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A Trio of AL East Bullpen Moves and Non-Moves

Red Sox sign Joe Nelson

This marks the third time Nelson and the Red Sox have came together on a deal. Nelson actually pitched in three games for the Red Sox in 2004, before shuffling off to Kansas City, Florida and, most recently, Tampa Bay. He is best known as the master of the Vulcan change – think an extreme split-finger grip – and perhaps the funniest reliever in the game:

6. Have you ever played as yourself on a video game?
JN: Yes! Didn’t do well, either. I’m not good at video games, but I think it’s MLB 2002 was the first time — it was the one with Derek Jeter on the cover, and somebody called me and said, “Dude, you’re in this game.” I ran over to their place and I was like, “I wanna pitch with myself.” First ball I threw, I threw for a strike. Then, when you’re not very good — A, I’m not very good, but B, they didn’t make my character very good — I got tired after like three pitches and started getting hit around the ballpark. I’m like, “This is a really realistic game!” But yeah, I did it once. Other people have called me and yelled at me, said, “Your guy is not very good in this game!” I know. Sometimes I trick ’em, sometimes I don’t.

Nelson struggled in 40 innings with the Rays. 12% of the fly balls he allowed went over the fence and he frequently lost the strike zone, even in the minors. Nelson also lost some zip on his already somber fastball. Guys with history of arm injuries are always wild cards and Nelson is no different. On a minor league deal, though, it’s hard to find fault in the depth.

Rays claim Mike Ekstrom off waivers

Formerly of the Padres, and formerly a starter, Ekstrom spent most of 2009 in between Portland and San Diego’s bullpens. He pitched well in the minors and has some traits that could be useful in a middle relief role. He’s a short righty (5’11”) with a low-90s fastball and pretty decent slider that leads to groundballs – over 50% in the minors and just shy of 50% in a small sample size of 28 MLB innings. Even Chad Harville racked up 175 appearances with similar traits, so there’s hope yet.

Orioles retain Dennis Sarfate

He’s one of those guys that is older than you think (turns 29 in two months) and is already with his third organization since 2006. He throws hard though and generally that’s enough for someone to lay claim.