Saturday, September 13, 2008


September 13th--Darwin GM Scott Hatfield confirmed what had been earlier hinted at, that the Finches had made a deal just hours before the trading deadline to bolster their pitching staff, in effect their final gamble of the 2008 season. "We are well-positioned for a playoff run already," said Hatfield. "As we speak, Darwin is only two games out of first in the East and we lead the wild card. But there are still 25-30 games left in the schedule for all of the clubs. No one has been eliminated, and certainly no lead is safe. Clubs like Worcester, Yuma, Lexington...all likely to win 80 or more games....they are all nipping at our heels. Besides, our goal is not just to get into the playoffs...Darwin's achieved that twice...we want to get to the Series, and our chances of doing that improve greatly if we win our division outright."


"So, with that said," Hatfield continued, "We have made a deal with Pottsylvania to acquire RHP Gil Meche (10-11, 2.77 ERA in 25 starts) and lefty reliever Hideki Okajima (3-5, 3.52 in 49 G). We feel that Meche, who had nine complete games with the Creepers and clearly was their best pitcher over the whole season, can upgrade our rotation. We have a lot of guys who are six-inning guys at best, and this puts a strain on our bullpen, which is not as deep as last year."


"You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs," Hatfield added, "So we had to make a tough decision. We'll be sending Pottsylvania GM Jeff Moore a guy who has been with us since Day One....Jeff Francouer. Over the years we've resisted many opportunities to deal this guy, and we still think he's a big-league regular. But he's kind of lost his way this year, swinging at too many pitcher's pitches, and as a result his production has suffered. And, with the way Rick Ankiel, Milton Bradley and Josh Hamilton have swung the bat, he just hasn't gotten the playing time. So, since we are already deep in the outfield with Aaron Rowand, Chone Figgins, Lance Berkman and others able to play there, Jeff became expendable. But we wish him well and we wouldn't be surprised if he ended up playing right regularly for the Creepers next year, and hit .280 with 90 or so RBI. He's that type of player."

In addition to Francouer, the Finches dealt hulking reliever Jonathan Broxton (5-4, 2.59 ERA in 55 G) and recently-activated RHP Josh Johnson (who has missed much of the last year with injuries), as well as a player to be named. Broxton, who figures to fill Pottsylvania's closer job, and Johnson, a likely future starter, are both just 23, which augurs well for their having a big impact on the club next season.


Darwin GM Scott Hatfield pulled no punches in talking to the media. "This is it, people. We are, as the poker players say, 'all in'. Darwin is trying to win it all. Meche is going to be given an opportunity to go deep into ball games. Okajima gives us the situational lefty we've been missing. Barring injuries, Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Jonathan Sanchez are the Finches future, not their present. It's tough, but consider that by dealing Francouer we open a roster spot for Josh Hamilton, whom we had to temporarily option to the minors in order to carry 11 pitchers. Moving Josh Johnson, on the hand, allows us to return Chad Billingsley to the rotation. To get this all set up, we'll have to gamble on juggling the rotation yet again. We'll let (41-year-old knuckleballer) Tim Wakefield have another spot start, and then we're going to give the ball to Meche, and ask a lot from him, and put it on our staff to rise to the occasion. We may put Greinke in the pen, we may cut a player in order to bring up Mark Loretta or somebody else. But we're going to do whatever we can in the next few weeks to win as many games as can. We may sit David Ortiz and let Bradley DH. We may DH Chipper Jones if he needs time off, too, and let Wiggington play. Bottom line, we're in the hunt and anything's possible!"