Wickman joins the Braves bullpen

Updated: July 21, 2006, 6:28 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Bob Wickman chose Cleveland over Atlanta when he was a free agent the last two years. When the Indians fell out of the playoff hunt this season, Wickman jumped at another chance to join the Braves.

Atlanta acquired Wickman for minor league catcher Max Ramirez on Thursday and the 37-year-old right-hander joined the Braves on Friday before the start of their four-game series against the Phillies. Wickman said he had vetoed other deals before agreeing to the one that sent him to Atlanta.

"I was very close to signing with this team twice, to the point where I was scheduled to report to Atlanta the next day for a physical before Cleveland came back to sign me," Wickman said.

"I'm happy to be here and I want to help this team get into the playoffs. It's going to be a challenge and something that I'm looking forward to."

Wickman, a two-time All-Star, was 1-4 with a 4.18 ERA and 15 saves in 18 opportunities with Cleveland this season. After posting a 9.00 ERA and blowing three save chances in June, Wickman got off to a strong start in July, converting all four of his save chances and pitching four scoreless innings before the trade.

"I feel great and everything is good," Wickman said. "Outside of that one week in June where I just (stunk), everything has been great."

That's what Atlanta is counting on.

The veteran's presence should help a beleaguered bullpen that has failed to produce a consistent closer this season. Atlanta relievers have a 4.73 ERA and have blown 20 of 40 save opportunities.

"It's a great addition. Maybe he will solidify everything out there (in the bullpen)," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.

Wickman brings a lot of experience to the Braves' bullpen with his 60-55 career mark, 229 saves and a 3.64 ERA in 14 seasons. He has pitched in the postseason twice; in 1995 with the New York Yankees and 2001 with Cleveland.

Last season, he tied for the AL lead with 45 saves and held batters to a .094 average with runners in scoring position.

Wickman got an important introduction to Atlanta in 2000 when he visited Turner Field in his first All-Star appearance.

"Bobby (Cox) made me feel unbelievably comfortable at that All-Star Game and it was something I will never forget," Wickman said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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