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West Springfield's Joe Saunders Debuts with the Orioles

Saunders is slated to take the mound Wednesday, three days after being traded to Baltimore by Arizona.

graduate Joe Saunders will debut with the Baltimore Orioles Wednesday night, as they continue their four-game series against the Chicago White Sox.

Saunders was traded on Sunday by the Diamondbacks, in return for reliever Matt Lindstrom.

The Orioles are making a run for the playoffs, something they have not reached since 1997, and the team wanted a veteran pitcher who can help them get there.

“We’ve liked Joe Saunders for quite awhile,” said Baltimore general manager Dan Duquette. “He’s pitched in the American League. He’s pitched in the playoffs. He’s pitched in a tough ballpark in Arizona. And we just like his experience," he said.

"I also like the fact that he’s left-handed," added Duquette. "I think that gives us a little bit better balance as we face some of those left-handed hitting lineups down the stretch.”

Saunders grew up attending O's games at Camden Yards, and said playing for the team has been a dream.

“It is pretty surreal that I'm now playing for Baltimore,” said Saunders, standing in front of his locker before Tuesday’s 6-0 win over the White Sox. “It has always been in the back of my mind (to play with the Orioles), but you have no control over it.”

Saunders, 31, was drafted in the first round out of Virginia Tech in 2002 by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and has spent his Major League career out west with that team and Arizona.

He was 6-10 with an ERA of 4.22 in 21 starts this season with Arizona.

In his big league career he's 75-62, 4.17 in 182 games, all starts.

He was 17-7 with the Angels in 2008, and 16-7 the next year, also with the Angels.  He has pitched in four post-season games with the Angels and the D-backs.

Orioles’ All-Star catcher Matt Wieters believes Saunders will help the team.   “Experience in this game is very valuable," he told Patch. "I remember he has a good sinker, and having another lefty with that experience can only help.”

Saunders remembers watching former Orioles Cal Ripken, Jr., Chris Hoiles, Mickey Tettleton,  Rafael Palmeiro and Brady Anderson.  Now Saunders has a locker only a few feet from Anderson, currently a special instructor with the Orioles.

Among those expected to be on hand to see Saunders' debut with Baltimore is Ron Tugwell, his former baseball coach at West Springfield. Game time is 7:05 p.m.

“I'll throw strikes and see what happens,” Saunders said of his debut.

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