Missions' Staff Gets Boost From Mariners' Trades

RHP Mike Flannery (Photo/Stephanie Sanchez)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The trade deadline has passed, and July ended not with a bang, but a whimper. In a shopping season void of major deals but plenty of questions – why Manny wanted out; why Jaime Moyer did not; why the Orioles failed to pick up a starting pitcher – one minor league town has plenty to celebrate. That town? The Alamo City.

The San Antonio Missions are in the final leg of the Texas League race for the crown, and could use any and all help available. After losing Sean Green and Jeff Harris to Tacoma early in the season, San Antonio has now had to cope with the recent promotion of their staff ace and closer, Bobby Livingston and Emiliano Fruto, respectively.

Add to the mess an assortment of injuries and underwhelming performances over the last month (minus Thomas Oldham), and fans have witnessed what was once one of the league's top rotations hit somewhere at the bottom of the barrel.

Help has possibly arrived in a trio of right-handed hard-ballers: Yorman Bazardo and Mike Flannery from the Florida Marlins' farm system, and Nathanel Mateo from San Diego.

Each player projects to fill a specific need for the Missions – starter, middle reliever and closer – and could not have arrived at a better time.

"We'll give them all a chance," said Missions manager Dave Brundage. "Right now I haven't seen much and don't know what to make of them."

Bazardo comes in as the most hyped of the three acquisitions; he throws a fastball that tops out at 98 mph and has pitched a game in the big leagues for the Marlins. Strangely though, the 21-year old has a different weapon of choice when he needs to make a crucial pitch.

"I would say my change-up is my best pitch," Bazardo said.

Bazardo is 8-7 with a 3.99 earned run average in 19 starts with Carolina (Double-A). Over 108.1 innings, the Venezuelan's strikeout to walk ratio is a surprisingly low 73-to-36. One might assume higher punch-out totals for a fire-baller.

"I have a reputation for being a guy who throws a lot of strikes," Bazardo said. "Guys tend to swing early in the count."

Bazardo arrived in San Antonio Wednesday evening before the Missions' game against Corpus Christi. He is scheduled to pitch Friday in the fourth of a five-game set.

"I'm glad to be here; this is a good opportunity," Bazardo said. "Seattle is trying new things by playing some younger guys."

Flannery already has one appearance in San Antonio after arriving on the same flight as Bazardo. The 25-year-old Jersey boy first heard of the move while occupying the Mudcats' bullpen.

"It was about the fourth inning and I was talking to my teammates and pitching coach," Flannery said. "He mentioned about six or seven prospects that could get traded and I wasn't one of them."

Flannery has been in the Marlins' system since being drafted in 1999, but showed no anger after the surprising end to his career the only franchise he has ever known.

"This is a better place for me. Florida's making a lot of moves right now," Flannery said. "There are 29 other major league clubs, and I just hope I make one – it doesn't matter who it is."

Flannery joins his new team with 13 saves in 31 games for Carolina. He also spent part of the season with Triple-A Albuquerque, and posted a combined 2-3 mark with a 3.21 ERA. Opponents hit .231 against him.

"I know he was a closer with his former team," Brundage said. "He'll get a chance to do that here."

While his first appearance (Aug. 3 vs. Corpus Christi) could only be considered garbage time, Flannery has the tools to be the Missions' terminator, a position the team desperately needs to fill. In his one inning of work, Flannery retired all three batters he faced, using a 92-96 mph fastball and an above-average slider to make quick work of the Hooks.

"They haven't told me what my role is yet," Flannery said. "I'm just looking forward to playing in the post-season."

The first to arrive in San Antonio was Mateo, a well-traveled former Phillies product who came over via the Miguel Olivo trade. The 24-year old signed with the Padres in 2003 and spent this year pitching in Mobile.

"I was in Jacksonville playing the Dodgers, just cheering on my teammates," Mateo said of the day he learned of the trade. "It was unexpected. I wasn't thinking about (a possible trade) at all."

Before landing in Alabama, Mateo pitched for Lake Elsinore (High-A) in 2004. He also spent some time across the Pacific as a member of the Hiroshima Carp.

"Playing in Japan was a crazy experience. It was very different," Mateo said. "After the tenth inning, they will just call the game if it's still tied up."

Mateo said he learned to appreciate a tougher brand of baseball in Japan. During his time there, he would pitch every day, and even played through a back injury.

"There you have to run like a crazy horse. They even run out sacrifice bunts," Mateo said. "My back was killing me back then, but you have to be stronger than the pain, both mentally and physically."

Mateo (3-4, 2.98 ERA) has given up just two home runs while striking out 40 batters in 54.1 innings this season. He has been used sparingly since reporting July 31, making just two appearances. In his first outing, the Domincan Republic product showed a 92-94 mph fastball, hitting the higher reading more often than not. He also revealed a sinkerball and above-average curveball.

After confessing a liking to his new surroundings, Mateo echoed the thoughts of those players uprooted at this time of year.

"I'm not thinking about the trade anymore," Mateo said. "It's part of baseball, and now I need to continue doing my job, wherever that is."

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