Braves obtain J. Sosa for Green
Hard-throwing right-hander strengthens bullpen
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- While acquiring right-handed reliever Jorge Sosa from the Devil Rays in exchange for Nick Green on Thursday afternoon, Braves general manager John Schuerholz utilized an area of surplus in hopes of filling the team's greatest need.
With Green being the most desirable of the three utility infielders in Braves camp, he found himself utilized as the pawn to acquire Sosa, who joins a bullpen that has looked very suspect over the past few weeks.
"With the acquisition of Jorge Sosa, we feel we've improved our bullpen considerably," Schuerholz said. "Here's a guy with a power arm, and we needed somebody like that who can give us a stronger bridge from our starters, who we believe will go longer than our starters of the past, and get us to our closer."
Sosa, who is expected to join the Braves in Atlanta on Friday, posted a 5.53 ERA in 46 appearances for the Devil Rays last year. He had a 6.10 ERA in his 35 relief appearances and a 4.91 mark in eight starts.
"I'm happy because I'm going to have the opportunity to play for a contending team," Sosa said. "But I'm also kind of sad, because [the Devil Rays] have been good to me."
The 26-year-old right-hander has recorded just one strikeout in 11 1/3 innings this spring. His finest outing came in a start against the Red Sox last week, when he tossed four perfect innings.
"According to our scouts, he's exactly the kind of guy we need for our 'pen," Schuerholz said. "We're just real pleased that we were able to do this with our bullpen with just a few days left in Spring Training."
Sosa made three starts last year, meaning he does have the ability to throw multiple innings and give the bullpen more depth. Before being converted into a pitcher in 2001, he was an outfielder in the Mariners' system. He's developed into a hard thrower, whose fastball has been clocked in the mid-90s.
But Sosa still shows periods of inconsistency, as his 94 strikeouts and 54 walks in 99 1/3 innings last year will attest. In addition, he continued a career-long trend by surrendering 17 homers. He's allowed 47 home runs in 327 1/3 career innings.
Still, with Dan Kolb, Chris Reitsma and Roman Colon being the only relievers who have shown promise over the past few weeks, the Braves had to do something, and they were fortunate that the Devil Rays had a need to acquire a middle infielder.
Unfortunately for Green, it was him, and not Wilson Betemit or Pete Orr, who the Devil Rays wanted. With Green out of the picture, Betemit and Orr will begin the season as Atlanta's utility infielders.
"I knew something was going to happen," Green said. "I was just hoping it wasn't me. It was business. They had to do what they had to do. I guess they got a bullpen guy for me, and that's what they were looking for. I just didn't know it was going to be me."
Green became a fan favorite last year when he rose from the depths of obscurity and proved to be a very capable substitute for the injured Marcus Giles. During that two-month stint, he played stellar defense, batted .280 and had three home runs that were either game-winning or game-tying shots.
"He'll get an opportunity to play a lot more now with Tampa Bay, and I think he'll respond to it and do well," Schuerholz said. "I think he'll be an asset, as we believe Sosa will be to us."
Green, who was going to drive to Tampa on Thursday or Friday, isn't sure what his role with his new team will be. There's some belief he could find himself as a starter at second base, where Jorge Cantu is currently penciled in. Or he might just spell Cantu, Jorge Lugo and Alex Gonzalez at all three of the infield positions.
In each possible situation, he has more likelihood of playing than he would in Atlanta, where Chipper Jones, Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles stand in his way.
"It hasn't really hit me yet," Green said. "Everybody was getting excited to go to Atlanta. Looks like I'll just have to drive down the road. I mean, it should be a good opportunity. I've always said I wanted to play. Now, hopefully, I'm going to get the opportunity to do that."
Green spent many of his adolescent years growing up in the suburbs located about 20 minutes north of Atlanta. He had become somewhat of a hometown hero and had even recently purchased a house in Lawrenceville, Ga.
His home wasn't ready until days before he left for camp. So he's going to have to continue trusting that his twin brother, Kevin, takes care of the house, while he goes to Tampa in hopes of proving he can be an everyday player.
"It provides me an opportunity to play," Green said. "I guess that's better for me."
Whether Sosa proves to improve the Braves bullpen remains to be seen. There still seems to be a need for a left-handed reliever. But Schuerholz indicated he might be done dealing and that he feels confident about his pitching staff that is fronted by one of the game's best starting rotations.
"I'm not looking," Schuerholz said. "But that's never stopped me before. We'll keep talking as we always. But we're satisfied now with the addition of Sosa. Our bullpen strength is quite satisfactory now."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.