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Dodgers Get Shuey to Fill Out Bullpen

Baseball: L.A. trades three pitchers, including Mulholland and top prospect, to Cleveland for veteran right-hander.

July 29, 2002|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — The Dodgers gave their bullpen a significant shot in the arm with Sunday's acquisition of hard-throwing setup man Paul Shuey from the Cleveland Indians, but it came at a considerable cost.

The centerpiece of the package going to Cleveland is triple-A pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez, a 6-foot-3, 165-pound right-hander from the Dominican Republic whom Baseball America tabbed the organization's No. 1 prospect.

That will probably cause concerned Dodger fans to hark back to the 1993 deal that sent another promising young Dominican right-hander--Pedro Martinez--to Montreal for second baseman Delino DeShields.

The Dodgers also gave up seldom-used reliever Terry Mulholland, whose $3-million salary will offset the $2.75 million Shuey makes this season, and Class-A pitcher Alberto Cruceta for Shuey, who is in the second year of a four-year, $11.2-million contract that ends after the 2004 season.

"We like Ricardo Rodriguez a lot," Dodger General Manager Dan Evans said. "Baseball America had him as our No. 1; that may not reflect our assessments, but he's a very good prospect, no question.

"But at the same time, we're getting [an eight-year] veteran who knows how to handle the pressure of a pennant race, and we feel this guy will help us for years to come. Had [Shuey] not had a multiyear deal, Rodriguez wouldn't have been discussed."

It's difficult to assess the deal's long-term impact, because it remains to be seen how Rodriguez--who was 5-4 with a 1.99 earned-run average at double-A Jacksonville before his recent promotion to triple-A Las Vegas--will develop, but there's no doubt the trade bolstered the Dodgers' playoff hopes this season.

Shuey, 31, is 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA in 39 games this season, striking out 39 and walking 10 in 37 1/3 innings, and has limited opponents to a .225 average. The right-hander's fastball has been clocked at 94-96 mph, he has an outstanding split-fingered fastball and a good curveball, and he's been tougher on left-handers (.194) than right-handers (.254).

"He's one of the top five nastiest guys I've ever faced because of that splitter," said Dodger right fielder Shawn Green, a former Toronto Blue Jay. "Any bullpen he's in, he's going to strengthen."

Shuey, who received $500,000 from the Indians to waive his no-trade clause to come to Los Angeles, gives the Dodgers two reliable setup men--Shuey and Paul Quantrill--in front of closer Eric Gagne and pushes Giovanni Carrara back to middle relief, to which he is more suited.

"You're not going to see guys with better stuff than him," said Dodger center fielder Dave Roberts, a teammate of Shuey's in Cleveland. "Believe it or not, it's comparable to Gagne's when he's on. He's nasty, and that's huge for us. You talk about Gagne making it an eight-inning game; with him and Quantrill, we can make it a six- or seven-inning game."

When the trade came together late Saturday night, Shuey called Roberts, "and he had nothing but great things to say," said Shuey, whose Indian teams reached the postseason four times from 1996-2001. "That pretty much cemented the deal."

So did the fact that the Dodgers lead the National League wild-card race while the Indians, 17 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the American League Central, are rebuilding.

"This hasn't been a year where I've had a lot of butterflies in the bullpen," Shuey said on a conference call with Dodger writers. "I'm looking forward to getting those butterflies back, getting back into the thick of things."

Shuey has been on the disabled list 11 times, most because of leg injuries, the most recent a left groin strain that sidelined him in June. That was a factor in his decision to waive his no-trade clause.

"The climate has changed here--I don't think these guys are going to fight for it for a while," Shuey told Cleveland writers earlier Sunday. "I'm going to a team where I can fight for it now. If I had given up on this....

"I don't know how much longer I can pitch. As you guys know, I'm not that genetically sound of a guy. L.A. is leading the wild-card race, and that's where I want to go.... Right now, I'm a luxury I don't think the Indians need."

And one the Dodgers, whose bullpen has faltered recently, believe they couldn't live without.

"The bullpen is one of our strengths now, and we know Gagne, Quantrill and Shuey will be part of the club for the next three years," Evans said.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

*--* Really Good Shue Paul Shuey's career numbers. All nine seasons with the Cleveland Indians: Yr W-L ERA SV SO BB 1994 0-1 8.49 5 16 12 '95 0-2 4.26 0 5 5 '96 5-2 2.85 4 44 26 '97 4-2 6.20 2 46 28 '98 5-4 3.00 2 58 25 '99 8-5 3.53 6 103 40 '00 4-2 3.39 0 69 30 '01 5-3 2.82 2 70 26 '02 3-0 2.41 0 39 10 Totals 34-21 3.60 21 450 202

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