Braves bolster bullpen, reacquire Mercker from RedsPosted: Tuesday August 12, 2003 3:30 PM
Updated: Tuesday August 12, 2003 6:47 PM
Mercker rejoins the team he pitched for from 1989-95. During that time he was involved in two no-hitters, a combined effort against San Diego in 1991 and a complete game against Los Angeles in 1994.
The Braves talked to other teams about acquiring pitching before the July 31 deadline for trades without waivers, but decided to stand pat and look for someone to become available in August. They lead the NL East by 12 games.
Closer John Smoltz is having another dominating season, but the rest of the bullpen has been inconsistent.
"I was looking at the standings and they're 12 games up," Mercker said. "It amazes me that they want me. They got rid of me once. I guess they think with a 12-game lead, I can't screw it up."
Manager Bobby Cox was happy to see Mercker return. "Our scouts have been on him for a while and he's looked very good."
General manager John Schuerholz cited Mercker's playoff experience. "He gives you a lot of confidence when he's on the mound."
Mercker, 35, was one of the Reds' most dependable relievers when he wasn't injured. He went 0-2 with a 2.35 ERA in 49 relief appearances.
A sprained lower back forced him onto the disabled list from June 28 to July 9.
Last year, Mercker missed more than 40 games with a broken hand while a member of the Colorado Rockies. In 2000, while pitching for Anaheim, he suffered a brain hemorrhage, and missed the entire 2001 season.
"After what he's been through, coming back and pitching, I'm sure this will be a great situation," Smoltz said. "He's going to strengthen the bullpen a lot."
Mike Hampton is in his first year with the Braves, but was Mercker's teammate last year in Colorado.
"He's a guy that would love to pitch every day," Hampton said. "What I've seen of him in Cincinnati, he was actually throwing harder than he did when he was in Colorado."
It was the Reds' fifth trade since they fired general manager Jim Bowden and manager Bob Boone on July 28. In a payroll-cutting spree, they traded closer Scott Williamson, outfielder Jose Guillen, left-handed reliever Gabe White and All-Star third baseman Aaron Boone.
The trades brought the Reds pitching prospects and more than $2 million in cash.
Mercker, who makes $550,000, will be a free agent after the season.
"It's always a surprise," Mercker said. "I'm not going to lie and say I'm disappointed [by the trade]. I love it here. But it's a chance to do something that doesn't happen to everybody -- to get a chance to play in the playoffs and the World Series."
To take his spot in the bullpen, the Reds called up left-hander Mark Watson from Class AAA Louisville. Watson was 4-4 with a 4.36 ERA in 44 relief appearances.