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Groz on ’01 Mariners: Freddy García replaces the ace he was traded for

Mariners ace Freddy García started the 2001 All-Star Game. (Getty - Otto Greule Jr/Allsport)

2001: A Baseball Odyssey – a weekly look back at the record-setting 2001 Mariners and the players who got them there.

As the second half of the season continued, the Mariners were still hitting on all cylinders led by a pitcher who was part of one of the most surprisingly effective trades in team history.

Salk’s M’s Observations: What they need to do, what’s working

In 1998, Randy Johnson had had enough of the Mariners. After going 43-6 in his last two-plus seasons, Johnson was in the last year of his deal and had seemingly shut it down after making it clear he wasn’t re-signing. He was 9-10 with an ERA over 4 nearing the MLB trade deadline, and general manager Woody Woodward decided to get something for him. Houston offered a terrific young shortstop – Carlos Guillen – and its best young pitching prospect – a 21-year-old from Venezuela named Freddy García – along with a player to be named later (John Halama).

Johnson went 10-1 in two months with Houston but left for Arizona in free agency that offseason, and the Mariners had García in their rotation in 1999. Freddy made his major league debut on April 7 and got the win against Chicago, and he was an immediate hit, going 17-8 with over 200 innings thrown to finish second in the Rookie of the Year vote.

In 2001, García was 24 and the Mariners’ ace, leading the league in ERA and innings pitched while winning 18 times. And it was Freddy who started the All-Star Game for the American League against the man he was traded for.

García’s first start after the All-Star break was July 14 against the Giants, and he turned in a seven-inning, three-hit performance in a 3-2 victory. That made his record 11-1 as the Mariners improved to 65-25, a full 40 games over .500 after just 90 games into the season.

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More 2001 Mariners memories from Groz

• Kaz Sasaki and Seattle’s incredible bullpen
• Seattle hosts an All-Star Game for the ages
• The bounceback year of M’s Hall of Famer Dan Wilson
• Mark McLemore, the all-important 10th man
Edgar Martinez cements his legacy with his last great season
• Aaron Sele, the pitcher who ‘fell from the sky’
• Bret Boone gave Seattle a huge, surprising boost
• Paul Abbott, the forgotten hero of the historic ’01 M’s
• Introduction: Celebrating the 2001 Mariners, 20 years later

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