A baseball journey: from shadows to playoff glare

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“This is my 12th season in the major leagues. I’ve had some incredible experiences, and I couldn’t ever think of feeling any more like a family, or like I belonged in San Diego, because that was all I knew,” he said. “And even in Chicago had some great teams, great teammates, coaching staff and great memories.”

“But the day I walked in this clubhouse I felt like I was home. I felt like this is where I was meant to be. I belong with this group of players, with this group of coaching staff and front office and with this group of fans. This is where I belong,” he said.

The Tigers sent highly touted outfielder Avisail Garcia to Chicago as part of the big swap.

“I assume Garcia will be successful for the White Sox for a long time, but that’s how trades are supposed to work,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said recently. “Somebody is not supposed to get the piece of gold and somebody gets something out of the Cracker Jack box, that’s not the way it’s supposed to work. So it was a good trade for everybody.”

Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki, Dodgers infielder Michael Young and Atlanta infielder Elliot Johnson also reached the playoffs because of in-season deals.

Morneau went from Minnesota to Pittsburgh and Axford joined the St. Louis bullpen.

“I think getting a guy like Axford who has a lot of experience and who knows what it takes to win was a good move for us,” Cardinals third baseman David Freese said. “We didn’t know him too well on the personal level, but once he got over here he fit right in. He’s helped us.”

The bearded Wilson, the closer when San Francisco won the 2010 World Series, wound up in relief for the Dodgers.

“The experience has been he’s a guy that’s obviously been there. A little bit of a different animal, but he never seems too stressed about anything and keeps everything pretty loose in our clubhouse,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

The Rays plucked Young from the scrap heap. They also acquired outfielder David DeJesus and reliever Wesley Wright.

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said the team considers a lot of factors when deciding whether to add a player to the midseason mix.

“I think you’re always going to look at the overwhelming physical abilities first. I think every sport does that,” he said. “But beyond that, I think we’re real careful in vetting … the personality itself.”

“What kind of guy is he?” he added. “Have we heard from other people what he’s like? How does he handle moments? How is he in the clubhouse? How is he with the teammates? All of that stuff is brought up regarding all of the guys.”

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