Adding Curt Schilling to a staff that includes
Randy Johnson, the Arizona Diamondbacks head into the pennant race
with one of the most powerful 1-2 pitching combinations in
“Koufax and Drysdale come to mind,” Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said after Wednesday’s 4-for-1 trade with Philadelphia. “I’ll take these two guys.”
Schilling, who had pushed for a deal to a contender, is headed home to Phoenix in exchange for first baseman-outfielder Travis Lee and pitchers Omar Daal, Vicente Padilla and Nelson Figueroa.
“I will leave here with nothing but the best memories on and off the field,” Schilling said during a news conference at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. “I was booed so much less than I probably deserve to be booed here, which I don’t think too many people leaving Philly can say.
“It’s not as tough as you think because it’s all pretty much my fault. I would create problems that shouldn’t have been made.”
Will Start Friday
Arizona, the defending NL West champion, began Wednesday in first place, one game ahead of San Francisco. Schilling is to make his Diamondbacks’ debut Friday at Florida.
“There aren’t many teams who have a couple of number ones on the roster on their pitching staff like we feel we do with Randy and Curt Schilling,” Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo said. “This could be a very significant addition in a very tight pennant race.”
As part of the deal, Schilling waived his right to demand a trade following the season, a power given to veterans traded while under a multiyear contract.
“He can only pitch once every fifth day,” manager Buck Showalter said before the Diamondbacks played at St. Louis. “Hopefully, this will be a new chapter for us. We’ve taken a lot of blows after 100 games and we’re still standing.”
Free Agent After 2001 Season
Schilling recently told the Phillies there were about a half-dozen teams he would allow himself to be dealt to. He is making $5.65 million this season and is signed for next season at $6.5 million. After the 2001 season, he becomes eligible for free agency.
“The reality of the deal is that we are giving up, obviously, one of the top starting pitchers in all of baseball,” Phillies general manager Ed Wade said. “In getting these four players, we answer a lot of needs. Did we get Curt Schilling back in this deal? Obviously we didn’t.”
Yanks, Mets in Hunt
Monday is the deadline for making deals without waivers. The New York Yankees also had been talking to Philadelphia about Schilling, a baseball executive said on the condition of anonymity, but the extent of their interest was unclear. The New York Mets also had been interested.
The Cleveland Indians made a run at Schilling last week. St. Louis and Seattle also were considered contenders to land the 33-year-old pitcher. The Cardinals offered outfielder J.D. Drew and pitcher Matt Morris, one source said.
“We explored it quite extensively with every club that was on the list,” Wade said. “He made it clear that if the opportunity presents itself, he wouldn’t stand in the way. Obviously it wasn’t a great surprise to him that this happened.”
Schilling (6-6) started clearing out his locker Tuesday. The starter in last year’s All-Star game, he had shoulder surgery in the off-season and struggled at first after rejoining the Phillies.
Coming on Strong
However, he has pitched complete games in three of his last four starts. He is 5-2 with a 2.00 ERA in his last eight starts, six of them Phillies victories. He has lasted at least seven innings in his last eight starts.
“In the last week and a half, I heard enough rumblings that I knew it was going to happen,” Schilling said. “I’m in a pennant race now, and now it’s time to ante up on the mound.”
Arizona sorely needed another starter because of the injury to Todd Stottlemyre and the struggles of Daal. Stottlemyre has been sidelined for a month with a slight tear in his elbow and is not expected to return until September, at the earliest.
Schilling, who is likely to pitch against ex-Phillies pitcher Andy Ashby next Wednesday at Atlanta, has a 105-89 career record and won at least 15 games in each of the last three seasons.
Schilling had been with the Phillies since 1992, when he was acquired from Houston for right-hander Jason Grimsley.
The left-handed hitting Lee was signed to a then-record $10 million signing bonus by Arizona before its 1998 expansion season. He was considered the cornerstone of the young franchise, but he has struggled at the plate the last two seasons.
Lee was optioned to Triple-A Tucson on July 16 to work on his hitting. He was 5-for-5 in a recent contest.
‘Very Bright Future’
“Travis has struggled this year and I still believe that he has a very bright future,” Colangelo said. “We’ll be pulling for him.”
Daal, 16-9 last season with a 3.65 ERA, is 2-10 with a 7.22 ERA this year and has lost his spot in the starting rotation. He is to start for the Phillies on Friday.
“I know that I have not had a good year this year,” Daal said. “They need someone to be a starter and Schilling is a great starter. That’s how it works.”
Padilla, 22, has been strong out of the bullpen this season and the Diamondbacks had projected him as a possible starter in the future. He is 2-1 with a 2.31 ERA and could serve as closer for Philadelphia.
“If I could have acquired Curt Schilling for a rosin bag and a cracked fungo, that would have been the deal I would have made,” Garagiola said. “Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work that way.”
Figueroa, 26, considered Arizona’s best pitcher at Tucson, made a couple of appearances for the Diamondbacks this season. He was 0-2 with a 7.47 ERA for the Diamondbacks.
“We feel that we have improved our ballclub, improved the future of our ballclub,” Wade said. “I wish we could have done it without losing Curt Schilling, but obviously we couldn’t. If these guys come in and do what they’re capable of doing, we’re not very far from being where we want to be.”