Print and Go Back Baseball [Print without images]

Sunday, April 1, 2007
Giants send Ellison to Mariners for minor leaguer

Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Jason Ellison is going home, and the San Francisco Giants parted ways with the popular outfielder Sunday in the best possible way: dealing him to the Seattle Mariners.

Jason Ellison
Travis Blackley

San Francisco acquired left-hander Travis Blackley in the trade and assigned him to Triple-A Fresno to start the season.

"I'm actually extremely excited about it," said Ellison, who lives only about 20 minutes from the ballpark in Issaquah, Wash., during the offseason and played at South Kitsap High School in Port Orchard. "My childhood dream was to be a Mariner. Hopefully it's a good opportunity for me."

Ellison, who turns 29 on Wednesday, will be on the Mariners' 25-man roster and should have quite a contingent of fans for Monday's opener at Safeco Field against the Oakland Athletics. Some even joked he might be able to catch a ride on Oakland's charter plane after the A's hosted the Giants in the final exhibition game for both clubs Sunday afternoon.

Ellison was called into the clubhouse by manager Bruce Bochy less than an hour before the game. The Giants' decision came down to keeping Ellison or backup first baseman Lance Niekro after the club placed outfielder-first baseman Mark Sweeney on the disabled list earlier Sunday with a bruised right foot. The Sweeney move is retroactive to Thursday, one day after he fouled a ball off his foot. Sweeney, who said his injury isn't serious, had been considered the odd man out.

"It's pretty positive," said Ellison, who was waiting to talk to the Mariners. "I'm glad to be in this situation and get a chance to play."

Ellison helped his cause by hitting .390 with five doubles and nine RBIs in 25 spring games, drawing nine walks, stealing two bases and scoring 14 runs.

When Niekro saw Ellison get called off the field during batting practice, he figured Ellison had been traded. There were a handful of teams interested in the speedy Ellison, who can be a threat on the basepaths with his athleticism.

For Niekro, the Giants' second-round draft pick in 2000, making the club completed a whirlwind six months since the season ended that included the sudden death of his former major leaguer father, Joe, on Oct. 27 of a brain aneurysm at age 61.

"I definitely didn't know what was going to happen," said the 28-year-old Niekro, who struggled last season after starting at first base on opening day. "The odds were stacked against me coming into spring. I made their decision hard. This is where I wanted to be. I went out there and stayed healthy and hit the ball well."

Niekro was optioned to Triple-A Fresno in mid-July and has been on the disabled list three times over the past two years. His most recent trip to the DL was with a strained groin. He was hitting .362 with three homers and 10 RBIs this spring heading into Sunday's game.

Ellison batted .222 with two home runs and four RBIs in just 81 at-bats last season, playing in 84 games primarily as a late-game defensive replacement. His career-best season was in 2005 with San Francisco, when he appeared in 131 games and batted .264.

Blackley, a 24-year-old native of Australia, started 25 games at Double-A San Antonio and two at Triple-A Tacoma last season. The one-time top Seattle prospect missed all of 2005 after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

Blackley appeared in just two games during spring training for the Mariners and allowed four earned runs in 2 1/3 innings.