MYRTLE BEACH, SC - Every July 31st, Major League Baseball's trade deadline brings the culmination of a summer's worth of rumors, secret negotiations and not-so-secret negotiations. This week's flurry of trades impacted former Pelicans young and old. Two Birds from the original 1999 season were dealt over the weekend and a pair of aces from this summer was in a blockbuster as well.
Left-hander Robbie Erlin and righty Joe Wieland, two of Myrtle Beach's pitching stars this season, were traded by the Texas Rangers to the San Diego Padres on Sunday in exchange for standout set-up man Mike Adams. The move bolsters the Rangers' bullpen, putting Adams in the late innings with the newly acquired Koji Uehara and closer Neftali Feliz.
In the first half of the 2011 season, Erlin and Wieland anchored the Pelicans' rotation, baffled Carolina League hitters and helped lead the Birds to the first-half Southern Division title and postseason berth. Erlin, the fourth-ranked Rangers prospect according to Baseball America, went 3-2 in nine starts with a miniscule 2.14 ERA before earning a promotion to Double-A Frisco on May 27. At the time of his call-up, Erlin led the league in strikeouts (62), WHIP (0.55), opponent batting average (.132) and baserunners per nine innings (5.32).
Wieland posted a 2.10 ERA and a 6-3 mark in 14 games with the Pelicans in the first half and made the Carolina League All-Star team. In his time on the Grand Strand, the righty walked four batters in 85 and two-thirds innings, giving him the best ratio in all of minor league baseball. His last time on the mound for the Pelicans was the first-half clincher on June 17 against Frederick.
After the All-Star Game, Wieland was sent up to Double-A Frisco on June 25. BA's 22nd-ranked Texas prospect still leads the loop in ERA and WHIP (0.96) and had been excelling in the Texas League before Sunday's deal. He was 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA in seven starts for the RoughRiders, the last was a magical night in San Antonio on Friday. Wieland pitched a no-hitter against the Missions, one of minor league baseball's best teams, for the fourth no-no in Frisco franchise history.
The two aces move on to a rebuilding Padres club that might give them a chance in the majors sooner than the Rangers would have. They weren't the only former Pelicans on the move on July's final day.
Myrtle Beach's former parent club made a big splash on Sunday, as the Atlanta Braves acquired All-Star and two-time Gold Glover Michael Bourn from the Houston Astros. In exchange for the speedy center fielder, the Astros picked up four former Pelicans, Jordan Schafer and three hurlers from last year's squad, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu.
Schafer had a great 2007 season in Myrtle Beach as he hit .294 to rank fourth in the CL in batting average. He reached the big leagues with Atlanta in 2009 and spent the last two months with the Braves prior to the deal. Oberholtzer, a southpaw, went 6-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 22 games last year with the Birds and entered 2011 as BA's ninth-ranked Braves prospect. Clemens and Abreu, righties who were ranked 26th and 27th in the Braves' system respectively, both worked out of the bullpen for Myrtle Beach in 2010.
Rafael Furcal burst onto the scene in Myrtle Beach in the Pelicans' inaugural season of 1999. The shortstop hit over .400 in his first month with the Birds and helped lead the club to a Carolina League co-championship. The next season, Furcal moved up to the Atlanta Braves and won National League Rookie of the Year honors. He was the first Pelican in team history to have his jersey number (#2) retired.
Furcal was also moved at the deadline from the floundering Los Angeles Dodgers to the St. Louis Cardinals for minor league outfielder Alex Castellanos. The Redbirds are in a four-team race in the National League Central with the Milwaukee Brewers, rival Cincinnati Reds and surprising Pittsburgh Pirates, and perhaps their pick-up of the former Pelican can give them the push they need.
Furcal's Grand Strand teammate in 1999, Jason Marquis, has enjoyed a solid 12-year career in the bigs after a dominant stint in Myrtle Beach. The right-hander started the first game in Pelicans history, an 8-0 win in Frederick on April 10, 1999. He was brilliant in six starts for the Birds, going 3-0 while allowing only one earned run in 32 innings (0.28 ERA).
Marquis has won 104 games in the major leagues for five teams and is moving on to a sixth. On Saturday he was traded from the Washington Nationals to the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league infielder Zach Walters. The D-Backs are making a charge to try and catch the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
Another former Pelican, Wilson Betemit was traded earlier this month. Betemit, who batted .277 for Myrtle Beach in 2001 on his way to the majors, was dealt by the Kansas City Royals to the American League Central-leading Detroit Tigers on July 20 for catcher Julio Rodriguez and southpaw Antonio Cruz.
The wheeling and dealing of late July is an exciting yearly baseball tradition. The busy 2011 trade deadline proved to have an effect on several former Myrtle Beach players. After they served the Pelicans well, here's wishing them the best with their new clubs.
After a leaguewide off day on Monday, the Pelicans visit the Kinston Indians, losers of seven straight, for three games at Grainger Stadium starting Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. The Birds return to Myrtle Beach for a six-game homestand starting Friday, August 5 with the first of three against the resurgent Potomac Nationals. After the weekend set with the P-Nats, the Northern Division first-half champion Frederick Keys visit the Grand Strand Monday, August 8 to Wednesday, August 10.
Tickets for the homestand and all other Pelicans home games can be purchased by visiting the BB&T Coastal Field Box office, the Tickets page at MyrtleBeachPelicans.com, or by calling (843)918-6000 or (877)918-TIXX.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.