Braves officially acquire 1B Teixeira from Rangers

ATLANTA (TICKER) —The Atlanta Braves won the Mark Teixeira sweepstakes.

After agreeing in principle to a deal on Monday, the Braves on Tuesday officially acquired the slugging first baseman and lefthander Ron Mahay from the Texas Rangers for catcher-first baseman Jarrod Saltalamacchia and four minor leaguers.

The Braves are in a three-way battle in the National League East Division with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. Atlanta (56-51) currently is in third place, 3 1/2 games behind the Mets (59-47) and 1/2 game behind the Phillies (56-50). They are 1 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the crowded wild card chase.

“He makes (our lineup) so much better,” Atlanta manager Bobby Cox. “He’s a slugger and a great first baseman, both. He’s a great guy. He knows the city. He played four years at Georgia Tech.”

Teixeira, who arrived in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s 12-4 win over Houston, is excited to be playing with one of his childhood idols.

“I spent some good years here in Atlanta,” Teixeira said. “I know the city well. I’ve been to plenty of Braves games and was always a fan. It’ll be great playing here.

“Chipper (Jones) was one of my favorite players growing up. A switch-hitting third baseman like Chipper Jones, that’s the player I wanted to be. I wore number 10 in American Legion ball. Here I get a chance to play for a World Series, which is everyone’s dream. I couldn’t ask for a better situation. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Atlanta pitcher Tim Hudson was giddy about the trade.

“It makes us a World Series favorite, obviously, come on,” Hudson said.

“It’s good for us,” shortstop Edgar Renteria said. “We have to play like we’re going to the postseason. I always thought if you can hit, you’re going to the postseason.

“St. Louis didn’t have pitchers, they won the World Series. They hit. In 1997, I remember when we won in Florida, there was no pitching there. The only game we played that was close was the last game. It was always about hitting. If you have a good hitting team, you have a chance to win.”

Rumors surrounding Teixeira, who is arbitration eligible after this season and a free agent after 2008, had been surfacing for months.

According to Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, the Rangers offered Teixeira a contract extension, but he turned it down.

“As we evaluated the club and the organization going forward, we identified players we wanted locked up going forward,” he said. “Clearly, (Teixeira) is that kind of guy.

“There was a substantial offer, and it was clear to us based on conversations that there was not a window to negotiate. We felt it was a strong offer.”

However, Daniels also said that Teixeira “never expressed” to the team specifically that he wanted to be out of Texas. And no hard feelings exist between the sides.

“Nothing negative you can say about Teixeira,” Daniels said. “He was a great player here and will continue to be a great player for Atlanta and wherever he ends up after that.”

The 27-year-old switch-hitting Teixeira has recovered from a slow start and is batting .297 with 13 homers and 49 RBI in 78 games this season.

Teixeira did not get his average over .250 to stay until May 4 and was out from June 9-July 8 with a strained left quadriceps muscle. That ended a streak of 507 consecutive games played.

In his fifth major league season after being selected in the first round of the 2001 draft out of Georgia Tech, Teixeira is a two-time Gold Glove winner who has a career average of .283 with 153 homers and 499 RBI in 693 games.

Teixeira, who has averaged 35 homers in his first four years, will fill a big void in Atlanta’s offense. So far this season, Braves first basemen rank last in the National League with a .211 average and .815 on-base-slugging percentage.

Using mostly Scott Thorman, Craig Wilson and Saltalamacchia, Atlanta’s first basemen have combined for 12 homers and 41 RBI.

Mahay helps fill the void left by Mike Gonzalez, who is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing elbow surgery.

Mahay is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA in 28 relief appearances. Atlanta hoped lefthander Wil Ledezma, who was acquired from the Detroit Tigers in June, would be the answer but he was designated for assignment Sunday.

Saltalamacchia and 19-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus are the key players in the deal for the Rangers.

The 22-year-old Saltalamacchia was hitting .284 with four homers and 12 RBI in 47 games in his rookie season with Atlanta. The switch-hitter started the season at Class AA Mississippi, batting .309 with six homers and 13 RBI in 22 games.

A catcher by trade, Saltalamacchia has split time between catcher and first base. He is a player projected to hit .300 with 30 homers at the major league level.

“Saltalamacchia will split time between catcher and first base,” Daniels said. “I had a chance to talk with Jarrod a little bit earlier. We are aware that he is a catcher by trade, but we have first base at-bats available right now.

“We have a young catcher that will get the majority of the at-bats but (Saltalamacchia) will have the chance to do both and he has the ability to do both.”

Andrus is a smooth-fielding defender with speed and hitting potential. The youngest player in the high Class A Carolina League, the righthanded hitter is batting .244 with three homers, 37 RBI with 25 stolen bases for Myrtle Beach.

Texas also received pitchers Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Beu Jones. Daniels admitted that the Rangers have changed their philosophy.

“It sends a message that we are not satisfied with where we are,” he said. “We are not satisfied with mediocrity. I think this is the best route to get us to where we need to go.”

Feliz, 19, is 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA in seven games - six starts - with Danville at rookie level Appalachian League.

Harrison is 5-7 with a 3.39 ERA in 20 starts at Mississippi.

Jones was 5-0 with a 2.96 ERA and three saves in 21 games - all in relief - for Class A Rome in the South Atlantic League before a recent promotion to Myrtle Beach.

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Updated Wednesday, Aug 1, 2007