"It was great to get traded for a major leaguer," Lino said, speaking through athletic trainer Mickey Kozack as his interpreter. "I'm just excited to be with my new organization and continue to work hard."
Sometimes, it's the smallest piece of a major trade that ends up making the biggest impact. Some Phillies faithful are still riled by the 1982 deal that sent Larry Bowa and future Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg to the Chicago Cubs for shortstop Ivan DeJesus, who never made a significant impact in his 3 years with the club.
Fast forward to 2012, when the Phillies are hoping to find their own diamond in the rough. The Phillies traded away a future Hall of Famer again last week, though this time one on the back end of his career. Receiving Lino, ranked the 11th-best prospect in the Orioles system, according to MLB.com, and 21-year-old pitcher Kyle Simon, the Phillies hope to see them take the field at Citizens Bank Park someday, just like the man they were traded for.
While it is uncertain that Lino and Simon will ever produce the equivalent of Thome's 609 home runs, the organization has shown confidence in the prospects' ability to become impact players. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has described Lino as a "high-ceiling catcher."
Lino hit only .218 in 56 games for the Delmarva Shorebirds, but BlueClaws manager and former Phillies second baseman Mickey Morandini is impressed with the 6-3 backstop's size and strength.
"Just looking at his body and his ability to drive the ball we think he has a pretty good future," Morandini said. "I saw him play a few games here against us a few weeks ago, and I liked what I saw then. He's a big kid with a good arm, I'm glad he's on our side."
The BlueClaws' new acquisition was in the lineup for his first game as a member of the Phillies organization Monday night. Lino started at catcher and hit eighth as Lakewood scored twice in the bottom of the 11th to defeat the Hagerstown Suns 11-10 in dramatic fashion. Lino did not disappoint in his first outing with the BlueClaws, reaching base four times in six plate appearances on two singles and two walks. The catcher, who said that he seeks to improve his hitting in Lakewood, singled in his first two at-bats.
Although he finds himself in the depths of the Phillies' minor league system, Lino must have been relieved to change teams. Baltimore already seems to have its big-league catcher of the future in 26-year-old Matt Wieters, whom the Orioles selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2007 draft.
Although the Phillies hope Lino's time comes a few years into the future, they eventually must find the heir apparent to 33-year-old Carlos Ruiz, who is in the midst of a career year and was just named to his first All-Star team. Besides Lino, the Phillies have other prospects in the system. Sebastian Valle, a current member of the Double A Reading Phillies, appears to be the most promising option, and Josh Ludy, who also plays at Lakewood, was an eighth-round selection by the Phillies in June.
"It's a good opportunity for Gabriel," Morandini said. "Chooch in the big leagues is getting a little bit older, and who knows how many years he's going to able to catch up there? It's always good to have good young catchers in your system."
Betting on a minor leaguer to make it to the Show is never a wise choice, regardless of background or pedigree, but Lino's new organization remains optimistic that their young catcher will grow in years to come.
"Excellent catch-and-throw guy," Amaro said. "Very, very young. He has the chance to be good."
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