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Dodgers Deal for Braves’ Betemit

Times Staff Writer

When it was mentioned to reliever Danys Baez earlier this week that, in order to activate pitcher Brett Tomko, the Dodgers were going to have to put someone on the disabled list, deserving or not, Baez said that was ridiculous. They ought to just trade someone.

That’s exactly what the Dodgers did Friday before beating the Washington Nationals, 13-1, at Dodger Stadium. And Baez was the one they traded along with utility infielder Willy Aybar to the Atlanta Braves along with cash for Wilson Betemit, who will play third.

“We think he is one of the best young players in the game,” Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said of Betemit. “He can also play short and second. He’s somebody we are going to have around for a while.”

Betemit, who turned 26 Friday, is hitting .281 with nine home runs and 29 runs batted in in 87 games. A 6-3, 200-pound switch-hitter from the Dominican Republic, Betemit has demonstrated two qualities the Dodgers’ offense has lacked: power and clutch hitting.

Betemit has 25 extra-base hits in 199 at-bats this season, has a .333 average with runners in scoring position and a .435 mark with runners in scoring position and two out.

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The Dodgers have been searching for a third baseman since Bill Mueller was lost for the season in May because of a knee injury. The position has turned into a dark hole as six others -- Ramon Martinez, Oscar Robles, Olmedo Saenz, Joel Guzman, Cesar Izturis and Aybar -- have all tried to plug that hole.

The Dodgers had also hoped that Baez, who has had success in the past as a closer, could fill that role this season if Eric Gagne was unable to recover from his elbow injury.

Sure enough, Gagne was unable to come back, appearing in only two games, but Baez was unable to fill that role any better than his teammates could fill in at third.

Baez, a free agent after this season, was 5-5 with a 4.35 ERA and nine saves and seven blown saves in 46 games.

The Dodgers will pay the remainder of the $4 million due this season to the 29-year-old right-hander.

Baez, who had previously saved 102 games in stints with the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Devil Rays over five seasons, 41 last season, tried to shrug off the trade as a harsh reality of the game.

“You never know when you are going to be traded,” he said. “I am going to a new team and a new organization and I am just going to keep working hard.

“I’m not disappointed. You do the best you can, but you can’t control the results. The biggest guys in baseball have tough games, tough weeks, tough months, tough years. The biggest thing is that I am healthy.

“The Dodgers have made a decision. There is nothing to do but go with it. It’s just business. I really appreciate that the Dodgers brought me here. Now I am happy to be going to another great team that thinks I can help them get into the playoffs.”

While Baez put a positive spin on the move, the 23-year-old Aybar seemed stunned.

“I’m very surprised,” he said through an interpreter. “I was hoping to stay here for good. This has been my team since I was a child.”

Aybar, a native of the Dominican Republic, is in his second major league season. He was hitting .250 with three home runs and 22 RBIs in 43 games. But he had committed six errors, struggling on defense.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

The trade

The principals in Friday’s trade between the Dodgers and Atlanta:

WHAT THE DODGERS GOT

* Wilson Betemit, infielder -- A top prospect who turned 26 Friday, Betemit is listed as a third baseman but has filled in at second base and shortstop as well as the Braves’ top player off the bench. In his second full season with Atlanta, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder was batting .281 with nine home runs and 29 RBIs.

WHAT THE BRAVES GOT

* Danys Baez, pitcher -- After acquiring closer Bob Wickman from Cleveland, Atlanta completes the revamping of its bullpen with Baez slated to act as setup man. His earned-run average of 4.35 for the Dodgers was more than a run and a half higher than he posted at Tampa Bay in 2005, and he blew seven of 16 save opportunities.

* Willy Aybar, third baseman -- A starter the last week, during which he batted .136, Aybar is still considered a strong prospect. He batted .250 with three home runs and 22 RBIs in 43 games for the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Times


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