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Cubs deal Ohman, Infante to Braves for pitching prospect
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Staff

Cubs pitcher Will Ohman was traded today with Omar Infante to the Atlanta Braves for minor-league pitching relief-prospect Jose Ascanio.


Ed Lee | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/4/2007 10:53 AM | Updated: 12/4/2007 5:58 PM

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Cubs insist it was nothing Will Ohman said that got him traded.

Nevertheless, general manager Jim Hendry sent the garrulous left-handed reliever packing Tuesday, packaging him and recently acquired infielder Omar Infante to the Atlanta Braves for minor-league reliever Jose Ascanio.

"It kind of came together quickly," Hendry said. "We had been getting quite a bit of interest on Will and actually met for the first time with (Braves GM) Frank Wren late (Monday) night about 10:30, 11 o'clock. In the past, they've expressed interest in Will.

"I didn't know what direction at first we were going to go with it, but Frank informed me today also they had some interest in Infante when Detroit had traded him to us."

The 30-year-old Ohman, a 1998 draft choice of the Cubs, got himself into the organization's bad graces in August, when he was optioned to Class AAA Iowa. On his way out, he told reporters his left shoulder had been "barking."

Later that week, Ohman went on WSCR radio in Chicago and said the medical staff and trainers knew about the injury, but that manager Lou Piniella was not told.

Everybody from the front office to the trainers to Ohman's teammates felt Ohman had done the trainers an injustice. Ohman was part of the Cubs' September call-ups, but he maintained a quiet presence in the clubhouse the rest of the season.

"Will came back and handled himself very well," Hendry said. "I think he rectified the situation in good fashion. Look, we've had Will 10 years. Everybody has their good days and bad. Will's a good major-league pitcher."

Ohman was 2-4 with a 4.95 ERA this year. He has undergone three elbow operations, missing the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

The Cubs believe they are getting a good prospect with Ascanio, and sources in Atlanta say his ceiling is high.

Ascanio pitched in 13 games for the Braves this year, going 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA. In 16 innings, he gave up 17 hits with 6 walks and 13 strikeouts.

At Class AA Mississippi, his numbers were impressive. Ascanio was 2-2 with a 2.54 in 44 games, all but 1 in relief. He pitched 78 innings, giving up 66 hits while walking just 18 and striking out 71.

"Our scouting department has had outstanding reports on Ascanio for a couple of years," Hendry said. "He's got up to 95-97 (mph on his fastball) for three different scouts of ours this last summer. We felt he could be a strong candidate coming into camp and compete for a job in the pen. He gives you flexibility. He can give you more than 1 inning."

Infante was one of many middle infielders the Cubs had stockpiled. They acquired him in a trade with the Tigers for outfielder Jacque Jones on Nov. 12.

The trade leaves the Cubs with Scott Eyre as the lone lefty in the bullpen, but they have Carmen Pignatiello and Neal Cotts in the system. Cotts wound up in Iowa after a rough start to the 2007 season, and Pignatiello appeared in 4 games this year.

"I have no problem going to camp with what we have," Hendry said. "We won't actively pursue any left-handers in free agency. If along the path, via trade, somebody happens to have somebody you might target in a deal or expand a deal, you wouldn't mind having another one."