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Prior to the 2010 baseball season, Detroit Tigers fans and fantasy baseball players knew the name Armando Galarraga, but most of America probably didn’t.
By the middle of the 2010 season, he was a household name across the country.
You must know the story by now: Galarraga recorded the first 26 outs of a would-be perfect game against the Cleveland Indians. The 27th batter hit a ball between first and second base that was fielded by Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who flipped the ball to Galarraga just beating the runner to the bag. But the call was made incorrectly on the field, and the game goes as a one-hitter in the record book.
The thing is, if that’s all that happened, the sports world may have moved on quickly. But the indelible image of that day isn’t just the call at first base. The things that are remembered are the great deal of class and grace that Galarraga displayed in what was surely a stressful situation and the thoughtful way he spoke of the umpire, Jim Joyce, who acknowledged the mistake after the game. Throughout it all, he was sportsmanship defined.
On the field, Galarraga was effective, perhaps even more so than his year total numbers indicate. For the year, Galarraga was 4-9 with a 4.49 ERA, with 51 walks and 74 strikeouts in 144 1/3 innings. But he had three poor starts in September that weighed down his overall numbers. Outside of those, Galarraga posted a 3.79 ERA in his other 22 starts combined.
Galarraga became available this offseason when the Tigers chose to go in a different direction for their 40-man roster, and for the D-backs, it was a great opportunity to add to the depth of veteran pitching, and add to the competition for work in Spring Training. To acquire him, the D-backs sent minor league pitchers Kevin Eichhorn and Ryan Robowski to Detroit.
The D-backs will welcome Galarraga into the mix, not necessarily because he’s a classy guy, but because he’s a pitcher who has had some success in the big leagues and can be helpful to the staff. But for an organization that made a concerted effort to improve its culture in the clubhouse and on the field, the fact that Galarraga is a classy guy certainly helps.
Photography: Greg Fiume/Getty Images
The D-backs’ most significant move so far this offseason was the trade that sent third Mark Reynolds to the Baltimore Orioles for a pair of right-handed pitchers.
Those pitchers — David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio — will add depth to an Arizona bullpen that is getting stronger by the day.
Hernandez is the key piece in the deal, as he experienced some real success after being moved from the rotation to the bullpen last year, which suits him in part because he is primarily a two-pitch guy (fastball/curve combo with an occasional changeup).
He made his last start of the year on May 21, and from then on was quite good. In his last 33 games, he threw 37 innings with a 3.16 ERA, with 45 strikeouts and 13 walks.
Hernandez’s opponent-hitting numbers were solid in that time, holding batters to a .236 average, .310 on-base percentage and a .371 slugging percentage. Hernandez should easily slide into the back of the bullpen for the D-backs this season, as his stuff should work in a late-inning role. He dials up his fastball in the low- to mid-90s (average fastball was 93.6 MPH in 2010).
Mickolio is a bit more of a mystery, as he has less big league experience. He’s pretty huge — 6-foot-9, 255 pounds, which I think makes him the third-tallest D-backs player ever, after Randy Johnson and Jon Rauch — and has made a handful of appearances for Baltimore over the last three years. In that time he’s posted a 4.32 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 14 walks in 25 innings.
His ERA has been high at Triple-A the last two years (5.80 in 2009 then 6.37 in 2010) although his strikeout and walk rates were essentially the same as when he was quite successful there (1.80 ERA) in 17 2008 games. He might well be an example of ERA being a poor way to judge a reliever.
Random note: Mickolio was born in Wolf Point, Mont. and went to high school in Bozeman, making him one of only three Montana natives playing in the big leagues right now (along with Taylor Tankersley, who was born in Montana but didn’t go to H.S. there, and Rob Johnson). There have only been 26 Montanans all time in the big leagues.
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By Dan Strittmatter
A quick look at the pieces acquired by the Arizona Diamondbacks from the Los Angeles Angels for right-handed pitcher Dan Haren:
– LHP Joe Saunders
Saunders was an All-Star in 2008 when he posted a 3.41 ERA and 17-7 record in 31 starts for the Angels, though he has seen his numbers dip since. Not a big strikeout guy (career 5.10 K/9IP), he is at his best when limiting free passes, something he has struggled with on the whole this year (3.36 K/9IP, 2.98 for his career). However, he has pitched very effectively as of late, with a 3.48 ERA in his last five starts, spanning 33 2/3 innings, and has a 3.80 ERA in his 14 starts since May 8, spanning 90 innings.
– LHP Patrick Corbin
Corbin is in the midst of his second season of professional baseball, and has lit up the Midwest and California Leagues. He works with three big-league quality pitches, and while he may not sport top-of-the-rotation stuff, he has racked up plenty of strikeouts in the low minors, 152 strikeouts in 165 innings in his career, with 106 of them coming in his 118 2/3 innings in 2010. Add to those numbers a total of just 39 career walks, 28 of them in 2010, with high ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratios, and Corbin is a pitcher who simply doesn’t have any major flaws in how he pitches.
Perhaps where Corbin has been most impressive is the Hi-A California League, due to its notoriety as a hitter-friendly league with warm, thin air and some tight ballparks. In his eleven starts for Rancho Cucamonga, the Angels’ Cal League affiliate, Corbin struck out over a batter per inning, racking up 64 strikeouts while walking just 18 in 60 1/3 innings of work. His GO/AO ratio was also a fantastic 1.51:1 for Rancho Cucamonga.
Corbin has been assigned to Hi-A Visalia, the D-backs’ affiliate in the Cal League.
– RHP Rafael Rodriguez
Rodriguez comes to the D-backs as another solution for the team’s bullpen woes, and boasts an impressive Triple-A track record to back it up. He posted a 1.85 ERA in 22 games, spanning 34 innings, at Triple-A Salt Lake in the Pacific Coast League in 2009 before spending 18 games pitching out the Angels’ big-league pen. He posted a 3.04 ERA for Salt Lake in 37 appearances in 2010 prior to the trade.
Rodriguez has been assigned to Triple-A Reno, the D-backs affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. He debuted yesterday for the Aces.
– An important, final piece of the deal (there was one player to be named later) should be announced later this year, and we’ll have a look at him when the official announcement is made.