By Jack Magruder, Tribune
December 13, 2006
In an attempt to further upgrade their pitching staff, the Diamondbacks are in trade discussions with Texas for reliever Akinori Otsuka, major league sources said Wednesday.
Otsuka, 34, made a successful transition from setup man to closer in his first season with the Rangers in 2006.
He would challenge inconsistent incumbent Jose Valverde for that job with the D-Backs.
Texas, seeking young starting pitching, inquired about Triple-A right-handers Dustin Nippert and Micah Owings at the winter meetings and is believed to have interest in right-hander Enrique Gonzalez.
But the sticking point appears to be what the Rangers will take in return.
All three young D-Backs are considered candidates for the Nos. 4-5 spots in the starting rotation behind NL Cy Young winner Brandon Webb, Livan Hernandez and Doug Davis, who was obtained in a six-player deal with Milwaukee in late November to bolster the rotation.
Otsuka had 32 saves and a 2.11 ERA despite not getting his first save chance until April 29 last season.
Otsuka had 137 saves in seven seasons in the Japanese League, six with the Kintetsu Buffaloes, before being signed in 2004 by San Diego.
He was 7-2 with the Padres with a 1.75 ERA and finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Meanwhile, the D-Backs have hired former major league outfielder Joel Youngblood as the hitting coach for Triple-A Tucson.
He replaces Lorenzo Bundy, who accepted a job to manage the Dodgers' Triple-A Las Vegas affiliate.