Brewers acquire Dessens for Clark

Brewers acquire Dessens for Clark

PHOENIX -- The Brewers eased their outfield logjam and added a bullpen arm on Monday, trading Brady Clark, their Opening Day center fielder in each of the previous two seasons, to the Dodgers for right-handed veteran Elmer Dessens.

Clark, 33, is due $3.8 million this season in the final season of a two-year deal. Dessens is due $1.7 million, and the Brewers sent cash to Los Angeles to "financially balance the deal," according to Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin, who declined to give the numbers.

"We've had some of our bullpen guys step up in the last few days, but this gives us an experienced arm out there for long relief," said Melvin, who compared Dessens' projected role to that of Dave Burba's from 2003-2004 and what the Brewers had hoped from Rick Helling last season before injuries knocked Helling out.

"Sometimes that [long relief] role can get in a young guy's head," Melvin said. "I think it's good to have a guy like Dessens, who ... has experience. He knows how to pitch and he's been durable throughout his career."

Melvin said he still expects 23-year-old Carlos Villanueva to make the Brewers' Opening Day roster. A number of other relievers had struggled this spring for the Brewers, who had a 5.87 staff ERA entering Monday's game in Tucson, second-worst of National League clubs.

The GM also said the Brewers are leaning toward keeping 12 pitchers on the Opening Day roster instead of 11.

Clark batted .306 in a breakthrough 2005 season as the Brewers center fielder and leadoff man but lost both jobs in 2006, when Clark hit .263 in 138 games. Had he made the '07 Brewers roster, it would have been as a backup outfielder.

The Dodgers had a hole in their outfield since Jason Repko sustained a hamstring strain last week.

"We all expected something to happen," Clark said, referring to his Brewers outfield mates. "With what happened [Sunday], where I was in uniform but didn't play, and then was off today, I figured something was in the works. I'm excited about it. In terms of playing time, I'm going to be better off. I want to play."

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Instead of traveling all the way to the Dodgers' spring home in Florida, Clark will head straight to Los Angeles. The Dodgers are scheduled to play a pair of exhibitions against the Angels this weekend.

Of his new teammates, Clark is most familiar with infielder Nomar Garciaparra. The two used to work out at the same Tempe, Ariz., gym. It also helps that he was traded to a contender.

"That's what I am most excited about," Clark said. "With the pitching staff they have, and what they did last year, they're going to be a contender right off the bat."

Ironically, Clark will start the regular season in Milwaukee. The Dodgers will be in town from April 2-4 for the season-opening series.

"I loved my time with Milwaukee and I think it's a great town," said Clark, who will be a free agent after this season. "It would be a place I would definitely consider coming back to."

Clark's departure bodes well for Tony Gwynn, Jr.'s chances of making the team, Melvin acknowledged. The Brewers are still trying to decide whether to keep an extra outfielder beyond Gabe Gross, Bill Hall, Corey Hart, Geoff Jenkins and Kevin Mench, or to stick with an extra catcher. Mike Rivera, who is out of options, and the versatile Vinny Rottino are candidates for the latter option.

Dessens, 36, owns a career record of 46-59 with a 4.41 ERA in 339 appearances over 10 seasons with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Arizona, Kansas City and Los Angeles. He went 5-8 with a 4.56 ERA and two saves in 62 relief appearances between Kansas City and Los Angeles last season.

"Just give me the ball and I'll do the best that I can," Dessens said. "If that means long relief, that's fine with me. I'm glad I got traded to a good team."

Dessens was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in six relief appearances this spring. His flight from Florida to Arizona is scheduled to arrive at about 9:30 a.m. MT on Tuesday, and he planned to meet his new teammates at Maryvale Baseball Park later in the morning. He will wear uniform No. 45.

Also on Monday, the Brewers got right-hander Marino Salas through waivers and outrighted him to Double-A Huntsville. They have 37 players on the 40-man roster.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.