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Wick to Arizona!

Wickman added for stretch run

Reliever joins playoff push but ineligible for postseason


PHOENIX -- With bullpens across baseball tiring a bit in September, the D-backs added a reliable veteran to a 'pen that has been reliable all season. 

That experience comes in the form of longtime closer Bob Wickman, designated for assignment by Atlanta on Aug. 24, although he will not be eligible for the playoff roster. 

"We felt that Wickman could come in and help us and be the type of guy that could potentially pitch in relatively tight spots and help us finish these last 21 games," said general manager Josh Byrnes. "He's not eligible for the postseason roster, but obviously we feel like he improves our chances to get there." 

Wickman spent most of the year as the Braves closer, saving 20 games in 26 chances while posting a 3.92 ERA. 

Despite that experience, he will assume a role behind closer Jose Valverde and setup men Brandon Lyon and Tony Pena at the backend of the bullpen. 

"Another quality guy that can help set up, whether it's a guy we need to go to in the sixth inning," Melvin said. "We've seen some games that we've had that we haven't been able to get some of our late-inning guys in there earlier in the game. This is a guy that can be a second closer for us, say in the sixth inning. He can give Lyon a blow, he can give Pena a blow. He can give anybody a blow." 

Wickman said it could be tough at the beginning to adjust to that role after having his whole routine down in preparation for the ninth inning. 

"I just have to start everything a little bit earlier in my routine and be ready when he calls," Wickman said. 

Melvin said it would be nice to have a reliever who's pitched in every role out of the bullpen, a pitcher so experienced that he once called Melvin a teammate. 

Having known Melvin as a teammate and a bench coach in Milwaukee, Wickman contacted Arizona as well as a handful of other teams while returning to his home in Wisconsin, where he took seven days off before resuming throwing. Now he's in the heart of a playoff race once again. 

"It's great," he said. "I was with Atlanta, we were in the playoff race also. To finish off the season, I'm glad I get this opportunity to pitch in the playoff hunt. I'm just happy to get a chance. For a while I didn't know if I was going to get a chance to pitch again this year." 

Stay Tuned Warriors - Bob is back in the Game!

Braves playoff chase is history

By Mark Bradley | Sunday, September 2, 2007, 06:12 PM

It’s over now — the division race, the wild-card chase, everything. We know it and the Braves know it. Late Sunday afternoon Jeff Francoeur spoke of the immediate future in the professional way, saying, “We’re not giving up,” and “We’re still going to play hard.” Finally he offered something approaching a concession: “It was unbelievable with our record we were even in it.”

The Braves are 69-68. Since the beginning of the 2006 season they’re 148-151. It’s not a raging fluke they’ve fallen to pieces these last 18 days; the oddity is that it took so long. But on Sunday even the old reliable failed: The Braves and John Smoltz couldn’t beat the Mets and Tom Glavine and, as Smoltz allowed, “If we wanted any chance at all, any glimmer of hope, we had to win today.”

But they didn’t win once in this series. They managed an extra-base hit only in the 27th and last inning of the three-game set, and only then did they score a run on an actual hit. (Their first three runs of the weekend came on a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly and a groundout.) And that’s the story of the season: When at last the Braves stopped hitting, they had nothing else.

“The pitching’s been good basically all year,” Bobby Cox said Sunday in one of those Cox-isms you know even he doesn’t believe. The pitching hasn’t been good all year. Sixty percent of the rotation has been substandard, and inexorably the laggards dragged down the two horses. Smoltz and Tim Hudson both lost over the weekend, and this whole we’ve-still-got-a-shot thing was predicated on the assumption those two would never lose. Alas, even Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale couldn’t win ‘em all.

The Braves made the biggest move of any team at the trading deadline, landing Mark Teixeira and thereby rounding off what should be the National League’s best batting order. But you don’t win division titles with batting orders. (Ask the Phillies.) You win with rotations. (Ask the Braves of the 1990s.) For all the fuss made over Teixeira — team president Terry McGuirk fairly gushed, and two guys from Auburn wrote a funny little song — the cold truth is that the Braves are 14-17 since his arrival.

This team has sought for five months to find someone who could assume the duties of the long-suffering Mike Hampton, who hasn’t thrown a big-league pitch since July 2005 and on whom way too much importance was placed. Francoeur was still keeping the faith Sunday, saying, “If you think about next year, we’ll have Smoltz, Hudson and Hampton — three No. 1 guys.”

The 2007 season will be remembered as a fizzle because the Braves never found a No. 5 guy, let alone a No. 3 or a No. 4. They got further than they should have through the kindness of their opponents, but now the Mets and the Phillies and the Diamondbacks and the Padres have turned surly. And now it’s over on Labor Day weekend, the time when pennant races are supposed to begin; over because the team that once had all the pitching keeps waiting for Mike Hampton.

 

 Bobby Wick checks out okay

 
08/10/2007 6:22 PM ET - PHILADELPHIA -- With his mind at ease, Bob Wickman arrived at Citizens Bank Park early Friday evening and told Braves manager Bobby Cox that he's available to resume immediately his closing duties.

Because a canceled flight prevented him from making his scheduled visit to see doctors in Atlanta, Wickman visited a Philadelphia-area medical facility Friday afternoon and was relieved to find there isn't any structural damage in his right forearm. A CAT scan revealed that the discomfort he's felt over the past few weeks has been caused by some inflammation.

"It clears my mind," Wickman said. "I'm 38. You never know."

Despite battling the discomfort, Wickman has allowed just one run in the 9 1/3 innings he's pitched since the All-Star break. The only time he was unavailable during this span came on Thursday, when the Braves normally would have called upon him to help secure what became a nail-biting 7-6 win over the Mets.

For Friday's series opener against the Phillies, Cox said he'll definitely use Wickman if necessary. The veteran skipper will also be able to call upon Manny Acosta, who was recalled from Triple-A Richmond.

He won't, however, have Octavio Dotel, who landed on the 15-day DL with a a right shoulder strain.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

After arm scare, Bobzilla proceeds directly to Save #19

After nearly a week off battling painful arm inflammation, it was back to business for Wick in an important division game against Philly. His unusual splits show a huge 7.78 ERA on the road compared to a 0.00 ERA at home. The odds were against him coming back against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday night.

Entering a 7-5 ninth inning in Philadelphia, Bob gave a up a leadoff double to Coste before inducing a fly-ball out from Helms. 

The dangerous Jimmy Rollins, being very capable of tying the game, grounded out sharply to short before Tadahito Iguchi bounced one to short to end the game.

Despite undeserved criticism from fans and multiple challenges to his role as the Braves closer, Bob Wickman just keeps coming back. The relentless veteran continues to prove he's the team's best bet as he anchors his bullpen for what is shaping up to be a wild ride to the NL  pennant. J. Ladd 8/11/07

Great Save #259

Bobby Wick returns to the Jake

Wickster rebounds - Braves rally off of C.C. in the ninth for the win

CLEVELAND -- Coming off a demoralizing defeat and having just seen their most dominant reliever victimized by an eighth-inning homer, the Braves could have folded their tents. But as Braves manager Bobby Cox told his players at his regular pre-series meeting before Friday night's game at Jacobs Field, he never once got the sense that he was guiding a team that was willing to quit, despite all of the struggles that Atlanta has faced over the past month.

Less than 24 hours after watching Bob Wickman blow a two-run ninth-inning lead against the Twins, the Braves saw their closer return to his former park and finish off a potentially key 5-4 win over the Indians, who were foiled while giving C.C. Sabathia a chance to contribute a third straight nine-inning effort.

"Tonight, we made our comeback, and it was a great win against another great pitcher," said Cox, who saw his standout rookies, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Yunel Escobar, key a two-run ninth-inning comeback with doubles off Sabathia.

While snapping a three-game losing streak and winning for just the fourth time in their past 13 games, the Braves saw Buddy Carlyle's strong six-inning effort nearly foiled when Casey Blake began the bottom of the eighth with a homer off the usually stingy Rafael Soriano, who had allowed just one earned run in his past 21 appearances.

Soriano's hiccup brought back memories of Thursday night, when Wickman saw a 2-0 lead quickly turn into a 3-2 loss. But Saltalamacchia wasn't about to let the hangover of that loss prevent him from brightening his rising star. The 22-year-old top catching prospect, who was making his second career start at first base, began the ninth with a double off the left-field wall.

"Honestly, when I saw C.C. come back out, I had a feeling we were going to win," Saltalamacchia said. "In that situation, me personally, I think you've got to put your closer in and let him do the job."

Even after a Jhonny Peralta error and a Chris Woodward sacrifice bunt gave the Braves runners at second and third with just one out, Wedge stuck with Sabathia, whose night was truly ruined when Escobar delivered his game-winning two-run double to the left-center-field gap.

Entering the game, Sabathia hadn't allowed a run in his previous 18 innings. That scoreless streak was extended to 22 1/3 innings before Woodward snapped it with his fifth-inning RBI single. The Braves then began their game-tying two-run sixth with four straight singles against the big Indians starter, who was charged with five runs -- four earned -- and 12 hits in 8 1/3 innings.

"We've played great against two outstanding pitchers back-to-back," Cox said. "We had [Johan] Santana beat [Thursday] night and let it get away."

 Wickman, who was traded by the Indians to the Braves last July, shook off the effects of the bad luck he'd encountered in Minnesota on Thursday. With runners on first and second in the ninth, he ended things with a strikeout of Blake.

"It was fairly strange," said Blake, of facing his former teammate. I faced him in spring training and it was fun. This wasn't too much fun. "I should have known how he was going to pitch me. He won."

Bobby Wick's Brave Debut

Philadelphia — Bob Wickman didn't get a save in his Braves debut, but that was only because his new teammates had given him too much of a lead. Stymied by Brett Myers for eight innings, the Braves scored four times in the ninth, and Wickman wasn't about to let the lead slip away Sunday night.

Wickman, acquired Thursday from Cleveland, struck out Aaron Rowand looking, got David Bell to bounce out and retired pinch-hitter David Dellucci on a grounder in a perfect Braves debut. "He threw an awful lot of strikes and put it right on the corners really, really good," Cox said. "He's a tough competitor."

Wickman was 15-for-18 in save opportunities for the Indians, a big improvement over the Braves' dismal record of 20 saves in 40 opportunities. "That was a great feeling to have a guy like Wick coming in the game," Braves manager Bobby Cox said."There's a lot of season left. It's not over yet. I know where the Braves are in the wild card and a know where they are in the division."

 Asked how close he came to signing with the Braves during the winter, Wickman said, "It came to the last four hours."

The veteran closer was scheduled to come to Atlanta for a physical on Dec. 8, the day after Cleveland's deadline to re-sign him. Wickman never made it south. The Indians made an offer of $5 million for one year and the big right-hander took it. Family considerations played in a big part in his decision. "It is home. We've been there six years," said Wickman, who has children ages 9, 7 and 2. "The easier it is with the family, the easier it is for me to play."

But Wickman, 37, didn't say "no" to the Braves this time. He could have vetoed Thursday's deal as a player with 10 years in the majors and five with the same team. In fact, he did say "no" to a couple of earlier deals.

The Braves, though, were a team Wickman said he had always been interested in, and he wasn't going to miss another opportunity. He last pitched in the postseason in 2001. Braves have been there 14 consecutive years and just might make it back again. "It's a challenge," Wickman said of coming to the Braves. "Hopefully we can get into the playoffs.

Carrying his gear in an Indians travel bag, Wickman arrived in the Braves' clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park about 4:20 p.m. Friday and immediately began meeting his new teammates.

One of the biggest challenges for the Braves was finding a uniform to fit Wickman, who appears much heavier than his listed 240 pounds.When the Braves acquired Bob Wickman on Thursday, their clubhouse staff had to figure how they were going to dress the imposing veteran closer. Contrary to what was in the Indians media guide, he's about 5-foot-11 and weighs approximately 260 pounds. According to assistant clubhouse manager Fred Stone, who is serving as the club's representative on this trip, Wickman needed a size 56 jersey. The only way Stone was able to acquire such a jersey was to call Majestic Athletic and have one of their employees drive the jersey to Philadelphia.

Fortunately, Majestic is located in Bangor, Pa., which is approximately 90 minutes from Philadelphia. "If we were anywhere else, it might have been a problem," Stone said. In order to get Wickman his uniform pants, Stone was able to use an extra pair that had been made for Braves right-handed reliever Chad Paronto, who also has a healthy offensive lineman's frame.

Wickman admitted that it was "hard" leaving Cleveland, but he's finally made it to the Braves. "I'm ready to do whatever I can," he said.

                    

 Wickman's fans are real warriors

  
   The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    Published on: 08/13/06

Once Bob Wickman began converting save opportunities with the Atlanta Braves, the president of his Cleveland Indians fan club decided something else deserved converting and saving: the Wickman's Warriors Web site with the slogan "In Bob We Trust" and the "Bobzilla Zone."

At wickmanswarriors.com a fan can click on the Atlanta link to see pictures and stories about Wickman since his July 20 trade to the Braves.

"I'm going to try to get some people involved from down there to send some stuff in," said Joe Ladd, the club president. "My wish now is that Braves fans everywhere can use it to get to know what a fine ballplayer they have in Bob Wickman. He's one in a million."

Before the trade, there were more than 250 Warriors on the club roster, including four from the Atlanta area and a couple from England. Each paid $26 (for Wickman's former number) to the Cleveland Indians' Charities and got a T-shirt decorated with an eagle, two American flags and Local 26.

"Local 26 is a union thing," Ladd said. "We're a blue-collar town and I thought that fit."

Since Wickman changed his number with the Braves, the Atlanta page is "Local 28."

"Joe wouldn't let it end," Wickman said of the Web site. "He has too much pride in everything he's put together. All the money goes to Cleveland Indians' Charities, and we've made some pretty good money over the past few years for it."

Wickman's Warriors officially began in 2001. After Sept. 11, 2001, Ladd saw it as a novel way to raise funds for charity. The T-shirts were as much for Wickman as for the fans.

"He started up Wickman's Warriors because whoever makes up T-shirts for all the ballplayers would never make up a T-shirt for me," said Wickman.

Why not? "I wasn't one of the big boys on the team," Wickman said. "Whoever was in charge of that I think dropped the ball."

But Ladd was there to pick it up. Before starting the club, the 44-year-old postal worker sought permission from Wickman and the Indians, something he didn't have to do but which earned Wickman's participation.

Club members sent in photos and anecdotes for posting on the site. On a couple of group outings to the ballpark, about 40 of them sat in the "Warrior's Den" in the bleachers.

"He's an icon in Cleveland, from what I understand," Braves pitcher John Smoltz said. "I think they like the way that he is who he is, his appearance and he just goes after hitters."

Ladd said that when "the trade first hit, it kind of sucker-punched me," but he acknowledges that it was best for Wickman, who had veto power. When the trade caused the burly closer to miss a scheduled appearance at a luncheon at the Winking Lizard, "We were all so bummed out," Ladd said, "it turned into a big therapy session instead of a luncheon."

Ladd met Wickman soon after he was traded from the Brewers to the Indians in 2000.

"I said, 'Hey, Wickman,' and I wave to him, and he comes running from halfway across the field and shaking our hands and talking to us," Ladd said. "We struck up a friendship from there."

Ladd drove two hours to Pittsburgh to see Wickman pick up save No. 4 with the Braves and said Wickman was surprised to see him before the game. He also paid $130 for a half-season television package and may come to Atlanta for a game since his brother Lou lives in Doraville.

"He's jumping up and down; he's excited because they finally got a closer," Ladd said. "I'm crying in my beer over here: You got my guy."

Cleveland fans click here for in-depth coverage of  Bob's years with the Indians as well as his entire MLB career