SYDNEY, 17 May - In claiming left-handed pitcher Travis Blackley (Melbourne Aces) off waivers from the San Francisco Giants, the Oakland Athletics have now collected into their system four of the six Australians to play in the Major Leagues in 2012.
Travis will join fellow relief pitcher Grant Balfour (Sydney) in the A’s bullpen while another relief pitcher, Rich Thompson (Sydney), and infielder Luke Hughes (Perth, Perth HEAT) have both spent time with the big league club but are now with their Triple-A affiliate in Sacramento, California.
Travis had been called up by the Giants on 2 May and made four appearances with the club, going 0-0 with a 9.00 ERA over 5.0 innings; he allowed five earned runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out two. Travis was designated for assignment on Sunday in order to make room on the roster for a player returning from the disabled list. He started his season with Triple-A Fresno where he was 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA, one of the best starts in the highest level of the minor leagues.
Blackley, a Melbourne native, is one of Australia’s better-travelled baseball players. He became the 18th Australian to play Major League Baseball when he debuted with the Seattle Mariners in July 2004. He had originally signed with the Mariners and began playing in their system in 2001. Though he missed 2005 due to injury, the southpaw was back in Seattle’s minor leagues in 2006. He spent 2007 with the Giants, including two big league appearances, spent 2008 with the Phillies’ Double-A club, 2009 with the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A side, and 2010 split between the Mets and A’s minor league systems.
The 2010/11 inaugural Australian Baseball League season saw Blackley go 3-3 with a 3.51 ERA over nine starts for the Melbourne Aces. On the strength of that performance, he signed with the Kia Tigers in the Korean Baseball Organization (that country’s top league) where he went 7-5 with a 3.44 ERA over 24 games. This past Australian summer, Travis again joined the Aces, going 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA over eight games in which he struck out 18 batters over 12.2 innings pitched. He was a key performer in leading the Aces to the 2012 ConocoPhillips ABL Championship Series, and there, after a strong Game One performance in which he struck out five and allowed four runs over seven innings, Travis signed for the 2012 MLB season with the San Francisco Giants.
Blackley is the sixth Australian to play in the Major Leagues this season along with Balfour (Oakland), Liam Hendriks (Minnesota), Hughes (Minnesota/Oakland), Josh Spence (San Diego) and Thompson (LA Angels/Oakland). A total of 31 Australians all-time have played Major League Baseball.
Some 64 Australians are presently under contract with professional baseball teams in North America, Europe and Asia while 357 have played professionally over the years. In both cases, nearly all have played with the 30 teams of Major League Baseball.