Mets acquire Duque from D-Backs for reliever Julio

Updated: May 25, 2006, 11:24 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The pitching-thin Mets acquired Orlando Hernandez from Arizona on Wednesday, welcoming El Duque back to New York and hoping he can help them now -- and maybe later, when even more is at stake.

Buster Olney's blog
The best possible situation you can have with Orlando Hernandez at this stage in his career, a high-ranking American League executive said last night, is when you don't have to count on him.

To read more of Buster Olney's blog, click here.

The Mets traded reliever Jorge Julio to the Diamondbacks for Hernandez. The deal was announced before the NL East leaders hosted Philadelphia.

"We're happy to have El Duque," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "We needed starting pitching. The thing I liked a lot is he has pitched in New York. He's happy to be coming back to New York, a place he knows and a place that knows him."

Listed at 36 years old and a proven postseason pitcher, Hernandez was struggling in his first season in the National League. He was just 2-4 with a 6.11 ERA in nine starts for the West-leading Diamondbacks and was not pitching with a set turn.

"I need to pitch every five days," Hernandez said. "In New York, I'll pitch every five days."

Hernandez said he was told he might start this weekend against Florida. The Diamondbacks visit Shea Stadium next week.

Hernandez said he had mixed feelings about the trade.

"I'm happy, and I'm not happy. It's 50-50. I like New York. I like Arizona," he said.

In his last start Monday, he gave up one run and six hits and struck out nine against Pittsburgh. Minaya watched the outing and became convinced that Hernandez could help the Mets, who have struggled to find fourth and fifth starters.

"He's a winner, a gamer, a warrior," Minaya said. "We're excited to have him."

Minaya said Hernandez, who starred in Cuba before coming to the United States, could help rookie Alay Soler, the Cuban pitcher who was making his first major-league start Wednesday night against Philadelphia.

"He helps you when he's pitching and when he's not pitching," Minaya said. "We're adding a starter, a guy who can compete. He's a big-game pitcher. The later the season gets, the more impact he has."

Hernandez is known for saving his best for the biggest games, especially in New York. The Mets have spent a lot of money bringing in stars such as Pedro Martinez, Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran over the last couple of seasons, and the veteran-laden team believes this might be the year they go far.

Hernandez helped the Chicago White Sox toward the World Series title last year with a couple clutch performances in October and was traded to Arizona in the offseason.

He was a key member of the Yankees' rotation when they won three straight championships from 1998 to 2000. He's 9-3 with a 2.55 ERA in the postseason.

"When you bring a guy into New York, it's New York," Minaya said. "I think he's a proven guy."

The Mets have Martinez, Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel at the front of their rotation and had patched together the rest of their starters after trading Kris Benson and Jae Seo over the winter. A season-ending injury to Victor Zambrano left the team short of starters.

The 27-year-old Julio, acquired from Baltimore in the trade for Benson, was 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA in his first season with the Mets.

"I'm happy. I think it is more of an opportunity for me to go over there and help over there," Julio said. "It's baseball. Baseball is crazy."

Julio struck out 33 in 21 1/3 innings and had pitched better of late after a rough beginning.

"Julio's statistics were pretty impressive," Minaya said. "He was throwing 97-98 miles per hour in a tough environment. He had the most strikeouts of any reliever in baseball last week."

The Mets recalled reliever Heath Bell from Norfolk to replace Julio.

The trade fortifies the Diamondbacks' already strong bullpen but leaves a hole in the rotation.

"It was a move we feel will work for us primarily because we're always trying to shore up our bullpen," general manager Josh Byrnes said. "Our bullpen's been so good this year. Another guy with late-game experience only helps."

The club did not name replacement for the right-handed Hernandez in the rotation, but righty Russ Ortiz, lefty Terry Mulholland and righty Kevin Jarvis are considered candidates.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press