03/17/09 5:57 PM ET
Brewers grab pitcher from Red Sox
Milwaukee claims reliever Littleton, drops Rule 5 pick Morlan
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
To make room for Littleton, a 26-year-old who has made 68 career relief appearances for the Texas Rangers, the Brewers designated Rule 5 pick Eduardo Morlan for assignment. Morlan, 23, posted a 6.43 ERA in five Cactus League appearances and it had become clear to club officials that he was not going to win a spot on the Opening Day roster.
At the same time he was designated for assignment, Morlan was exposed to waivers and concurrently offered back to Tampa Bay, per Rule 5 Draft rules. The Rays will have to decide Thursday morning whether they want him back.
If they do, the Rays owe the Brewers $25,000, or half of what Milwaukee paid to claim Morlan in December. If the Rays decline, or if the two teams work out a trade, a scenario Brewers general manager Doug Melvin has discussed with Tampa officials, according to assistant GM Gord Ash, Morlan could be assigned to one of Milwaukee's Minor League affiliates.
"It's an unusual circumstance because of the waiver claim," Ash said. "[Morlan] is really in a limbo period right now."
Said Brewers manager Ken Macha: "We like his stuff. It's just that we have other guys ahead of him right now."
Now Littleton joins the group of players vying for one or two openings in the bullpen. Assuming starter Braden Looper is able to recover from a rib-cage injury and Seth McClung starts the year in the bullpen, five spots are spoken for by McClung, closer Trevor Hoffman, right-handed setup men David Riske and Carlos Villanueva and the lone left-hander, Mitch Stetter.
The front-runner for one of the other two spots is right-hander Todd Coffey, whose nine scoreless appearances for the Brewers last September give him "the inside track," according to Macha. If Coffey makes the cut, then the lone remaining job could go to Mark DiFelice, Jorge Julio or Littleton.
"DiFelice in particular, he's been impressive," Macha said.
Littleton was not impressive in his Spring Training outings for Boston, allowing 11 earned runs and eight hits, including three home runs, in 5 1/3 innings over six appearances.
The Red Sox acquired him in an offseason trade with the Rangers, who drafted Littleton in 2003. He made 33 big league appearances in 2006 and 35 in 2007, then spent most of last season at Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he was 7-1 with a 4.01 ERA and six saves in 44 relief appearances.
Littleton was scheduled to travel to Phoenix on Wednesday and join the team Thursday morning. He is out of Minor League options."We'll give him a look, see what he's got," Macha said.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.