Maybe Russell Branyan can bring back the magic of the Mariners' 2009 season, the team traded two minor leaguers to Cleveland for the slugger.
Branyan hit 31 home runs for Seattle in 2009, when the Mariners, despite not making the playoffs, were a feel-good story and posted a winning record. This season, not so much. The Mariners are 30-43, Ken Griffey Jr. has retired and much of the off-season optimism has been drowned by Seattle rain.
The Indians aren't any better, boasting a 26-46 record. Cleveland received minor-league outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and minor-league shortstop Juan Diaz in exchange for Branyan and a player to be named or cash.
Carrera, 22, was named the Mariners' 15th-best prospect by Baseball America and was hitting .268 in 64 games for Triple-A Tacoma before being put on the disabled list with a left hip pointer. Diaz, 21, is playing at High-A High Desert.
More importantly for the Indians, the team called up Matt LaPorta, who will now become the team's everyday first baseman with Branyan's departure. LaPorta was the key figure in the trade of CC Sabathia to the Brewers.
LaPorta struggled in his first stint with the Indians this year, hitting .218/.290/.277 with a home run and seven RBI in 35 games. Despite struggles at the big league level, it's obvious Triple-A holds no challenge for the University of Florida product -- LaPorta is hitting .362/.457/.638 with five home runs and 16 RBI for Columbus
Branyan was signed in February to a one-year, $2 million contract and was hitting .263/.328/.491 with 10 home runs and 24 RBI. This will be his second stint with the Mariners and end his second stint with the Indians. In all, he's played for eight different teams and been with the Indians, Mariners and Brewers twice.
UPDATE: The Seattle Times ' Geoff Baker reports Branyan is expected to arrive in Milwaukee for the Mariners' game against the Brewers just after noon, Milwaukee time. If he can get to the park by the 1:10 p.m. local start time, he'll be on the roster, available to pinch hit. In that case, Mike Carp will be option to Triple-A. If Branyan's cab doesn't beat the clock, Carp gets to stay with the team one more day.
But that won't mean there won't be a move made today for the Mariners -- the team has already called up pitcher David Pauley to serve as the team's long-man out of the bullpen on Sunday and put Mike Sweeney on the disabled list with back spasms. Sweeney has a history of back problems, but this one is nowhere near as serious, the team said.
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
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