NEW YORK – In an attempt to fill holes in the rotation and infield for now and in the future, the Orioles traded reliever Koji Uehara and $2 million to the Texas Rangers on Saturday for first baseman Chris Davis and right-handed pitcherTommy Hunter.
Later in the evening, the Orioles announced that they had traded first baseman Derrek Lee to the Pittisburgh Pirates for Single-A first baseman Aaron Baker.
Uehara, 36, has developed into one of the best relievers in baseball this season, going 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA in 43 appearances. He has walked eight batters and struck out 62 while allowing just 25 hits in 47 innings.
But the Orioles apparently felt it necessary to deal Uehara — arguably their best trade chip — to get two young players with major league experience.
Davis, 25, batted .250 with three home runs and six RBIs in 72 at-bats for the Rangers this season. He has 42 career homers, including 38 in his first two seasons, in 2008 and 2009. But a low average (.248 in parts of four seasons) and an alarmingly high strikeout rate (301 times in 878 at-bats) have kept him shuttling between the majors and Triple-A the past two seasons. Davis was a fifth-round pick of Texas in 2006.
Hunter, 25, is 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA in eight games this season. He is 23-13 lifetime as a big leaguer and was 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 23 games (22 starts) in 2010. He missed the first 82 games this season with a groin injury and has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen since returning to the majors. He started three games in the 2010 postseason for the Rangers, including one in the World Series, and went 0-2 with a 5.56 ERA. He was the 54th overall pick by the Rangers in 2007.
The acquisition of Davis, who can also act as a designated hitter.
Lee, 36, a pending free agent, came out in the eighth inning of the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the New York Yankees and was not in the lineup for the nightcap. He was traded to the Pirates, who can use a veteran hitter and Lee is batting .248 with 12 homers this season.
Uehara made $3 million in 2011 and has a $4 million option for 2012 that vests with 12 more appearances (55 total). He was the Orioles’ first player born in Japan when they signed him to a two-year free-agent deal before the 2009 season.
Always calm and collected, Uehara breezed through his farewell press conference in the bowels of Yankee Stadium until he was asked which of his Orioles teammates he would miss the most. “Everybody,” Uehara said through interpreter Jiwon Bang.
And then, as reporters shook his hand and began walking away, tears filled Uehara’s eyes and trickled down his cheeks.
In three seasons with the Orioles, Uehara was 4-7 with a 3.03 ERA in 98 games, including 12 starts and 41 games finished. He was 13-for-15 in save opportunities in 2010.
The Rangers wanted to shore up their bullpen, and Uehara has been highly successful since moving to a relief role. However, he has had problems pitching in hot weather during his career, with the worst example coming in May 2010 in Arlington, when he was bathed in sweat during an appearance.
"There are two contradicting feelings. Part of me says that a contending team wants me, and that’s gratifying,” Uehara said. “At the same time, Baltimore — I’ve been there for two years. It’s really sad.”
Showalter still hopeful on Roberts
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he hasn't given up on the return of second baseman Brian Roberts, who hasn't played since diving headfirst into first base during a game on May 16 in Boston. Roberts (concussion) has resumed baseball activities, but he keeps suffering setbacks in the form of migraine headaches.
"I'm feeling real positive about it," Showalter said of a potential Roberts' return. "I hope he can string together some good days and the doctors release him. I'm looking at it as something that's going to happen. I'm not looking at it any other way."
Once he is cleared, Showalter said he doesn't expect Roberts to have to go on a lengthy rehab assignment.
"The thought that he would have to go out and play two or three weeks more of games, if he's going to do that somewhere else, he can do that here," Showalter said.
Bergesen on paternity leave
Right-hander Brad Bergesen left the team Saturday to be with his wife, Shea, in Baltimore and was placed on the three-day paternity list. The move allowed the club to activate Saturday afternoon's starter Chris Tillman, who was sent back to Norfolk on Saturday evening to make room for Zach Britton, who started the nightcap.
If the Bergesens do not have their first child — a son named Parker — this weekend, labor will be induced Monday morning. Bergesen is expected back Tuesday, when the Orioles will have to make another move to re-instate him.
Around the horn
Sunday's starter Jake Arrieta has thrown two quality starts against the Yankees this season and hasn't received a decision either time. In both games, he allowed three runs in six innings. … Mark Reynolds' eighth-inning homer in Saturday afternoon's game was his 23rd of the season and second in two games. It is the third time this season he has homered in consecutive games. … High-A Frederick pitcher Bobby Bundy picked up his Carolina League-leading 11th win with seven shutout innings against Potomac on Friday. … Saturday's doubleheader, which included a makeup from an April 12 rainout, was the Orioles first against the Yankees since Sept. 26, 2003 in old Yankee Stadium.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this report