in the zone and give your team an opportunity to win," Guthrie said. "Having Kevin here is just going to help the team as a whole."

Orioles hitters know how tough Millwood can be. The right-hander is 9-3 with a 3.74 ERA and two complete games in 13 career starts against the Orioles.

"I never really liked facing him," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said after learning of the trade. "He has so many pitches that he throws, and he's smart in how he approaches each at-bat. It's definitely a good addition."

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