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Sox struggle with Olivo's departure
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06/27/2004  9:38 PM ET
Sox struggle with Olivo's departure
Ex-teammates sing young catcher's praises
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Miguel Olivo homered in his final game with the White Sox. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

CHICAGO -- Miguel Olivo made his last game playing for the White Sox a memorable one.

The 25-year-old catcher hit his seventh home run of the season off Greg Maddux in the second inning and threw out Corey Patterson trying to steal second base to bail out Esteban Loaiza from what could have been a very damaging third inning. Little did Olivo know that when Jamie Burke replaced him in the top of the eighth inning, his time on the South Side of Chicago was about to come to a close.

"Actually, it was probably the hardest conversation I've had with a player because of my respect for Miguel, the ballplayer and the man," said White Sox general manager Ken Williams of informing Olivo that he had been traded to Seattle, with minor leaguers Jeremy Reed and Michael Morse, for pitcher Freddy Garcia and catcher Ben Davis.

"The fact that I also know his sensitive nature, it was as though I was telling one of my sons something very disparaging," Williams added. "It was a very difficult conversation for both of us to get through. But ultimately, the decision I had to make was were we better positioned with Freddy Garcia on our roster or Miguel Olivo on our roster, and not just this year but hopefully for future years. We have every intention of signing Freddy to a long-term contract."

Olivo, acquired from Oakland in a 2000 trade for reliever Chad Bradford, has the speed of a leadoff man but also the power of a clean-up hitter. There have been comparisons between Olivo's arm and that of Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez, in terms of accuracy and strength.

But the White Sox's catcher of the future never found himself on a regular playing schedule this season. There was some school of thought that Olivo's game-calling ability hadn't progressed as quickly as his batting eye, with Mark Buehrle and Scott Schoeneweis preferring to throw to veteran backstop Sandy Alomar Jr.

"The few times I threw to him, I didn't have a problem," said Buehrle of working with Olivo. "He's a great defensive catcher, and I was glad to have him back there. But in order to get Freddy, they wanted Miguel. It was a move made from a business standpoint."

Hitting coach Greg Walker was especially moved by Olivo's departure. Walker had put in many extra hours with Olivo, working to cut down his strikeouts and raise his .237 average in 2003 to its current level at .270.

Walker's labor definitely will pay dividends for the Mariners. But it also benefited the White Sox in bringing Garcia to the South Side.

White Sox reel in Freddy Garcia
Mariners add top young catcher
Sox struggle with Olivo's departure
Emotional Garcia departs Seattle
• Press releases: White Sox | Mariners
Bauman: Price could be right
Schlegel: Deal a winner for Mariners
Customize a Garcia White Sox jersey
• Grab a seat: CWS  |  SEA
• Garcia: Stats  |  Bio
• Olivo: Stats  |  Bio
FastCast: Garcia deal: 56K | 350K
Freddy Garcia interview
Mariners GM Bill Bavasi

"He's such a great kid with such a big heart," Walker said of Olivo. "We put him in such a tough situation last year. He was so overmatched last year and there were so many times last year where I felt like we were getting ready to lose him.

"But he has so much heart and so much talent that he kept battling and hung on and had a great year for us. Then he comes in this year and he takes the next step as a young kid. He's driving in big runs and hitting more home runs. He can run and do all the rest.

"I'll miss his smile every day," Walker added. "I care about the kid and wish him nothing but the best. It's unbelievable to see him go, but that's part of the game. When you are playing and lose a teammate, it's tough. It's even tougher as a coach, especially as a position coach."

The trade was very tough on the affable Olivo, who was too distraught to talk with the media, according to a team spokesman. The task of talking about Olivo was left to the rest of his teammates.

Much like Walker, they spoke of his heart, his intense work ethic and his entertaining presence in the clubhouse. After singing Olivo's praises, they also talked about how much improved the White Sox will be with Garcia at the top of the rotation.

Friends come and go in the game. But the business of baseball is all about winning.

"He's a great guy, a great person. I love him to death," said White Sox pitcher Esteban Loaiza of the man who has caught his 29 victories during the past two years. "He's like my brother. We are all family. I was the first one to find out after he got pulled out of the game in the seventh inning. I'm really close to him and he's close to me. We get along really well, and I'm going to miss him. He's going to miss everyone else here too."

"It's a big move for us," added White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko. "Garcia is a quality starting pitcher, one of the best out there. You don't want to see one of your good pals go like Olivo. It's funny seeing him go, but he's going to be fine and be an All-Star. We became a better ball club today."

"This was a surprise," Buehrle said. "But it's a bigger surprise to get rid of Miguel. He's been here every day, giving his heart and doing it all for the organization. We are glad to have Freddy, but it's still a sad day."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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