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WSI News - News Watch

Sox acquire Marte from Pirates

By Jimmy Greenfield,

PHOENIX -- Struggling with a Major League-worst ERA of 8.17 this spring, the White Sox picked up left-handed reliever Damaso Marte and a minor leaguer from Pittsburgh on Wednesday in exchange for right-handed pitcher Matt Guerrier, who led the minors last year with 18 victories.

Sox scouts had been on high on Marte for several years and when pitcher Todd Ritchie vouched for his former teammate, general manager Ken Williams was convinced he had to make the deal.

"These type of guys are a rare commodity, as are the Matt Guerrier-type guys," said Williams. "And the guy we gave up was a quality guy who went 18-4 for (Triple-A Charlotte) last year. But all in all, we felt the need that we had was the overriding factor."

Marte, 27, was in the New York Yankees minor league system last season before the Pirates acquired him in June. He was 0-1 with a 4.71 ERA in 23 games for the Pirates.

"I'd like to obviously see him one time in Milwaukee, see what he's like," said Sox manager Jerry Manuel. "If he's erratic, if he's nervous, all those types of things. I'd like to take a look at him and put him in a situation where he can have some success."

Guerrier, 23, was a candidate to make the Sox as a long reliever and spot starter but pitched himself out of contention with a 10.24 ERA this spring. Still, Guerrier went 18-4 with a 3.30 ERA last season at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

The Sox also acquired Edwin Yan, 20, a switch-hitting second baseman who hit .283 and stole 56 bases at Class A Hickory last season. He was assigned by the Sox to their minor league camp.

In his second year as the architect of the Sox, Williams has been manning the phones trying to improve the pitching staff, which isn't easy when financial constraints limit his ability to make deals.

Williams didn't deny that he has had to brush aside certain deals that didn't make fiscal sense for the Sox, who are trying to maintain their $57 million payroll.

"It is what it is," Williams said. "We don't have the luxury of playing in front of capacity crowds and we don't even think about it any more to the extent that, hey, this is our situation. We are going to be creative, aggressive and try to work within our means. We look at it as a challenge to hopefully put out an excellent team on the field."

Pittsburgh has made a cottage industry in the last year out of acquiring White Sox pitchers. In addition to Guerrier, the Pirates acquired Josh Fogg, Sean Lowe and Kip Wells for Ritchie, who is opening the season as the Sox' No. 2 starter.

Fogg, Lowe and Wells are all expected to make the Pirates' Opening Day roster.

"The most important thing is we're dealing with fairness right here," Williams said. "We think the players we have gotten in return from them are going to help us out as well."

Prospects like Wells, Fogg and Guerrier were expendable because elite prospects like Jon Rauch, Dan Wright and Jon Garland are ready to move into the starting rotation, despite the fact that they have combined for a 9.58 ERA this spring.

That didn't stop Williams from comparing the Rauch, Wright and Garland to Oakland starters Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, who combined to win 56 games last season.

"These guys now are to the stage where, hopefully, they can progress similarly to where Oakland's 'Big Three' progressed a few years ago," Williams said. "At least we're optimistic along those lines. If not, we've got some depth. We'll be just fine."

The Sox are debating whether to start the season with 11 or 12 pitchers. Already set in the bullpen are Keith Foulke, Antonio Osuna, Gary Glover, Lorenzo Barcelo, Kelly Wunsch and, now, Marte.

Williams said Marte will definitely start the season on the 25-man roster, which means left-hander Mike Porzio is probably destined for Charlotte.

The 29-year-old Porzio has a 1.93 ERA this spring, while right-hander Bob Howry has struggled, giving up 24 hits in 12 1/3 innings and posting a 10.95 ERA.

Manuel said Tuesday that Howry is not "definitely on the team, a lot of things can transpire from here until we leave."

Williams didn't want to reveal who is getting bumped from the bullpen until he had a chance to inform the players.

"In all fairness to the rest of the guys I would prefer not to speak on that just yet," Williams said.

MAKING PROGRESS: All concerned parties seemed pleased with left-hander Jim Parque's first Cactus League appearance since March 9, but that probably doesn't mean he's going to be able to avoid beginning the season in Triple-A Charlotte.

Parque, who had been only pitching in minor league games the last two weeks, allowed seven hits and four runs in five innings and saw his velocity top out at 87 mph, the best it's been this spring.

He realizes the Sox are intent on sticking with the rotation that's already been announced and just hopes they'll notice he's ready to be called upon.

"I just compare myself to myself," Parque said. "I know what I'm capable of doing and I'm ready to pitch in the big leagues right now. My arm's ready. Everything's ready to roll. It's just a matter of them telling me when."

Manuel has been preaching patience to Parque, who had shoulder surgery last season.

"There was some progress today," Manuel said. "I don't know what the velocity was or anything like that but I saw a livelier fastball."

Milwaukee's Eric Young went 0-for-3 against Parque and came away impressed as well.

"I think his stuff was crafty enough to keep that lineup in games," Young said. "He looked good."

UP AND DOWN: When Manuel announced that Howry had lost his set-up role to Glover two weeks ago, the 6-5 right-hander responded by agreeing with the decision.

On Wednesday, he took a step toward winning his spot back.

Howry threw a scoreless inning while Glover allowed five runs in one inning and gave up back-to-back-to-back homers to Richie Sexson, Geoff Jenkins and Alex Ochoa.

"At this point after the spring I've had, I'm ready for it to be over," Howry said. "Put my numbers back to zero, try and get the job done when it counts."

Trying to find motivation during a late March Cactus League game can sometimes be an exercise in futility, especially with the prospect of playing before 50,000 people on Opening Day looming a few days ahead.

"Yeah, it's a game," Howry said. "But you come out for a big league stadium it's a whole different feeling. The adrenalin you get out there for those ballgames, I have a hard time getting them here. And I'm not saying that's going to make me throw harder and it's going to make me a better pitcher but they don't compare. They're not in the same ballpark."

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