Julio Mateo hasn’t pitched in the majors since being charged with third-degree assault on his wife May 5, but he may be on the verge of returning after switching organizations on Tuesday. The Mariners dealt Mateo to the Phillies for Double-A infielder Jesus Merchan.
The Big Leaguers
Mateo, a 29-year-old righthander, went 1-0, 3.75 in nine appearances with Seattle before his arrest. The Mariners subsequently suspended him for 10 days and demoted him to Triple-A Tacoma, where he has gone 3-1, 0.79 with 12 saves in 24 games and posted a 29-2 K-BB ratio in 34 innings. Mateo works mainly with a low-90s fastball and a slider, and he has been consistently effective as a middle reliever. He owns a lifetime 18-12, 3.68 record with two saves in 219 big league games. He’s in the second season of a two-year, $1.875 million contact that includes a $1.5 million team option for 2008. If the Phillies don’t pick that up, he’ll be eligible for arbitration.
Merchan, 26, signed with the Twins out of Venezuela in 1999 and joined the Phillies after Minnesota released him in May 2005. A middle infielder who never has done much with the bat or been regarded as much of a prospect, he’s enjoying a career year in 2007. Merchan is batting .332/.405/.491 with eight homers (he totaled 10 in eight previous seasons), 46 RBIs and 10 steals in 84 games, mostly at Double-A Reading.
Mateo was a low-cost addition to a Phillies club looking for reliable relievers as it makes a run at the National League playoffs.