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Friday, July 28
Indians trade Sexson to Brewers for Woodard, Sele and Wickman

CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- The pitching-starved Cleveland Indians made a bold attempt to get back into the pennant race today, obtaining three pitchers, including All-Star reliever Bob Wickman, from the Milwaukee Brewers in a seven-player deal.

The Indians acquired Wickman and fellow righthanders Steve Woodard and Jason Bere from the Brewers for four players, including slugging outfielder Richie Sexson. Milwaukee also received rookie righthanders Paul Rigdon and Kane Davis and a player to be named.

The Indians (41-38) have won the American League Central Division each of the last five seasons, but are 10 games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox. Cleveland is also one of many teams in wild card contention, and is currently three games behind front-running Oakland.

"There are issues when if you don't make a move you don't have a chance," Indians general manager John Hart said. "This gives us a chance to play meaningful games in August and September, and that's what we promise to our fans."

The Indians have been ravaged by injuries all season, and starters Charles Nagy and Jaret Wright remain on the disabled list. As a result, the Indians have used 27 pitchers, two short of the major league record set by the California Angels in 1996.

That record will soon belong to the Tribe, with Woodard and Bere expected to immediately join the rotation and Wickman taking over the job of closer from Steve Karsay, who returns to middle relief.

"To make one trade and replenish 30 percent of our pitching staff is a good deal for us," Hart said.

The Indians also shifted pitcher Charles Nagy from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list and Hart indicated that he does not expect the pitcher back "in the near future."

Wickman, a 31-year-old righthander who was named to the National League All-Star team, is 2-2 with a 2.93 ERA and 16 saves in 43 games, all in relief.

Wickman owns a 52-39 career record with a 3.77 ERA and 90 saves in 495 games. He is signed through 2001 and will earn $2.4 million this year.

Acquired from the New York Yankees in 1996, Wickman recorded 79 saves with Milwaukee.

Bere, 29, is 6-7 with a 4.93 ERA in 20 starts this season. He also has pitched for the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati and owns a 53-41 record with a 5.18 ERA. He was an All-Star for the White Sox in 1993.

Bere was scheduled to pitch for the Brewers tonight against Colorado and will instead pitch for the Indians Saturday at Baltimore. Woodard will make his Cleveland debut Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Woodward, 25, is 1-7 with a 5.96 ERA in 27 games and 11 starts. Both Bere and Woodard are signed through this season, with Bere making the most at $800,000 and Woodard $350,000.

"We've gotten a little younger," Milwaukee general manager Dean Taylor said. "We did save some salary, but this was a baseball deal."

Sexson, 25, is hitting .256 with 16 homers and 44 RBI for the Indians. His name has often come up in trade talks, but the Indians were reluctant to part with him until today.

"We're proud to have developed a quality young player," Hart said of Sexson.

Sexson was the centerpiece of the Indians' second major trade in as many months. In late June, the Tribe sent outfielder David Justice to the New York Yankees in a deal that brought outfielder Ricky Ledee to Cleveland.

Sexson came up as a first baseman, but was moved to the outfield with Jim Thome already entrenched at the position. Last season, Sexson hit 31 homers and drove in 116 runs.

"We think he has a very high ceiling," Milwaukee manager Davey Lopes said. "He wasn't playing every day there, but I believe first base also is his natural position."

The acquisition of Sexson provides insurance for the Brewers should they lose Jeromy Burnitz, who is signed through 2001 but has refused to negotiate a long-term deal.

Rigdon, 24, spent most of the year at Class AAA Buffalo of the International League and was 6-1 with a 3.30 ERA in 12 starts. He was 1-1 with a 7.64 ERA in five games and four starts for the Indians earlier this year. Rigdon will start for the Brewers on Saturday night against Colorado.

Davis, 25, was 0-3 with a 14.73 ERA in five games for the Indians. He was 2-0 with a 4.20 ERA in six games at Buffalo.

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