Nationals Acquire Maui’s Suzuki From Oakland

August 3, 2012, 10:56 AM HST · Updated August 3, 1:16 PM
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Maui’s Kurt Suzuki, catcher with the Oakland Athletics, was acquired by the Washington Nationals on Friday. AP File photo.

By Rodney S. Yap

According to the Associated Press, former Baldwin High School standout and Oakland Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki has been dealt to the Washington Nationals in exchange for minor-league catcher David Freitas on Friday.

The 28-year-old Suzuki was batting .218 with a home run and 18 RBIs for Oakland. Washington Nationals’ Manager Davey Johnson said he expects Suzuki to report in time for Saturday’s home game against the Miami Marlins.

Ironically, fellow Mauian Shane Victorino was traded earlier this week from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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Washington wanted to shore up its catching spot after the mid-May loss of Wilson Ramos with a torn ACL. Jesus Flores has been the starting catcher, though Johnson referred to Suzuki as “a No. 1 catcher.”

With the move the Nationals have reunited Suzuki with pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who was traded from the A’s to the Nationals in December and received both lefty starting pitcher Tommy Milone and catcher-of-the-future Derek Norris. With Suzuki struggling at the plate, he was demoted for the first time in his five-year career.

Now, Suzuki will get to catch the All-Star Gonzalez again, across the country in the NL.

Only hours after the the deal became official, Gonzalez (@GioGonzalez47) tweeted: “Reunited & together again ♪. Welcome to The Nation’s Capital @kurtsuzuki here is to new beginnings.”

In a report by San Jose Mercury News, Oakland general manager Billy Beane said when Norris was promoted this spring it didn’t necessarily mean Suzuki would be on the trading block. Everybody expected him to be gone soon, however.

“It’s a chance for us to move forward with Derek and a chance for Zuk to play every day somewhere else,” A’s assistant general manager David Forst said.

When Nationals’ General Manager Mike Rizzo brought up Suzuki to Johnson, the manager enthusiastically endorsed the acquisition.

“I said, ‘Man, that would definitely bolster our catching corps,” said Johnson, who managed Suzuki in a 2006 US Olympic qualifying tournament.

Suzuki will be under team control in 2013.

“He’s in the Gold Glove conversation each and every year,” Rizzo said. “He’s not a rental. He’s going to be here for more than this season.”

Besides Ramos, backup Jhonatan Solano (oblique) is on the disabled list. The Nationals’ current backup is Sandy Leon, who was recalled from Double-A Harrisburg.

Flores had surgery on his right shoulder in September 2009, and missed the following season. He’s batting .225 with three home runs and 18 RBIs. Flores has thrown out just five of the 48 runners who’ve tried to steal on him. Suzuki has thrown out 38% of runners this season.

“Flo is still having some problems. He’s not back to where he was,” Johnson said.

Freitas was batting .271 for Class-A Potomac.

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