Looking for an upgrade at third base as they make a push for the playoffs, the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Casey Blake from the Cleveland Indians for two minor leaguers Saturday.
The Indians, who also sent cash to the Dodgers as part of the trade, received catcher Carlos Santana and right-hander Jonathan Meloan.
The versatile Blake was in Los Angeles' starting lineup Saturday night against Washington, playing third base and batting sixth.
"He's the type of player I think that can help this ballclub," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "We're not necessary looking for some blockbuster move, but a piece that can really add to what we're trying to do. And the more people you can acquire that have the work ethic that he does, I think it's got to be a positive."
The Dodgers (50-52) have been looking for a dependable bat for weeks, and Blake's name first came up when they were in trade talks with the Indians for ace CC Sabathia, who was dealt to Milwaukee.
"There were quite a few rumors out there," said Blake, playing for his fifth big league club and first in the National League. "Nothing like this has ever happened to me, so it's all a new experience. A lot of emotions hit me at once and I didn't really have a lot of time to let any of them soak in. I kind of got anxious real quick."
This was the first time Blake has been traded since making his major league debut with Toronto in 1999. He was claimed off waivers three times, eventually signing with the Indians in December 2002 after stints with the Blue Jays, Orioles and Twins.
"It's kind of tough because I'm not mentally attached to this team yet, but hopefully it won't take long to get to know these guys," Blake said. "I played against them a month ago, and you could tell they seem like a great bunch of guys and a great team. They should win this division. You couldn't ask for a better situation."
Los Angeles began the night one game behind first-place Arizona in the NL West. Blake, who has also played right and left field, is expected to play third exclusively for now because the Dodgers haven't gotten what they needed from rookies Andy LaRoche and Blake DeWitt at that position.
DeWitt was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to make room for Blake.
"I like the idea that Casey does play a number of positions," Torre said. "But right now we're just thinking third base, knowing that whatever future decisions we make will be based on his versatility. I watched him for a number of years when I was over in the other league. He was a guy who gave them a tough out, especially in key situations, and he's got a grinding attitude."
Blake, who turns 35 on Aug. 23, is batting .289 with 11 homers and 58 RBIs, and he has been Cleveland's most clutch player, hitting .398 with runners in scoring position. He was batting only .234 through the end of May, but is hitting .352 in 45 games since then with 29 RBIs.
"I've had a pretty good approach for a couple of months now," Blake said.
During the three-game interleague series the Indians played at Dodger Stadium from June 20-22, Blake had an RBI in each game and was 4-for-13.
"Casey Blake is a gamer," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "His experience and character will be a plus as we head down the stretch."
When Sabathia was traded, Blake moved into the left-hander's old locker in Cleveland's clubhouse. Now, he's on the move.
Blake played the infield and outfield for the disappointing Indians. He struggled at the plate with runners in scoring position last year, batting just .190 and was often a target of Indians fans, who never seemed to appreciate his all-around value.
This year, Blake was one of Cleveland's most reliable players. He signed a $6.1 million contract at the start of the season, and the Iowa native has said he would like to finish his career with the Indians.
Shapiro said the Indians are assuming a sizable portion of what remains of Blake's salary this season. The GM said Cleveland will pursue Blake in the offseason if he becomes a free agent.
"I have a lot of great friends over there and I loved my experience in Cleveland," Blake said. "I have a lot of fond memories, but it's part of the game and you've got to move on.
"I still have a chance to finish my career there. I mean, this isn't it after this season, so we'll see. But I'm here now and I'm happy to be here. I don't ask why things happen."
Cleveland came within one win of the World Series last year and was favored to defend its AL Central title. But costly injuries and underachievement by some top players dropped the Indians back in the division and forced general manager Mark Shapiro to begin retooling for the future.
"This was a tough one emotionally because of what Casey meant to our clubhouse," Shapiro said. "We weren't determined to trade him. We had to be compelled to make a move and we felt this was compelling.
"We're in a situation we didn't want to be in, but we're committed to taking advantage of it the best we can," he added. "There's always a conflict of emotion, but you have to separate from that emotion and make good, solid decisions for the organization."
Meloan pitched in five games as a reliever for the Dodgers last season. The club converted him into a starter this year, and the 24-year-old right-hander was 5-10 with a 4.97 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas. The Indians have transferred his option to Triple-A Buffalo, where he will pitch in relief.
Shapiro said Meloan could join the Indians this season.
Santana, a 22-year-old switch hitter, batted .323 with 14 homers and 96 RBIs at Class-A Inland Empire. He led the California League in RBIs, on-base percentage (.431) and runs (88). Since June 26, he's batting .393 with six homers and 30 RBIs in 28 games.
"He has the rare combination of plate discipline and run production at a premium run-producing spot," Shapiro said.
The Indians said Santana will report to Class-A Kinston.