Marlins find new closer in Julio
Florida sends Petit to Arizona; Mitre to be No. 5 starter
JUPITER, Fla. -- A search that began since the end of last season has been addressed exactly one week before Opening Day.
The Marlins filled their biggest priority Monday afternoon by acquiring Jorge Julio from the Diamondbacks and cash for Yusmeiro Petit.
Immediately, Julio has been tabbed as the closer.
"He is our closer," Marlins general manager Larry Beinfest said moments after the trade was announced. "Obviously, he has experience doing the job. We love the arm, we have for a few years."
The Marlins are hoping that Julio continues the string of good luck the club has had with veterans who excel in South Florida.
Over the previous three years, the Marlins have signed veteran free agents who came through in their lone year in Florida. Armando Benitez saved a team-record 47 games in 2004, while Todd Jones saved 40 in '05 and Joe Borowski collected 36 saves a year ago.
All three parlayed their one season into nice pay raises elsewhere. Julio, who will be a free agent next year, has 99 saves in a career that began in 2001.
The Marlins had some interest in Julio back in 2005, while the right-hander was with the Orioles. Near the July 31 trade deadline, conversations were going on regarding sending A.J. Burnett to Baltimore. Julio was believed to be part of the package, but a deal was never made.
Along with the Marlins, the Diamondbacks were considering other options for Julio. A few days ago, a league source said one possible deal involved Julio going to the Cardinals for right-hander Tyler Johnson.
Julio has 345 strikeouts in 357 2/3 innings. The hard-throwing right-hander has been on the Marlins' radar for much of Spring Training.
The club had been determined to find someone with closer experience and Julio became its primary option. Trade speculation picked up about a week ago, but there was a sticking point over how much of the $3.6 million the Marlins would pick up.
"The name has been out there for awhile," Beinfest said. "We've had sporadic conversations. We were pretty up front we were in the closer market. We talked to a number of teams. We've talked about a number of closers and we've talked about him for quite some time."
The Marlins also had lesser interest in bringing back Benitez, who is throwing well in San Francisco.
"Watching him this spring, we thought it was the right thing to do, given the composition of the bullpen, to bring in the experience, a guy who has closed, and push some other components back in the 'pen," Beinfest said.
Julio is expected to be in uniform on Wednesday.
Before acquiring Julio, the internal closing candidates were Matt Lindstrom, Henry Owens, Kevin Gregg and Randy Messenger.
Lefty Taylor Tankersley may open the season on the disabled list retroactive to March 23. He will factor into the late-inning mix, when he's ready.
While Gregg has 125 games of big-league experience, he has one big league save. Tankersley has three.
Lindstrom hasn't pitched above Double-A, and Owens has three games of big-league experience.
So the combined number of saves of the relievers most likely to make the club is four.
"I think it's good for me, because I want to do my job, which is closing over there," Julio said. "So it's a good opportunity for me right now. I was happy to stay here, but I need my role."
The 22-year-old Petit was in contention for the fifth starter spot, which now is going to Sergio Mitre.
The Marlins obtained Petit from the Mets after the 2005 season as part of the Carlos Delgado trade.
A year ago, Petit had 81 days of service time, being used mostly in long relief. He appeared in 15 games with one start, and was 1-1 with a 9.57 ERA.
At Triple-A Albuquerque, Petit was 4-6 with a 4.28 ERA in 17 games.
For more than a week, Petit was aware his name was part of trade talks.
"That's all right, it's a business," Petit said. "Over there, there is a little more opportunity."
Both Petit and Julio are from Venezuela. And Julio said friends from his native country kept asking him about the trade talks.
"All the time, the media guys and people from Venezuela and my friends were saying, 'What is happening with you? The Marlins want you.' Whatever happened was fine for me," Julio said. "I was working hard, and I wanted to pitch."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.