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Sources: Rangers trade for Koji Uehara

7/30/2011

The Rangers agreed to a trade with the Orioles for 36-year-old Koji Uehara in exchange for infielder Chris Davis and right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter, according to sources. The deal, which includes $2 million in cash going to the Rangers, has not been announced by either club yet.

Uehara, who has closer experience, is making $3 million this season on a contract that includes a vesting option for $4 million for 2012 if Uehara pitches in 55 games. He’s already appeared in 43, so it looks likely that option would kick in barring injury.

He is 1-1 with a 1.72 ERA in 47 innings with the Orioles this season. Uehara has 62 strikeouts to only eight walks in that span. The right-hander has held left-handed batters to a .146 average, while righties aren’t doing much better at .171.

He has similar numbers home and away with his ERA higher on the road at 1.80 (it’s 1.67 at Camden Yards), but opponents are batting just .155 against him on the road (.151 at home).

Uehara had 13 saves in 2010 despite a two-month stint on the disabled list, so he can close games if needed.

He has thrown 7 1/3 innings against the Rangers’ AL West opponents this season and has allowed one run on three hits with nine strikeouts and no walks. He hasn’t faced the Rangers in 2011.

The trade, if it goes through, means the end of the Chris Davis era in Texas. The 25-year-old looked like the first baseman of the future when he came up in 208, batting .285 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs. But in 2009, his strikeout total jumped. He's in the record books as the player with the fewest number of at-bats to reach 100 Ks -- 219. By July, the Rangers decided to send him to Triple-A. He kept hitting there and got another shot in 2010, but batted .192 with one homer and four RBIs with 40 strikeouts in 120 at-bats and was sent down in April. That started the chain of events with Justin Smoak being promoted and eventually traded for Cliff Lee and Mitch Moreland taking over first base duties.

Hunter, who turned 25 earlier this month, was taken in the supplemental first round by the Rangers in 2007 (54th overall). He was 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA in 23 games (22 starts) for the Rangers in 2010 and was expected to start the season in the rotation until a strained groin forced him to the disabled list. By the time he returned, the Rangers’ rotation was set and Hunter was pitching out of the bullpen. He is 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA in 15 1/3 innings this season with the Rangers.