Nationals acquire Spivey, Drese

Nationals acquire Spivey, Drese

WASHINGTON -- Right-hander Tomo Ohka received his wish and the Nationals got better at the same time as they traded Ohka to the Brewers for second baseman Junior Spivey on Friday. The Nationals also claimed right-handers Ryan Drese and Jacobo Sequea off waivers.

The Nationals have been looking for a middle infielder since second baseman Jose Vidro went on the disabled list in early May with a high left ankle sprain and torn peroneal tendon outside the ankle.

Trade discussions were in the works between the Nationals and Brewers for more than a week. Interim general manager Jim Bowden said the deal never would have happened if not for Brewers prospect Rickie Weeks, who is close to being ready for big league action.

At first, the Nationals were hoping they could coax Barry Larkin, the special assistant to the general manager, out of retirement. But according to a team source, Larkin told the team last week that he wasn't going to play and to try to get Spivey, who is making $2.2 million.

Spivey will be the everyday second baseman until Vidro returns after the All-Star break. Spivey was hitting .236 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 49 games at the time of the trade. He best season was 2002 with the Diamondbacks, when hit .301 with 16 home runs and 78 RBIs. However, he has been injury-prone the last two seasons, spending time on the disabled list because of ankle, hamstring and shoulder problems.

Spivey was in Philadelphia when he heard the news about the trade. He then boarded an Amtrak train and arrived at the ballpark at 7:10 p.m. Spivey didn't reach the dugout until the third inning. He entered the game in the seventh inning as a pinch-runner. Spivey eventually scored two runs.

"I was excited when I received the phone call about 2:30 today from [Brewers general manger] Doug Melvin," Spivey said after Friday's win over the Mariners. "Trade rumors have been circulating for about two to three weeks, so it was kind of expected."

Getting to know his new teammates and coaches should not be a problem for Spivey, who has played with the Nationals' John Patterson, Gary Bennett and Carlos Baerga during his career. Bench coach Eddie Rodriguez coached Spivey in Arizona.

"It's not like I'm coming to a place where I didn't know anybody. It was definitely a comforting feeling knowing I had some friends over here," Spivey said.

The acquisition of Spivey means that Jamey Carroll and Baerga will return to their proper roles. Carroll will be a backup at second base, shortstop and third base, while Baerga will be strictly a pinch-hitter.

Carroll has seen the bulk of the playing time at second base. He hit .242 with six RBIs. Baerga also saw time at the position, but he doesn't have the range to play second base.

"I haven't been hitting. Whatever it takes to keep us where we are at, that's the bottom line," Carroll said. "Spivey is going help. Obviously, I would like to be in there every day."

The move also gives manager Frank Robinson flexibility to bench Cristian Guzman for a couple of games if need be. Guzman has been hitting under .200 most of the season.

"Jamey Carroll and Carlos Baerga did a very good job filling in," Bowden said. "Frank hasn't been able to do some things that he would like to do, such as giving the guys the day off because of Jose's injury. Jamey was in there every day. So there's a hole that had to be fixed, and it was very difficult hole to fix. Infielders are tough to come by."

As for Ohka, he was in and out of the rotation. Ohka went to Robinson and Bowden on May 9 and told them he wanted to be traded after being demoted to the bullpen.

Ohka was back in the Nationals' rotation at the time of the trade. He was 4-3 with a 3.33 ERA, but the numbers are misleading. He had a tough time throwing strikes -- 27 walks in 54 innings -- and his velocity was down in the mid-80s. It prompted Robinson to believe that Ohka was injured, which Ohka denied.

To make matters worse, the relationship between Ohka and Robinson deteriorated and reached its boiling point last Saturday, when Ohka showed up Robinson. Ohka had his back turned as Robinson walked toward the mound to take the hurler out. Robinson then snatched the ball out of Ohka's hand. Ohka was later fined 1,000 for the incident.

Bowden said the incident did not hasten the trade.

"We are going to make moves to make this team better. I'm never going to make a move because of an incident," Bowden said. "I did not make this move to punish Tomo."

The Nationals are hoping that Drese, 29, can replace Ohka in the rotation. The Rangers designated Drese for assignment Wednesday after pitching 2 2/3 innings against the Phillies. In 12 starts, he was 4-6 with a 6.46 ERA.

Like Ohka, Drese had his share of controversy. On May 24, Drese and catcher Rod Barajas were involved in a scuffle over pitch selection.

Drese's best season was in 2004 when he went 14-10 with a 4.20 ERA for the Rangers, and the Nationals believe that he could return to that form again. Drese is a person the Nationals have been going after since the offseason.

If Drese can't do the job, the Nationals have not ruled out Sun-Woo Kim staying in the rotation. Kim started against the Mariners on Friday.

"His velocity is close, he is not hitting his spots. Ameriquest Field in Arlington has been a tough ballpark to pitch in," Bowden said of Drese. "We don't get Ryan Drese if he doesn't struggle. He's a great makeup guy. He is absolute competitor. We need to make some adjustments with him and get him back."

Sequea, 23, has posted 52 saves at three levels the last two-plus seasons in the Orioles system. Last season, while pitching for Bowie (Md.), Sequea led the Orioles' Minor League system and ranked second in the Double-A Eastern League with 27 saves. There, he recorded 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings en route to pacing the Eastern League in appearances.

The Nationals acquired Sequea on the recommendation of first-base coach Don Buford, who was the director of minor league operations for the Orioles.

When he was the Reds' GM in 1999, Bowden traded Sequea to the Orioles for Juan Guzman.

"He's a back-end bullpen guy. We are going to stockpile every arm we can. Our farm system has been pretty bare. You win with pitching and defense," Bowden said.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.