Mariners bolster rotation with Valdes

By Jim Callis
August 18, 2002

Though the Mariners lead the American League West, they’re in a three-team dogfight with the Angels and Athletics and have seen their rotation falter in recent weeks. They addressed that situation on Sunday, acquiring Ismael Valdes from the Rangers for a pair of minor leaguers, lefthander Derrick Van Dusen and second baseman Jermaine Clark.

Signing Valdes to a one-year, $2.5 million free agent contract is one of the few moves that has worked for John Hart since he took over as Texas general manager last November. Valdes never has blossomed into the future ace he once projected as while coming up with the Dodgers, but he’s having his best season since 1997, when he had a career-low 2.65 ERA for Los Angeles. In 23 starts with Texas, Valdes went 6-9, 3.93 with a 75-36 strikeout-walk ratio in 147 innings. His best pitch is his curveball, and he also throws a fastball, slider and changeup. Seattle will move Valdes into its rotation in place of John Halama, who was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. Valdes has had considerable success against Anaheim and Oakland in 2002, going 2-1, 2.55 in five starts. A free agent again at the end of the season, he has a career record of 78-83, 3.73 in 247 games.

Van Dusen, 21, led Riverside CC to the California community college championship in 2000 before signing as a fifth-round pick. His fastball is nothing spectacular, sitting in the high 80s most of the time, but he has a plus slider, developing changeup and a fearlessness that allows him to pitch inside. He has been a strike-throwing machine with the exception of a five-game stint at Double-A San Antonio earlier this year, when he went 1-2, 7.20 and wasn’t as aggressive as usual. He has spent most of 2002 at high Class A San Bernardino, going 7-6, 3.10 with 118 strikeouts and 36 walks in 3.10. He threw a no-hitter last year in the low Class A Midwest League and his ERA currently ranks fourth in the California League.

The 25-year-old Clark also was a fifth-round pick, out of the University of San Francisco in 1997. He surfaced briefly in the majors with the Tigers in after they took him in the December 2000 major league Rule 5 draft, getting into three games without an at-bat in 2001 before being returned to the Mariners. Clark has some speed and a knack for getting on base, but he offers little power and is merely steady on defense. In 108 games at Triple-A Tacoma this year, he has batted .266-6-36 with a .370 on-base percentage and 29 steals in 43 attempts.