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D-backs acquire Thatcher, Stites for Kennedy

In trade with Padres, lefty fills need for specialist; appendectomy ends righty's season

ST. PETERSBURG -- For the second time as a general manager, Kevin Towers has acquired Joe Thatcher.

The D-backs on Wednesday picked up Thatcher from the Padres along with Minor League right-hander Matt Stites and a Comp B pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.

"It's an opportunity," Thatcher said. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm grateful for him [Towers] for the chance to be in the big leagues. KT is a great GM. Wherever he goes, he wins. It feels good to be wanted. It's going to be a fun two months."

Thatcher fills the need the D-backs have for a left-handed specialist. The 31-year-old is 3-1 with a 2.10 ERA in 50 games this year and has held left-handed hitters to a .215 average.

Prospect acquired by D-backs
  • Matt Stites, RHP: Listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Stites' size has made him easy to overlook since he was in college. But Stites has posted eye-popping numbers as a professional. Working out of the bullpen, he has a career ERA of 1.53 and a WHIP of 0.70. In 135 1/3 career innings between Class A Fort Wayne and Double-A San Antonio, Stites has amassed a 150-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Stites pounds the zone with a heavy, sinking low- to mid-90s fastball, as well as a good slider and changeup. At the time of the trade, Stites was the closer at San Antonio, but scouts think he profiles better as a setup man in the Major Leagues.
Top 20 Prospects: D-backs | Padres
-- Teddy Cahill

In seven big league seasons, lefties have hit .209 against Thatcher, while right-handers have compiled a .270 mark.

"If I had to draw an analogy, he reminds me a little bit of a left-handed Brad Ziegler," Towers said of Thatcher. "Somebody that will take the ball each and every night, tough angle, as is Ziegler with the right-handers. Resilient, bounces back, you can probably pitch him in back-to-back-to-back nights, good breaking ball, good fastball. I think somebody that [manager Kirk Gibson] will have a lot of confidence in to get big outs late in the game."

The D-backs started the season with two lefties -- Tony Sipp and Matt Reynolds -- in their bullpen. Reynolds pitched well but has been on the disabled list since June 10 with a strained elbow.

Sipp, meanwhile, has actually held right-handers to a lower batting average (.203) than lefties (.254).

Thatcher went undrafted after pitching at Indiana State, and he pitched in the independent Frontier League in 2004 and 2005 before the Brewers signed him in 2005.

While the GM of the Padres, Towers acquired Thatcher and two Minor League prospects in 2007 while trading reliever Scott Linebrink to the Brewers.

Stites, 22, had emergency appendectomy surgery this week, which ended what was a productive season with the Double-A San Antonio Missions.

"Somebody that we'll probably have in big league camp and someone we think in 2014 should be in a fixture in the back end of our bullpen," Towers said.

Stites, who skipped over Class A Lake Elsinore, was 2-2 with a 2.08 ERA and 14 saves in 46 games. Stites had 51 strikeouts in 52 innings.

Stites throws his fastball up to 98 mph with a power curve/slider and is known as a durable strike thrower. D-backs pro scout Bill Gayton told Towers that Stites reminded him of Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.

"I tell you Stites is somebody we're very, very excited about," Towers said. "Give a lot of credit to Bill Gayton. Bill Gayton is probably the one who's seen him the most. If he's anywhere near Kimbrel, I think we would be pretty excited about it."

Kennedy was 3-8 with a 5.23 ERA in 21 starts for the D-backs this year as he struggled to find the form that made him a 21-game winner in 2011, when Arizona rode him to an National League West championship.

Padres GM Josh Byrnes brought Kennedy to Arizona prior to the 2010 season, when Byrnes was the D-backs' GM and swung a three-team deal that involved the Yankees and Tigers.

After going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 2011, it seemed Kennedy would be a mainstay in the Arizona rotation for years to come. Kennedy and his wife, Allison, bought a home not far from the D-backs' Spring Training facility, and they plan to remain Arizona residents during the offseasons.

"I don't think it's hit me yet," Kennedy said. "Part of me is excited for going back to California and playing in San Diego. But I know that this team was special here; the Diamondbacks have a lot of great guys, good friends that I'm going to be friends with forever. There's a lot of great people in Arizona; that's what I noticed when I moved over there. That's what made me want to set my home base. They were great to me when I was a Diamondback, so hopefully they're still great to me as a Padre."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.
Read More: Arizona Diamondbacks, Joe Thatcher, Matt Stites