Results tagged ‘ A.J. Cole ’

From the Desk of Mark D. Lerner: Checking in from Spring Training

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Hello, everyone.

Let me start by stating that things could not be better here in Viera. The weather is wonderful, the workouts are crisp and the results have been encouraging. Yes, a team’s Grapefruit League winning percentage can, at times, be misleading, but winning games is always better than the alternative.

Ian Desmond is off to a strong start this spring.

Ian Desmond is off to a strong start this spring.

Seven wins, four losses and a tie. But what is most encouraging is how Manager Matt Williams has them playing the game. I love the aggressive base running. Taking an extra base. How fantastic was it to see Danny Espinosa score from second base on Saturday on a dribbler back to the pitcher? This brand of baseball really is infectious.

Fifteen home runs in 12 games. Only five allowed. That’s a good ratio.

Strong offensive starts from stalwarts like Ian Desmond (.286, 2 HR, 3 RBI), Adam LaRoche (2 HR, 4 RBI), Wilson Ramos (.474, HR, 10 RBI) and Ryan Zimmerman (.389, HR, 2 RBI) among others.

And many of our young players are making their marks. Zach Walters is hitting .615 with four extra-base hits and five RBI. He is as hot as anyone. Brian Goodwin and Michael A. Taylor have each made memorable catches in the outfield. Matt Skole hit .357 and four of his five hits went for extra bases before he was assigned to Minor League camp earlier this week so that he can get additional at-bats.

  • I have not even mentioned the pitching. There truly are too many to name, but I’ll risk mentioning three standouts: Taylor Jordan (team-leading 11 strikeouts), Jerry Blevins (3.2 hitless innings) and A.J. Cole (6.2 scoreless innings).

    Taylor Jordan has performed exceptionally well in his first Major League camp.

    Taylor Jordan has performed exceptionally well in his first Major League camp.

  • Forgive me if I think it is 2005 all over again watching Jamey Carroll and Luis Ayala perform admirably as they battle for roster spots. Jamey’s approach at the plate (.333 OBP), base running and defensive versatility are all a real plus. Meanwhile, Luis can throw a strike whenever he needs to. He has that same veteran savvy gene our friend Livan Hernandez had during his playing days.
  • And Matt Williams? What’s not to like? Crisp, precise and purposeful baseball usually yields wins. I love what Matt brings to our dugout and clubhouse. I especially like how our team has taken to his aggressive nature.
  • I was pleased to see President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo sign Michael Gonzalez to a Minor League deal last weekend. Gonzalez was a big part of our bullpen’s success in 2012 and there are very few southpaw relievers who can match his experience in tight situations. Welcome back Michael!
  • I just counted. Only three of the club’s 18 errors have been committed by players who were “regulars” in Washington last season. And one of those miscues was charged to Mr. Perfect, Denard Span! Remember, Denard did not commit an error last season. As I have said before, he should have won a Gold Glove!
  • I’d like to thank all of our fans in Central Florida, but especially those from our local area on the Space Coast (Viera, Melbourne and Rockledge). The crowds for the Cardinals and Yankees games in the last week were the two largest we have ever enjoyed hosting.
  • As for our fans from back home, I’ve had quite a few friends remark upon arrival in Viera about the significant pockets of Nationals fans on their flights from DC to Orlando. It’s hard to ignore all the smiles and Curly W shirts, sweaters and hats. It is great to see so many of our fans catching on to just how special Spring Training is.

Until next time …

Mark

Nationals Invite 18 Non-Roster Players to Major League Spring Training

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by Amanda Comak

With Pitchers and Catchers set to report to Viera, Fla., in just three weeks, the Washington Nationals released their list of non-roster invitees on Friday – a list that includes players recently signed to Minor League deals as well as some of the organization’s top homegrown talent.farm graphic

The Nationals announced their deals with right-hander Gabriel Alfaro, infielder Jamey Carroll, right-hander Manny Delcarmen, infielder Mike Fontenot, right-hander Clay Hensley, right-hander Daniel Stange, infielder Brock Peterson and catcher Chris Snyder, who all signed Minor League contracts with invitations to Major League Spring Training.

In addition, the Nationals extended invitations to Major League Spring Training to right-hander A.J. Cole, left-hander Tyler Robertson, left-hander Danny Rosenbaum, right-hander Blake Treinen, right-hander Chris Young, catcher Brian Jeroloman, infielder Josh Johnson, infielder Will Rhymes, infielder Matt Skole and outfielder Brian Goodwin.

Here’s a bit more about the new additions to the Major League clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium:

  • Cole and Goodwin, both top prospects, will take part in their first Major League Spring Training.
  • Cole, the No. 2 prospect in the organization according to Baseball America, went 10-5 with 3.60 ERA in 25 starts between Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. He tallied 151 strikeouts, third-most among Nationals farmhands, and his 102 strikeouts with Potomac were the most on the club, despite his promotion to Harrisburg on July 23rd. 
  • Goodwin led the Double-A Eastern League with 11 triples and was third in the league with 82 runs scored in 122 games for Double-A Harrisburg.  He tied for the team lead with 115 hits and paced qualified Senators in on-base percentage (.355) and slugging percentage (.407).  On the season, he hit .252 with 19 doubles, 10 homers, 40 runs batted in. The Rocky Mount, N.C. native is ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in the Nationals’ organization.
  • Alfaro, 30, struck out 12.0 batters per nine innings in 2013 while pitching for Guerreros de Oaxaca of the Mexican League. He went 4-3 with a 2.71 ERA and 26 saves in 63.0 IP (53 games).
  • Carroll, a career .272 hitter, spent the 2013 season with Minnesota before being traded to Kansas City on August 11th.  The 39-year old was selected by the Montreal Expos in 1996 and spent his first four Major League seasons (2002-05) with the Montreal/Washington franchise before stints with Colorado (2006-07), Cleveland (2008-09), Los Angeles-NL (2010-11), Minnesota (2012-13) and Kansas City (2013). An original member of the Nationals, Carroll is one of six members of the 2005 Nationals who are still active. The others: Marlon Byrd, Endy Chavez, John Rauch, Luis Ayala and Ryan Zimmerman.
  • Delcarmen has spent parts of six MLB seasons pitching for Boston and Colorado, amassing an 11-8 record to go along with a 3.97 ERA in 298 games.  The 31-year old spent the 2013 season in Baltimore’s chain, appearing in 48 games for Triple-A Norfolk, going 3-3 with a 2.83 ERA.
  • Fontenot, 33, spent the 2013 season in Tampa Bay’s organization, playing 120 games for Triple-A Durham. He hit .264 with 32 doubles, two triples, four home runs, 42 runs batted in and 53 runs scored for the Bulls. Fontenot last appeared in the Major Leagues with Philadelphia in 2012 and previously spent time with San Francisco (2010-11) and Chicago-NL (2005-10).
  • Hensley has spent parts of seven Major League seasons pitching for San Diego (2005-08), Miami (2010-11) and San Francisco (2012), going 28-34 with 10 saves and a 4.00 ERA in 271 big league games.  The 34-year-old went 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 33 relief appearances with Triple-A Louisville (CIN), Triple-A Nashville (MIL) and the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent League last season.
  • Stange, 28, struck out 73 batters in 65.2 innings between Triple-A Tucson (SDP) and Triple-A Salt Lake City (LAA) in 2013.  He went 5-1 with a 4.52 ERA in 52 games between the two organizations last season, appearing in three games for Los Angeles (AL).
  • Peterson led the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with 25 home runs and was second in the league in slugging percentage (.531) and OPS (.895) in 2013.  He hit .296 with 30 doubles, one triple, 25 home runs, 86 RBI, 44 walks and 69 runs scored in 122 games for St. Louis’ top affiliate.  The 30-year old made his Major League debut on July 20th vs. San Diego and appeared in 23 games for the Cardinals.
  • Snyder, 32, returns to the Nationals after spending the 2013 season in the Los Angeles (AL) and Baltimore organizations. He combined to hit .273 with 14 doubles, 13 home runs, 45 RBI and a .330 OBP in 73 Triple-A contests with Salt Lake (Pacific Coast League, 21 games) and Norfolk (International League, 52 games).

Pitchers and catchers are slated report to the Nationals’ Spring Training facility in Viera, Fla., by Thursday, Feb. 13. Position players must report by Feb. 18, and the first full-squad workout is scheduled for Feb. 20.

MiLB Postseason Preview

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While the Major League club continues to fight its uphill climb toward the fifth and final postseason spot in the National League, the Washington Nationals Minor League system has combined to compile quite a year. Four of the six stateside affiliates clinched postseason spots, with one already taking home its league title.

After cruising through the regular season, the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Nationals swept through the postseason to claim the GCL Championship on Sunday.

Rafael Bautista hit .322 and tied for the GCL lead with 26 stolen bases. (Cliff Welch/MiLB)

Rafael Bautista hit .322 and tied for the GCL lead with 26 stolen bases. (Cliff Welch/MiLB)

The GCL Nats, who set a Minor League Baseball record for the best domestic regular-season winning percentage (49-9, .845), defeated the GCL Pirates in a one-game semifinal on Friday, 6-1, to reach the best-of-three championship. On Saturday, they snatched a 10-3, come-from-behind win over the GCL Red Sox at the Washington Nationals Training Complex in Viera, then followed that with a 7-2 win, in Game 2 on the road in Fort Myers to earn the title.

The pitching staff, which led the league in ERA, WHIP and shutouts this season, compiled a 1.67 ERA through the playoffs, led by righty Wander Suero and southpaw Hector Silvestre. Suero tossed five solid innings in the clincher, allowing just one run on one hit with seven strikeouts, while Silvestre shut down the Pirates in the semifinal with six shutout innings in which he allowed just one hit and struck out seven.

Offensively, the GCL Nats showed pop in all three playoff games, but impressively used an eight-run outburst in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the Championship Series to erase a 3-0 GCL Red Sox lead. Randy Encarnacion collected five hits, four runs scored and five RBI throughout the three-game postseason run, while Drew Ward added four hits, three runs and four RBI.

The Nationals have three other playoff-bound affiliates remaining, with the Low-A Hagerstown Suns, High-A Potomac Nationals and Double-A Harrisburg Senators and each headed for the postseason.

South Atlantic League First Half Northern Division Champion Hagerstown (80-57) will take on the West Virginia Power (Pirates) in a best-of-three series, where the Suns will have the home-field advantage for the final two games. The series opens Wednesday at 7:05 p.m., while the Augusta GreenJackets (Giants) and Savannah Sand Gnats (Mets) battle for the Southern Division title.

Two Hagerstown representatives earned SAL All-Star honors in second baseman Tony Renda and Manager Tripp Keister. Renda leads the league in games played (134), at-bats (517), doubles (43) and runs scored (99). Keister is in his first season with the Suns after helming the GCL Nationals last year. Both were also named as midseason All-Stars.

Potomac (84-55) claimed both first- and second-half Carolina League Northern Division titles and will face the Lynchburg Hillcats (Braves) in a best-of-three set starting Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. at Pfitzner Stadium. By virtue of winning both halves, the P-Nats will enjoy home-field advantage for all three games of the series, should a third game be necessary. The winner will take on either the Salem Red Sox or Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Rangers) in the best-of-five Mills Cup Championship Series.

The Harrisburg Senators will begin postseason play on Wednesday. (Will Bentzel)

The Harrisburg Senators will begin postseason play on Wednesday. (Will Bentzel)

Potomac righty reliever Robert Benincasa and outfielders Michael Taylor and Billy Burns were chosen as year-end Carolina League All-Stars. The trio ties the P-Nats with the Carolina Mudcats (Indians) for most representatives on the roster. Benincasa has registered 25 saves in 26 chances between Hagerstown and Potomac this season, logging a 3.54 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 28.0 innings since his promotion in June. Taylor leads the league in doubles (39) and extra-base hits (55) and has also fired 20 outfield assists this season. Burns, who was recently promoted to Harrisburg, led the Carolina league in batting average (.312) and steals (54) in 91 games.

Burns and Harrisburg (77-65) will face the Erie SeaWolves (Tigers) in the first round of the Eastern League playoffs, as the Senators wrapped up their Western Division title with a 1-0 shutout Monday. They will play in a best-of-five set starting Wednesday, and the winner will advance to the Eastern League Championship series for another best-of-five showdown with either the Binghamton Mets or Trenton Thunder (Yankees).

The Senators feature a dynamic starting rotation, headlined by righthanders Nathan Karns and A.J. Cole, and rising lefty Robbie Ray. Karns, who made his Major League debut in May, went 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 132.2 innings this year for Harrisburg. Cole, acquired from Oakland prior to the season, had a terrific finish in Double-A after starting the season in Potomac. He went 4-2 in seven starts for the Senators, compiling a 2.18 ERA and 0.904 WHIP in 45.1 innings of work. The 21-year-old Ray capped off a breakthrough campaign with an 11-5 record across two levels, striking out a system-high 160 batters in 142 innings.

To catch all the Nationals Minor League postseason action streaming online, click here for gameday audio listings.

All-Star Performances All Around

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With the combination of his star power and raw power, Bryce Harper is the most nationally known of Washington’s performers during All-Star Week at Citi Field. However, the Nationals have had a presence in nearly every facet of the festivities, and those stories should not be overlooked. Before the Midsummer Classic takes place Tuesday night, we take a look back through the events of the past three days.

Sunday: A.J. Cole Saves the Future for the USA

A.J. Cole earned the save in the Futures Game.

A.J. Cole earned the save in the Futures Game.

On Sunday afternoon, while the Nationals were taking care of business against the Miami Marlins in the final game before the All-Star break, some of the brightest prospects in the game assembled at Citi Field for the Futures Game. Pitting the best American Minor Leaguers against those from around the world, the game has become a showcase event that marks the beginning of the week of exhibitions.

This year’s Futures Game was a low-scoring, well-fought contest, in which the teams exchanged leads, with the U.S. team adding a run in the eighth to lead 4-2 heading to the ninth. Giants Minor League hurler Kyle Crick walked two of the first three batters he faced to put the tying run on base and bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate with just one out. The U.S. Futures team turned to the bullpen and brought in Nationals prospect A.J. Cole – reacquired in the offseason deal that also netted Ian Krol and Blake Treinen – to finish the job. Cole punched out Mariners prospect Ji-Man Choi looking, then induced a grounder to second base from another Giants farmhand, Jesus Galindo, to end the game and earn the save.

Sunday: Defending the MVP

Wege celebrates his home run with his teammates (Jeff Zelevansky)

Wege (center) celebrates his home run with his teammates.

As you may recall, last year’s MLB All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game featured a pair of Washington Nationals Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team members, Saul Bosquez and Matt Kinsey. Both players shined brightly in their time in the spotlight, as each went 3-for-3, with Kinsey also blasting a home run to lead his team to victory and earn the game’s MVP award. Needless to say, the bar had been set pretty high for Josh Wege, this year’s Wounded Warrior participant.

Not to be outdone, Wege, representing the Nationals, cranked a home run of his own off future Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas and nearly made a spectacular diving grab in the first inning, earning him co-MVP honors for the night.

“It’s just amazing to be on the field with this guys,” Wege said of his fellow athletes and celebrities. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The fans were amazing today.”

Monday: Bam Bam Reaches the Finals

Competing in his first-ever Home Run Derby, Bryce Harper was the youngest participant in the field of eight by nearly six years. But that didn’t stop him from putting up the most consistent display of anyone in the tournament, homering eight times in each of his three rounds and spraying the ball to all fields, advancing to the finals. But his final effort was not enough to best Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes, who blasted 17 long balls during his opening round, the most of any player in a single round.

Check out a compilation of all of Harper’s home runs below, and don’t forget to watch him tonight as he starts in center field for the National League.

Follow The Leader

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“Cynicism is a poor substitute for critical thought and constructive action.”

Those were the words of Federal Reserve Chairman and Nationals Season Plan Holder Ben Bernanke last weekend, as he delivered the commencement address at Princeton University. And while he used them as guidance to a group of 20-somethings entering the real world for the first time, they are words that any Washington baseball fan could easily feel were spoken about their hometown nine as the team returns home here in early June.

The Nationals welcome the sweet-swinging Anthony Rendon back to the lineup.

The Nationals welcome the sweet-swinging Anthony Rendon back to the lineup.

At 27-28, the Nationals are not off to the start they, or many else, had hoped for. Injuries have hampered both the offense and the starting rotation through the opening third of the season. And yet, in spite of all that one could point to that has gone wrong, the team is still hovering around .500, in second place in the division. After a much-needed day off Monday, the team will get a big boost in the arm Tuesday with the return of their emotional leader, Jayson Werth.

Washington has not had Werth in the lineup since May 2, but he has been rehabbing his strained hamstring with the Potomac Nationals this past week. After a 9-for-16 stint over five games, including a two-homer performance on Sunday, Werth is a welcome piece back to the middle of a Nationals lineup still looking for consistent offensive production. He will bat second Tuesday night as Washington opens a six-game homestand against the Mets and Twins, bridging the gap between leadoff man Denard Span and the heart of the lineup.

An unknown to many Nationals fans, Krol brings a promising left-handed arm to the 'pen.

An unknown to many Nationals fans, Krol brings a promising left-handed arm to the ‘pen.

They also made a number of other moves, choosing the proactive route as they face a crucial juncture this season. In addition to bringing back Anthony Rendon, who had been promoted to Triple-A earlier this week, they also selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Ian Krol from Double-A Harrisburg.

While you probably know plenty about Rendon and his bat, Krol may be a new name to you. He was literally the proverbial “player to be named later” from the trade that also landed Minor League arms A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen and sent Michael Morse to Seattle this offseason. In 21 relief appearances with Harrisburg, the 22-year-old allowed just 14 hits and two earned runs in 26.0 innings pitched, striking out 29 while walking just seven. He provides a promising young left-handed arm out of the bullpen that the team has been in search of all season long.

So, you can take the view that the Nationals are a game under .500 in early June, or the one that sees them taking thoughtful, constructive action to make themselves better, just as their emotional backbone returns.

Surfing The Pipeline

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As you may have noticed, MLB.com released its Top 20 prospects for each team earlier this week as part of its MLB Pipeline debut. There should be a number of names familiar to many Nationals fans, as the Top 10 on the list closely parallels that of the Baseball America rankings filed just a few weeks ago. The BA rankings came out prior to Washington’s reacquisition of A.J. Cole, who would have (as we can figure out through deductive reasoning, by his appearance as the fourth and final Nationals prospect on the overall Top 100) ranked in the top five. As such, seven of the same players appear among the 10 on each list.

Here is the full list of MLB.com’s Top 20, complete with links for those to whom we have already showcased one way or another within the last calendar year.

1. Anthony Rendon – INF

2. Brian Goodwin – OF

3. Lucas Giolito – RHP

4. A.J. Cole – RHP

5. Michael Taylor – OF

6. Nathan Karns – RHP

7. Eury Perez – OF

8. Destin Hood – OF

9. Matt Purke – LHP

10. Robbie Ray – LHP

11. Matt Skole – INF

12. Chris Marrero – INF

13. Sammy Solis – LHP

14. Zach Walters – INF

15. Christian Garcia – RHP

16. Taylor Jordan – RHP

17. Brandon Miller – OF

18. Sandy Leon – C

19. Jason Martinson – INF

20. Kylin Turnbull – LHP

Keep your eyes peeled for plenty more prospect coverage as Curly W Live heads to Spring Training in just a couple more weeks!

Feeling Bullish About The ‘Pen

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The Nationals made it official on Thursday, inking right-handed reliever Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal with a vesting option for the 2015 season. The 33-year-old Dominican hurler has eclipsed 40 saves in two of the past three seasons, including 42 last year for the American League East Champion New York Yankees.

Soriano gives the Nationals arguably the strongest bullpen in the Major Leagues.

Soriano gives the Nationals arguably the strongest bullpen in the Major Leagues.

Soriano fortifies an already strong Nationals bullpen, joining Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen to form a trio as strong as any in the league to shut down opponents at the end of ballgames. All three have served as closers at different points in their respective careers. In fact, average each pitcher’s most recent season in the closer’s role (Soriano in ’12, Clippard in ’12, Storen in ’11) and you get a 2.92 ERA, 9.5 K/9.0 IP and 39 saves, at an 89 percent conversion rate.

Most any team would jump at the opportunity to sign that player to pitch the most important single inning of the game. Your Nationals have three of them.

The Soriano signing was certainly the biggest player news of the week, but it wasn’t the only development out of The District. In addition to the deal that netted three minor leaguers from Oakland including the return of A.J.Cole, the Nationals also announced that pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training on February 12, with position players on the 15th and the first workout coming two days after that. Washington also signed five players to Minor League deals, and released its Non-roster Invitee list for Major League Spring Training, including five more players already under contract. Here are the names:

Minor League Deals/Non-roster Invitees:

LHP Fernando Abad

LHP Bill Bray

LHP Brandon Mann

RHP Ross Ohlendorf

INF Will Rhymes

Additional Non-roster Invitees:

LHP Pat McCoy

RHP Tanner Roark

C Carlos Maldonado

INF Matt Skole

INF Zach Walters

Some fans may remember Maldonado from his short stint in D.C. in 2012 and Bray from his 19 appearances with Washington back in 2006 before pitching for the Reds the past six seasons. Abad and Ohlendorf both have big league time as recently as last year, and the latter is no stranger to D.C. – the Princeton grad interned for the Department of Agriculture back in the winter following the 2009 season. Meanwhile, Skole and Walters should also be names familiar to those who follow the Nationals farm system, as we have profiled each of them, the former taking home organizational Minor League Player of the Year honors.

As we reach the middle of January, the roster is starting to take shape. Of course, that should come as no surprise – pitchers and catchers report in just 26 days.

Returning Returns

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The Nationals announced Wednesday night that they have acquired right-handed pitchers A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen, as well as a player to be named later from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for first baseman/outfielder Michael Morse.

Originally drafted by the Nationals, the highly-regarded Cole returns to Washington.

Originally drafted by the Nationals, the highly-regarded Cole returns to Washington. (Burlington Bees)

Cole, who was originally selected by the Nationals in the fourth round of the 2010 First-year Player Draft and traded to Oakland for Gio Gonzalez last offseason, returns to Washington. The 6’4”, 21-year-old hurler ranked as the A’s number three overall prospect and top pitcher, according to Baseball America’s rankings released in November. Cole also came in at fourth in Washington’s rankings the year prior. He split his 2012 season between Low-A Burlington and High-A Stockton, putting up an impressive 6-3 record and 2.07 ERA (22 ER/95.2 IP) with 102 strikeouts and just 19 walks in 19 Midwest League starts. He ranked top-five in the Oakland organization in both ERA and strikeouts.

Treinen, 24, was taken by the Athletics in the seventh round of the 2011 Draft out of South Dakota State University. He compiled a 7-7 ledger with a 4.37 ERA (50 ER/103.0 IP) over 24 appearances (15 starts) in the hitter-friendly California League last year. Like Cole, he also posted great peripheral numbers, striking out 92 while walking just 23 (4.00 K/BB rate) on the season.

Washington will also receive a player to be named later from Oakland in the deal, the third made between the two clubs in the last 13 months. In addition to the aforementioned Gonzalez trade, the two defending division champions swapped backstops in August, with the Nationals receiving Kurt Suzuki for minor league catcher David Freitas. Washington also acquired right-handed pitcher Henry Rodriguez and outfielder Corey Brown from Oakland in December of 2010 for outfielder Josh Willingham.

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