The White Sox gambled on Esteban Loaiza in 2003 and it worked out pretty well.
Reporting to spring training as a nonroster invitee, Loaiza not only won a job in the Sox' starting rotation, he went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA and finished second in Cy Young Award voting.
Traded to New York in July 2004 for Jose Contreras, Loaiza never recaptured the magic while bouncing from the Yankees to the Nationals to the A's to the Dodgers.
On Tuesday, the White Sox signed the 36-year-old pitcher to a contract worth the prorated major-league minimum, roughly $250,000.
To make room for Loaiza on the 25-man roster, the Sox optioned reliever Ehren Wasserman to Class AAA Charlotte. Loaiza takes his spot in the bullpen.
"Just protection,'' White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said of his latest Loaiza addition. "One thing that (manager) Ozzie (Guillen) and Coop (pitching coach Don Cooper) expressed to me a couple of weeks ago was a desire to maybe move Nick Masset into a little bit more prominent role in the back of the bullpen on days when (Scott) Linebrink or (Octavio) Dotel may not be available.
"We've obviously gained a lot of confidence in Nick's ability to get big outs and throw groundballs and get us double-play situations.''
Loaiza was 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA in seven games (3 starts) with the Dodgers this season before the Sox claimed him off waivers. The right-hander was in uniform Wednesday night against the Royals.
"My concern was the bullpen, the way we were using it,'' White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We've got to protect our pitchers the best we can. Loaiza can do both. He's going to be the long man and an emergency starter. That's the way we're going to start with him. That will give us an opportunity to use Masset more. Because the way Masset is pitching, I think we should use him a little bit more.''
Masset showed why he's so highly regarded against the Royals on Wednesday night. Entering the game in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs, Masset got John Buck on a called third strike while bailing out Sox starter John Danks.
Wasserman was 0-1 with a 14.85 ERA in 11 relief appearances for the Sox after opening the season in Charlotte.
"I'm going to try to go down there and get some work in,'' Wasserman said. "Do my best and get back here.''