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Friday, Feb. 23
The Indiana Daily Student

sports

Baseball closers

CHICAGO -- Dumping yet another big salary, the Oakland Athletics traded closer Billy Koch to the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday in a six-player trade.\nIn exchange for Koch and two minor leaguers, the Athletics will get White Sox closer Keith Foulke, catcher Mark Johnson, minor league right-hander Joe Valentine and cash.\n"Keith Foulke and Mark Johnson did a tremendous job for us, and we appreciate their contributions to our success, but this trade made sense for us in the short- and long-term," White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said.\n"The cash considerations on our part make this a cash-neutral deal for both clubs," Williams added. "Because minor league rosters are frozen right now, we will announce the two other players in the deal sometime in late December."\nKoch, who turns 28 on opening day, has emerged as one of the American League's top closers, becoming the first ever to start his career with four consecutive 30-save seasons. He won AL reliever of the year honors this season, going 11-4 with 44 saves.\nHe led major league relievers in victories and led the AL with 84 appearances. Only Minnesota's Eddie Guardado had more saves, with 45.\nIn four seasons with Toronto and Oakland, Koch is 22-17 with 144 saves and a 3.48 ERA.\nBut once again, the small-market A's are trying to pare payroll by dumping some of their big names -- and their big salaries. A year after allowing Jason Giambi to sign with the New York Yankees as a free agent, Oakland has already traded right-hander Corey Lidle.\nKoch had a $2.35 million base salary this season and made $150,000 in performance bonuses. He's eligible for salary arbitration this year, and his salary is likely to double.\nBy acquiring Koch, the White Sox hope they've finally found a long-term, reliable closer. Foulke saved a career-high 42 games in 2001 and ranks third on the White Sox saves list. But he struggled last season, losing his closer role in early June. He went from June 27 to Sept. 17 without a save, and finished with only 11.\nHe was 2-4 with a 2.90 ERA. He is due $6 million next season, the final year of a $10 million, two-year contract. He's eligible for free agency after next season.\nFoulke did regain some of his old form at the end of the year, not allowing an earned run over his final 17 2-3 innings. But the White Sox still had three different pitchers with 10 or more saves -- Antonio Osuna had 11 and Damaso Marte had 10 -- and they'd like to stay off that merry-go-round in the future.\nJohnson had a career-high .994 fielding percentage in 86 games last year. But the White Sox are expecting big things from rookie Miguel Olivo.\nThough Olivo played in just six games, it was enough to show his savvy behind and at the plate. In his first major league at-bat, he hit a three-run homer off Andy Pettitte on Sunday in his first at-bat.\nOlivo didn't commit any errors in his six games, and threw out the only runner who tried to steal on him.\nValentine, a converted catcher, was acquired off waivers from Detroit last season. He went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.97 ERA at Double-A Birmingham last season.

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