Giants send Ellison to Mariners for minor leaguer

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jason Ellison is going home, and the San
Francisco Giants parted ways with the popular outfielder Sunday in
the best possible way: dealing him to the Seattle Mariners.

San Francisco acquired left-hander Travis Blackley in the trade
and assigned him to Triple-A Fresno to start the season.

"I'm actually extremely excited about it," said Ellison, who
lives only about 20 minutes from the ballpark in Issaquah, Wash.,
during the offseason and played at South Kitsap High School in Port
Orchard. "My childhood dream was to be a Mariner. Hopefully it's a
good opportunity for me."

Ellison, who turns 29 on Wednesday, will be on the Mariners'
25-man roster and should have quite a contingent of fans for
Monday's opener at Safeco Field against the Oakland Athletics. Some
even joked he might be able to catch a ride on Oakland's charter
plane after the A's hosted the Giants in the final exhibition game
for both clubs Sunday afternoon.

Ellison was called into the clubhouse by manager Bruce Bochy
less than an hour before the game. The Giants' decision came down
to keeping Ellison or backup first baseman Lance Niekro after the
club placed outfielder-first baseman Mark Sweeney on the disabled
list earlier Sunday with a bruised right foot. The Sweeney move is
retroactive to Thursday, one day after he fouled a ball off his
foot. Sweeney, who said his injury isn't serious, had been
considered the odd man out.

"It's pretty positive," said Ellison, who was waiting to talk
to the Mariners. "I'm glad to be in this situation and get a
chance to play."

Ellison helped his cause by hitting .390 with five doubles and
nine RBIs in 25 spring games, drawing nine walks, stealing two
bases and scoring 14 runs.

When Niekro saw Ellison get called off the field during batting
practice, he figured Ellison had been traded. There were a handful
of teams interested in the speedy Ellison, who can be a threat on
the basepaths with his athleticism.

For Niekro, the Giants' second-round draft pick in 2000, making
the club completed a whirlwind six months since the season ended
that included the sudden death of his former major leaguer father,
Joe, on Oct. 27 of a brain aneurysm at age 61.

"I definitely didn't know what was going to happen," said the
28-year-old Niekro, who struggled last season after starting at
first base on opening day. "The odds were stacked against me
coming into spring. I made their decision hard. This is where I
wanted to be. I went out there and stayed healthy and hit the ball

Niekro was optioned to Triple-A Fresno in mid-July and has been
on the disabled list three times over the past two years. His most
recent trip to the DL was with a strained groin. He was hitting
.362 with three homers and 10 RBIs this spring heading into
Sunday's game.

Ellison batted .222 with two home runs and four RBIs in just 81
at-bats last season, playing in 84 games primarily as a late-game
defensive replacement. His career-best season was in 2005 with San
Francisco, when he appeared in 131 games and batted .264.

Blackley, a 24-year-old native of Australia, started 25 games at
Double-A San Antonio and two at Triple-A Tacoma last season. The
one-time top Seattle prospect missed all of 2005 after surgery to
repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

Blackley appeared in just two games during spring training for
the Mariners and allowed four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.