Dan Duquette made his first trade as executive vice president of the Orioles on Thursday, filling the club's vacant reserve catcher spot by adding defensive-minded backstop Taylor Teagarden from a familiar partner, the Texas Rangers' organization.
The Orioles acquired Teagarden, who spent most of last year at Triple-A Round Rock, for 21-year-old minor league right-hander Randy Henry and another minor leaguer. That player likely won't be announced until after next week's Rule 5 draft.
Teagarden, who turns 28 this month, is expected to serve as the primary backup to All-Star Matt Wieters, who had been the only catcher on the 40-man roster after reserve Craig Tatum was claimed on waivers by the Houston Astros this offseason.
Duquette said the Orioles would continue to look for catching depth at the major and minor league levels, but Teagarden is expected to be Wieters' big league backup.
Teagarden has hit .220 in 350 big league at-bats over parts of four seasons and is a career .262 hitter with a .376 on-base percentage as a minor leaguer. Duquette said Teagarden's defensive skills set him apart in comparison with what's available in the backup catchers' market. Offensively, Duquette said, he thinks Teagarden has enough power to be a competent fill-in for Wieters.
"He has an excellent ability to handle a pitching staff," Duquette said of Teagarden. "Pitchers like throwing to him, and he's very good at controlling the opposing team's running game."
Teagarden becomes the latest former Rangers player or farmhand added to the Orioles' roster within the past year, joining Chris Davis, Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop, Zach Phillips, Darren O'Day, Clay Rapada and Willie Eyre.
"I know all those guys," Teagarden said. "I played with them either in the big leagues or at Triple-A, and it's a great group of guys. I am happy for all of them to have a chance to come to Baltimore and really have a chance to shine, and I'm happy to be a part of it."
The Texas pipeline isn't surprising considering Orioles manager Buck Showalter was the skipper there from 2003 to 2006 and Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair and first base coach Wayne Kirby also worked in the Rangers' organization.
Showalter and Teagarden were really together only during one spring training in 2006, but Showalter has always liked the catcher and pushed the Orioles to acquire him. Ultimately, Duquette said, he worked to make it happen.
"I believe in the catcher being the personal choice of the manager because he really represents the manager on the field," Duquette said. "This made sense for our ballclub. … And the fact that Buck knows him and likes him, I think, is a big plus for everybody."
Selected in the third round of the 2005 draft, Teagarden was once considered one of the top catching prospects in baseball. But injuries and an inability to hit consistently dropped him on the Rangers' organizational depth chart. Last season, he played in just 14 big league games — hitting .235 with two RBIs in 34 at-bats — while Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba caught for the American League Champions.
Teagarden said he understands he might not start more than once or twice a week in Baltimore, but he is thrilled to have another shot in the big leagues.
"I couldn't be more grateful. That's all I ever wanted at this point in my career," Teagarden said. "I was kind of in limbo with the Rangers the last two seasons, and I just want the opportunity to get back up there and get the chance to perform. It was tough for me the last two seasons because I thought, in my mind, I was playing well. But now that I've been given this opportunity, I just want to capitalize on it. It's a great feeling."
Henry, the Orioles' fourth-round pick in 2009 out of South Mountain Junior College in Arizona, was limited to 23 innings of relief in 2010 because of an elbow injury. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound righty bounced back in 2011, posting a combined 4-3 record and 2.22 ERA. He struck out 40 batters while walking eight in 522/3 innings at Low-A Delmarva and High-A Frederick.
To make room for Teagarden on the 40-man roster, the Orioles designated left-handed pitcher Pedro Viola for assignment. The 28-year-old pitched in six games for the Orioles in two seasons and allowed six earned runs in five innings (10.80 ERA).
Thomas reportedly joins staff
Duquette was asked during Thursday's teleconference about multiple media reports that he has added former Philadelphia Phillies general manager Lee Thomas as a special assistant.
"I don't have any comment on any staff additions today," Duquette said.
When Duquette took the Orioles' job in November, Thomas' name immediately was bandied about as a possible addition to the club's front office. Thomas, 75, was a special assistant in Boston during the last half of Duquette's tenure with the Red Sox.
A big league All-Star in 1962 with the Los Angeles Angels, Thomas won the 1993 Sporting News Executive of the Year Award for building the Phillies team that won the National League pennant that season.
Duquette has several vacancies in his front office and said he would like to have some of those spots filled within the next few weeks.
Around the horn
Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie has been elected to the Major League Baseball Players Association's executive board as an association representative. He joins New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, who also holds the position for the players union. … Cal Ripken Jr., the Hall of Fame former Orioles shortstop, is right up there with President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Billy Graham, Steve Jobs, Jerry Lewis and Bill Clinton on a list of those being considered for the first postage stamp to honor a living or recently deceased American, according to The Washington Post. The list is based on recommendations received through regular mail. The leader among nominees suggested through social media is Lady Gaga, according to The Post. In September, the U.S. Postal Service announced that it is dropping a rule requiring that an individual be deceased at least five years before being honored on a stamp.
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