NEW YORK — In approving a trade to the Atlanta Braves, reliever Darren O’Day saw an opportunity to play for not only a contending team this season but one that can also potentially compete for a World Series title next season.
O’Day, who is out for the remainder of the season recovering from hamstring surgery, was traded to the Braves on Tuesday with right-hander Kevin Gausman. O’Day, 35, is under contract through 2019, so the move allowed the Orioles to save $9 million of committed payroll for next season as part of their rebuild. Still, O’Day had to approve any trade because he has 10-and-5 veto rights.
“[My wife and I] talked about it and I’m getting up there in age and I only have so many chances left to win,” O’Day said. “It looks like the Orioles are rebuilding and I think that’s the right thing to do and likely won’t be competing for the postseason next year, so the opportunity to go to Atlanta where they’re kind of on an upswing as an organization is one that I didn’t hesitate to give my consent to. One of my fondest memories was 2012 when we kind of brought good baseball back to Baltimore to a hungry fan base, and I guess Atlanta is kind of on that upswing now and it probably feels a lot like that. It’s an exciting opportunity to do that again.”
While Tuesday’s deadline deals of Gausman and Jonathan Schoop were surprising, the fact that O’Day was traded was even more of a shock in the clubhouse, catcher Caleb Joseph said.
“I didn’t even consider Darren, maybe because he’s on the [disabled list],” Joseph said. “That’s the one that really threw me in a tailspin personally. It’s really tough saying goodbye to Schoop and Gausman. I think O’Day was the real shocker. I never really considered that, a guy who’s been a rock for the whole staff for a number of years now.”
O’Day said there was a list of teams he wouldn’t have approved a trade to, but said he would have likely approved a trade to any team he considered a contender next season. But the fit with Atlanta was a good one, as he will be reunited with former Orioles Nick Markakis and Ryan Flaherty on the field as well as former Orioles pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti in the Braves front office.
“The decision to go to Atlanta was the easiest decision for me,” O’Day said. “But I would have had to strongly consider going to any other team, to a team that has a chance to win next year. When I played for the Rangers, I played in two World Series. We were one strike away from winning the ring a couple times. But we just couldn’t do it, and ever since then, it’s been my goal to get back there to do that again.”
Still, O’Day said pitching in Baltimore — where he became one of the top setup men in the American League and became an All-Star in 2015 — was the highlight of his career.
“Right now, it’s a lot of emotions,” O’Day said. “First and foremost, I’m going to miss my friends. The guys, we spend eight months together. … We’re right on top of each other for eight months. You have no choice but to be friends.
“I’m very grateful for the time I’ve spent there. I’ve never been on a losing team until last year. And last year, I have no idea what hit us, but something hit us pretty hard. Outside of that — the past calendar year — we’ve been a winning team.”
Even though he was injured and not with the club this season on an everyday basis, the departure of O’Day leaves a leadership void in the Orioles bullpen.
“He was a baseball player that happened to be a pitcher,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Anytime a player or anybody needed to get a voice on what was going on, Darren was the sense of reality. And on top of it, he was a really, really good pitcher. He’s going to be a really good pitcher for Atlanta next year. ... He’s good people. We’re going to miss him, but hopefully we’re going to have other people assume those mantles as we go forward.”
Valera makes Orioles debut at second, Villar to report to team Thursday
Infielder Jonathan Villar, the major league piece the Orioles acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the Jonathan Schoop trade, will join the team Thursday when the club opens a four-game series at the Texas Rangers.
“I’ve seen the history of him, like you all have,” Showalter said of Villar, who will be coming off the disabled list after recovering from a thumb injury. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve had him. He’s capable of playing a lot of places.”
Villar, 27, will likely be the starting second baseman, replacing Schoop. He’s also played shortstop and third base.
Infielder Breyvic Valera, one of the five players received from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade, was called up from Triple-A Norfolk on Tuesday and started at second base Wednesday.
“I’ll get a little peek at Valera today, and then we’ll see what the corresponding move is,” Showalter said. “Heard good stuff about him, and we’ve always liked him as an organization and to be able to acquire him. I’m not going to make any big evaluations on him today. But I want to let him get out there and get a feel for him.”
The Orioles had previous interest in 26-year-old Valera, who has been traded twice since the beginning of the season, going from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Dodgers in April before coming to Baltimore during the All-Star break.
“It’s baseball life,” Valera said through interpreter Ramón Alarcón. “One day you are one place, the next day you are in a different place. I’m just really thankful to be here, for the opportunity the organization has provided. I feel like I’m getting along with my new teammates. I’m just really thankful to be here.”
Carroll makes debut
Right-handed reliever Cody Carroll, a former New York Yankees prospect who was part of the three-player package received for Zach Britton, made his major league debut by pitching a scoreless seventh inning in Wednesday’s win at Yankee Stadium.
Showing a fastball that averaged 96.8 mph and good command to all part of the plate, Carroll, 25, worked around a two-out double to Giancarlo Stanton.
He induced two lineouts and a groundout, stranding Stanton after getting Didi Gregorius to line out to center field.
“He’s a confident kid in a good way,” Showalter said. “I think he’s glad to get that behind him but not in a nervous, anxiety type of way. … He was kind of wondering why we took so long. I like him. His presentation is very confident.”
Around the horn
Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that Orioles minor league pitcher Ruben Garcia, who is with Short-A Aberdeen, has received a 50-game suspension without pay after testing positive for an amphetamine, a stimulant in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. … Mark Trumbo received a day off Wednesday against Yankees right-hander Sonny Gray. Trumbo is just 1-for-14 against Gray in his career. … Right-hander David Hess still appears to be the likeliest option to fill Gausman’s rotation spot Saturday in Texas. … Orioles strength and conditioning coach Joe Hogarty suffered cuts to his nose and mouth after a foul ball off the bat of Adam Jones hit him in the Orioles dugout in the sixth inning Wednesday. … Former Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jiménez, who was in New York to visit family, attended Wednesday’s game, sitting behind the Orioles dugout.