Hello Cleveland


John Rocker’s stormy stay with the Atlanta Braves abruptly ended Friday when the reliever was traded to the Cleveland Indians, The Associated Press learned. The Braves received relievers Steve Karsay and Steve Reed for Rocker, said a club source, who spoke on the condition he not be identified. Atlanta also sent minor league third baseman Troy Cameron to Cleveland. The trade was to be announced later Friday night after the Indians’ game at Kansas City. Atlanta made the deal while playing the Mets in New York. Rocker was informed of the deal after Atlanta’s game against the New York Mets began. “He kind of looked like he was in shock when they told him,” Braves pitcher John Burkett said after a 10-1 win over New York. Shea Stadium provided a curious place for Rocker’s final day with the Braves, seeing how he started a national furor after the 1999 season when he denigrated New Yorkers, immigrants, homosexuals and others in an interview with Sports Illustrated. “Maybe it’s just a coincidence,” Atlanta pitcher Greg Maddux said. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig suspended him for all 45 days of spring training last year and the first 28 days of the regular season and fined him US$20,000, but the players’ association filed a grievance and arbitrator Shyam Das cut the suspension to 14 days and the fine to US$500. “I think this puts some finality to it,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. “John said some things that made some people mad. But for the most part, he was a pretty good teammates and a pretty good closer.” Extra police and security began gathering outside the Atlanta clubhouse as word of the trade spread. Rocker’s recent visits to New York attracted a huge police presence throughout the ballparks, be it in Shea Stadium or Yankee Stadium. This trip, there were noticeably fewer police as the Braves started a three-game series against the Mets. About four policeman escorted Rocker out of the stadium, and a car whisked him into the night. In a curious twist, Rocker will be back in town real shortly. The Indians start a series at Yankee Stadium on Monday night. Rocker was 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA this season, converting 19 saves in 23 chances for the Braves. He had 36 strikeouts in 32 innings. The deal came a day after Rocker gave up a two-out, two-run homer to pinch-hitter Derrek Lee in the ninth inning that saddled Atlanta with a 3-2 loss to Florida. The Indians and Braves have made big deals before. IN spring training in 1997, Atlanta sent outfielders Marquis Grissom and David Justice to Cleveland for outfielder Kenny Lofton and reliever Alan Embree. The Braves, who have won nine straight division titles, began the night with a 37-34 record and tied with Florida, 4 1/2 games behind Philadelphia. Since making his debut in 1998, Rocker has been one of the best closers in the National League.

He has 83 saves and a 2.63 ERA in 210 career games with Atlanta. Despite his success on the field, the 26-year-old lefty was never popular with his teammates. Outfielder Brian Jordan called Rocker a “cancer” last season.