They may not have signed a starting first baseman yet, but at least the Pittsburgh Pirates have recouped some of the value lost in their August trade for Justin Morneau.
As reported by Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pirates re-acquired right-handed pitcher Duke Welker in a one-for-one swap with the Minnesota Twins, who received lefty Kris Johnson from the Bucs. Welker was part of the package Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington sent to the Twins for Morneau.
The Pirates selected the 27-year-old Welker in the second round of the 2007 MLB draft, and the native of Washington state made his big-league debut for Pittsburgh in June. He tossed a pair of scoreless appearances out of the bullpen, but was reassigned to Triple-A Indianapolis soon after.
Since the Morneau trade occurred right at the end of the minor-league season, Welker didn’t throw a pitch for Minnesota or its affiliate in Rochester, N.Y. He posted a 3.57 ERA in 48 relief appearances for Indy this year, striking out about a batter an inning while issuing 4.4 walks per nine.
Johnson, 29, also made his MLB debut for the Pirates this season. His first time in a Pittsburgh uniform was memorable, as he threw six mostly-excellent frames of relief in a 16-inning loss to Arizona on Aug. 18. Johnson got bombed by the Cardinals in his lone start Sept. 1, then appeared two more times out of the bullpen.
Johnson fared better than Welker in Triple-A this season, starting 21 games and posting a 2.39 ERA in the process. He isn’t as much of a strikeout pitcher as Welker, though; Johnson fanned 6.2 per nine innings for Indy in 2013.