08/01/07 7:12 PM ET
Notes: Mahay sneaks into bullpen
Reliever included in Teixeira trade could provide big boost
By Jeff Lutz / MLB.com
With much attention given to headliners Mark Teixeira and Octavio Dotel, Mahay snuck quietly into Atlanta's clubhouse on Wednesday afternoon. Mahay came from Texas along with Teixeira for five Braves prospects.
"I'm a reliever," Mahay said. "Guys like me who don't close out games or start games, you're not going to hear much about us."
While not a marquee name such as his former Rangers teammate, Mahay will fill almost as big of a gap as Teixeira will in taking over first base.
The Braves haven't had a reliable left-handed setup reliever all season. Macay McBride was hit-and-miss before being traded in June to the Tigers. The player Atlanta got in the trade, Wil Ledezma, was supposed to take the role but struggled before being designated for assignment and traded on Tuesday to the Padres.
Mahay has had an ERA higher than 3.95 just once during the past four-plus seasons with the Rangers, and his effectiveness against left-handers is part of the reason Braves general manager John Schuerholz pushed hard for Texas to include Mahay in the deal.
"It's kind of a shock that we actually came here," Mahay said. "I kind of heard that we may come here, but I wasn't sure if it was going to happen. Then it finally did happen, and we were excited."
Mahay will likely be used to retire the tough left-handed hitters that populate the National League East, such as Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Carlos Delgado. But during his career, Mahay has established that he can fill many relief roles.
This season alone, Mahay has pitched at least an inning 17 times in 28 appearances, with three outings of three innings or more.
He's historically proven most effective against left-handers, who have a .235 career average against him, but this season lefties are batting .250, compared to a .224 clip for right-handers.
"I wasn't really a specialist where I was at," Mahay said. "I've always done both. I'll pitch maybe two innings or three innings, and I'll get everybody out. So here, it will be a little bit different."
Also different for Mahay will be the opportunity to possibly pitch in the playoffs. Mahay has never appeared in a postseason game and he has played for just one team since 2001 -- the 2004 Rangers -- who had a better record through 107 games than the Braves' current 56-51 mark.
"[The chance to reach the postseason] makes this that much more important," Mahay said.
He's got your number: Teixeira wore No. 23 with Texas, but had to switch to No. 24 with the Braves because his former number was occupied by outfielder Matt Diaz.
Teixeira said he will stick with 24 for the rest of the season and negotiate with Diaz to get his old number back during the offseason, with one potential exception.
"I'm going to keep 24 this year, and if we win a World Series, I'm not changing -- I'm not changing the number. But depending on what happens this year, maybe we'll talk about it in the offseason."
Diaz's conditions were a little more simple coming off Atlanta's 12-4 win over Houston on Tuesday night, when Teixeira showed up in uniform during the seventh inning.
"Tex," Diaz yelled across the clubhouse Tuesday, "if you give us 12 runs a night, you can have whatever you want."
Infield stars: Teixeira joins an infield that includes Kelly Johnson, Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones, and one that rivals the great infields he was a part of for the Rangers.
In 2003, Teixeira, Michael Young, Hank Blalock and Alex Rodriguez combined to hit 116 home runs. In 2004 and 2005, with Alfonso Soriano replacing Rodriguez, the group totaled 248 long balls.
Atlanta's infield doesn't have similar power, but everyone except Johnson, who is having his best offensive season, has been named an All-Star.
"I played on some good infields in Texas," Teixeira said. "This infield has that kind of talent, and probably even better, because we're all in the prime of our careers. We're all getting to the point where every single night one of us can step up and carry the team, and that's a great feeling to have."
Teixeira bats fourth: The Braves now have arguably the two most prolific switch-hitters in baseball hitting consecutively, with Teixeira in the No. 4 slot following Jones.
With Texas, Teixeira was used mostly in the No. 3 spot, where he is a career .301 hitter with 68 home runs and 246 RBIs in 1,173 at-bats. In 677 at-bats in the cleanup spot with the Rangers, Teixeira batted .267 with 41 homers and 117 RBIs.
He is a career .308 hitter against right-handed pitching while carrying a .274 mark against lefties.
"To me, we've got two MVPs hitting back-to-back," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "The entire eight, to me, is great. There aren't any easy outs."
Coming up: The Braves conclude their three-game series with Houston on Thursday night at 7:35 p.m. ET at Turner Field. Jo-Jo Reyes (0-1, 8.20 ERA) starts for the Braves against Woody Williams (5-12, 5.14).
Jeff Lutz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.