There Was a Setup to Big Deal

Times Staff Writer

The kid from the Dominican Republic had a great arm, not such a great bat. So the kid became a pitcher, got traded to the Dodgers and emerged as one of the top relievers in the major leagues.

That was Guillermo Mota’s story. That could be Yhency Brazoban’s story too.

Brazoban, 24, the least heralded among the five players joining the Dodgers over the weekend, was promoted from triple-A Las Vegas after General Manager Paul DePodesta included Mota in the six-player trade that brought starting pitcher Brad Penny and first baseman Hee Seop Choi from the Florida Marlins.


The Dodgers ascended to first place in the National League West behind a bullpen that could shorten games, forcing opponents to take the lead in the first six innings or risk facing Darren Dreifort in the seventh inning, Mota in the eighth and Cy Young Award-winning closer Eric Gagne in the ninth. DePodesta broke that chain, gambling that Dreifort could handle the eighth, preceded by some combination of Duaner Sanchez, Wilson Alvarez, Giovanni Carrara and Brazoban.

DePodesta said he had wanted to promote Brazoban for some time, little wonder considering his velocity and statistics. The right-hander, with a fastball clocked as high as 99 mph and routinely in the mid-90s, posted a 2.56 earned-run average in 47 games at Las Vegas and double-A Jacksonville, with 78 strikeouts in 63 innings.

In 12 innings at Las Vegas, he walked one and struck out 17.

This is his second full season as a pitcher, converted after five years as an outfielder in the New York Yankees’ organization, all but one game at the Class-A level or below. He hit double-A in his first season on the mound, and the Yankees packaged him with veteran starter Jeff Weaver to get ace Kevin Brown from the Dodgers last December.

Dan Evans, then the Dodger general manager, already had solid scouting reports on Brazoban. When other teams heard the Dodgers were talking trade with the Yankees and asked if they could get Brazoban in a three-way deal, Evans said Monday, he decided to get him and keep him.

“That just confirmed he had a very good arm,” Evans said. “I really wanted to get a quality prospect in the deal. The velocity was right there, and he already had success within a very brief period.”

At the time, Evans and other Dodger executives stressed that the millions saved by trading Brown would be applied to the purchase of other players, presumably Vladimir Guerrero. But Guerrero signed with the Angels, and new owner Frank McCourt replaced Evans with DePodesta. That surplus remains mostly unspent for now, after DePodesta failed to land Randy Johnson or Charles Johnson over the weekend.

Weaver has won eight games, the same as Brown, with a comparable earned-run average -- 3.93 for Brown, 4.00 for Weaver.


Brazoban File

* Height: 6-1.

* Weight: 170.

* Throws: Right.

* Bats: Right.

* Position: Relief pitcher

* Age: 24.

* Birthplace: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.