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Braves starter Ramirez headed to Seattle

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Atlanta Braves swapped a
starting pitcher for bullpen help Thursday, sending oft-injured
lefty Horacio Ramirez to the Seattle Mariners for reliever
Rafael Soriano.

Ramirez went 5-5 with a 4.48 ERA in 14 starts this year, making
three trips to the disabled list. But he's shown promise in the
past when healthy, winning 12 games as a rookie in 2003 and
surpassing 200 innings two years later.

Soriano, who recovered from major elbow surgery in August 2004,
was 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA and two saves in 53 appearances last
season. He missed the final month with a concussion after he was
hit on the side of his head by Vladimir Guerrero's line drive.

The right-hander probably will serve as a setup man for Braves
closer Bob Wickman, who will be 38 next season.

"One of our primary objectives this offseason was to bolster
our bullpen," Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz said. "In
2006 Rafael established himself as a very reliable pitcher and we
obviously feel that we have improved our pitching staff with his
addition."

Ramirez also was hit in the head by a liner last season, off the
bat of Lance Berkman, which caused him to miss a start. A sprained
middle finger sidelined Ramirez for most of the final two months.

"Our goal coming to the winter meetings was to get help in our
starting rotation and that's what we did today," Mariners GM Bill
Bavasi said. "Horacio is a young, left-handed starter who makes us
better immediately."

The 27-year-old Ramirez is 30-22 in four major league seasons
with a 4.13 ERA.

Atlanta still has depth in a rotation that includes
John Smoltz,
Tim Hudson, Mike Hampton, Chuck James and Kyle Davies or
Lance Cormier.

"They got a good starter, we think, in Horacio," Braves
manager Bobby Cox said, adding that Atlanta pitching coach Roger
McDowell thinks Ramirez can win 15-20 games. "He's sincere about
that. Horacio has always had those capabilities. Unfortunately,
last year, he had the hamstring and finger problems. But he's fine,
healthy and should pitch great."

Soriano, who turns 27 this month, had 65 strikeouts and 21 walks
in 60 innings last season. He limited opponents to a .204 batting
average.

"Our needs, right now, were in the bullpen. And we think we got
one of the best guys in baseball," Cox said. "To have a five-year
career in the American League and come out with a 2.8 ERA, that's
saying something. Everybody I've run into in the lobbies from other
organizations, they didn't lust after this guy, but they like him a
lot."

Soriano has a career record of 4-8 with a 2.89 ERA and four
saves. The Braves might consider grooming him to become a closer --
or converting him to a starter down the road.