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Arms buildup

Red Sox get Suppan from Pirates for prospect Sanchez

Posted: Thursday July 31, 2003 4:24 PM
Updated: Thursday July 31, 2003 9:35 PM
  Jeff Suppan Jeff Suppan has won five games in a row. AP

BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox obtained right-hander Jeff Suppan from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday, adding a solid starter to a rebuilt pitching staff for the stretch run.

The Red Sox, pursuing the New York Yankees for the AL East lead, gave up minor league second baseman Freddy Sanchez, one of their top prospects, who is hitting .341 for Pawtucket of the International League.

"We didn't want to make a move that would disturb the core of the club and, at the same time, we wanted to address our needs," Boston general manager Theo Epstein said. "We're pretty satisfied with what we did."

The move was made all the more important when the Yankees made two trades with Cincinnati and one with Los Angeles on Thursday, the to trade players that have not cleared waivers.

"We know the Yankees have a great ballclub," Epstein said, "not a good ballclub, a great ballclub. And we knew they were going to take steps and we didn't want to sit around and wait."

Armed to the teeth
SI.com's Tom Verducci
Give the Red Sox credit. They put the heat on the Yankees. Boston hasn't been this close to New York in the standings this late in the season since the Yankees started winning championships in the Joe Torre era. The Red Sox have definitely improved themselves, especially in the bullpen. They upped the ante on New York, and I think the Yankees got caught up in the atmosphere of holding off Boston.

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    Suppan, 10-7 with a 3.57 ERA, joins a staff that added four other NL pitchers in the last two months -- relievers Byung-Hyun Kim, Todd Jones, Scott Sauerbeck and Scott Williamson.

    "We were all pleasantly surprised by the availability of quality pitchers this year and our ability to acquire them," Epstein said. "We didn't have a master plan. We were just trying to get better."

    As part of Thursday's five-player deal, right-handers Brandon Lyon and Anastacio Martinez return to Boston, and left-hander Mike Gonzalez goes back to Pittsburgh, which also gets an undisclosed amount of cash.

    On July 22, the Red Sox got Sauerbeck and Gonzalez for Lyon and Martinez, but the Pirates then placed Lyon on the 15-day disabled list with an injured elbow.

    In effect, the Red Sox traded Sanchez for both Sauerbeck, a top lefty reliever, and Suppan, one of the hottest pitchers in the majors with a 5-0 record and 2.45 ERA in his last six starts.

    Suppan joins a starting rotation that includes Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe, John Burkett and Tim Wakefield.

    "I think he's going to be a huge asset for our club," Wakefield said of Suppan. "Our front office has done all you could ask them to do. It shows they care, that they realize we're busting our tails to win here."

    Epstein said he got a call from Pittsburgh general manager Dave Littlefield as he was about to leave his office around 1:30 a.m. Thursday. They rejected several proposals later in the morning before agreeing on the trade, Epstein said.

    He also said he spoke with Montreal general manager Omar Minaya about four times but they couldn't reach a deal. The Red Sox liked Expos starter Javier Vazquez.

    "We were going to get a starting pitcher today," Epstein said. "That's what we needed to round out the ballclub."

    Boston has a $4 million option to keep Suppan in 2004, a factor in making the trade which came just before the 4 p.m. EDT trading deadline.

    It also happened one day after Boston's fifth starter, Ramiro Mendoza, failed to get out of the fifth inning for his fifth consecutive start. Mendoza, 3-5 with a 6.89 ERA in 33 games, will return to his previous role in long relief, Epstein said.

    Suppan, 28, began his career in the Red Sox organization in 1993 and pitched 43 games for Boston from 1995-1997. He spent most of 1998 with Arizona then went to Kansas City late that season. He stayed there through last season.

    He joined Pittsburgh as a free agent after going 9-16 with a 5.32 ERA for the Royals last year.

    Being in a pennant race "is a different atmosphere," Suppan said. "I will say over the last couple of years I've matured a lot in all aspects of the game and I hope to come in and continue what I've been doing."

    Suppan entered this season with a 49-64 record and 5.03 ERA, but is coming off his fifth career shutout. On Monday, he beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0, allowing seven hits and one walk and striking out five as he matched a career-high with 10 wins.

    Sanchez, one of the Red Sox' most coveted prospects, was leading the International League in batting with a .384 average when Boston called him up on May 30. He was just 8-for-34 in 20 games before returning to Pawtucket on July 18.

    "If you want somebody you need and somebody who you feel can help you, someone who has major league time and experience, you've got to give somebody of value to get him," Pawtucket manager Buddy Bailey said.

    Since returning to Triple A, Sanchez was 11-for-53 in 13 games. He missed Pawtucket's last two games with tendinitis in his foot.

    "Boston's the organization I came up with, so it's pretty sad for me right now. They've done everything right for me and always have looked out for my career," Sanchez said. "But they did what they had to do. They had to go out and get a quality starting pitcher."


     
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