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April 20, 1998

Transaction Analysis

April 15-19

by Christina Kahrl

ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed INF Craig Shipley on the 15-day DL (irritated nerve - right hand); activated 1B Chris Pritchett from 15-day DL and optioned him to Vancouver; recalled LHP Rich Robertson from Vancouver. [4/16]

Activated RHP Pep Harris from the DL and optioned him to Lake Elsinore (A). [4/18]

Losing Shipley may make the pickup of Carlos Garcia and Paco Martin seem like canny hedges, but none of these players were good ideas to man second regularly, and the Angels have already discarded the guy who was arguably their best internal option, Robert Eenhorn. So now Terry Collins' options when it comes to picking his poison are limited, not that it matters. What's interesting is the decision to go to a 12-man staff by adding Robertson. With Watson and Dickson getting routinely thumped, the Angels are now carrying three long relievers to staunch the bleeding: Robertson, Omar Olivares, and Shigetoshi Hasegawa. Pep Harris, after he recovers from his de facto rehab assignment, will give them another option. In the short run, it will be very interesting to see how long Disney and Tavares tolerate struggles from their starters, because it will reflect how much they believed their own (unrealistic) hype about the Angels' competitiveness entering this season.

ATLANTA BRAVES

Activated RHP John Smoltz from the DL; optioned LHP Adam Butler to Richmond. [4/15]

Placed OF Danny Bautista on the 15-day DL (torn labrum - left shoulder); recalled RHP Paul Byrd from Richmond. [4/19]

Smoltz' return puts El Presidente back in the pen by 4/25, but the benefits of going to a twelve-man pitching staff for four or five days in the wake of Sunday's double-header seem pretty slender: the Braves don't usually need lots of middle relief because of their rotation, and going without an extra body to pinch-hit (or sub for Klesko in the outfield) doesn't seem too smart. If anything, taking away one of Richmond's rotation starters away to allay worries about an extra-inning game in the next couple of days seems like an egregiously predatory move by Schuerholz.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed RHP Mike Mussina on the 15-day DL (wart on his right index finger); recalled RHP Sidney Ponson from Rochester. [4/17]

Ponson will almost certainly slide into the fifth spot of the rotation, which means Kamieniecki and Drabek will each move up a peg, which won't exactly help the O's too much for the next two weeks. The option is to give Arthur Lee Rhodes a spot start, but that would tamper with the plan to keep the pen loaded at all times, and possibly going to a twelve-man staff in the next week. Fortunately, Mussina is only expected to miss two starts.

CINCINNATI REDS

Activated RHP Mark Hutton from the 15-day DL. [4/16]

Traded OF Chad Mottola to Texas for a PTBNL. [4/18]

Activated LHP Steve Cooke from the DL; designated LHP Ricardo Jordan for assignment. [4/19]

Cooke's return from the DL moves Gabe White out of the rotation. Dave Weathers is giving up two baserunners per inning and six runs per game, and that's about what he's capable of, anywhere, anytime. White has a similar ERA, but fewer runners, and that's worse than you'd expect from him given his track record. White is the only lefty in the pen with Jordan's release, but that doesn't explain why the Reds don't just put Hutton in the rotation and find one of the many hominids who are better pitchers than Dave Weathers. Trading Mottola is sort of a nice gesture on Jim Bowden's part. Mottola was clearly unhappy about being a forgotten man, and had been easily passed by Pat Watkins on the organizational chain.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed RHP Raffy Medina on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Robby Stanifer. [4/18]

Losing Medina will eventually create a question as to who will be the fifth starter, but with the off-day on Tuesday, that won't come up until Saturday or Sunday. The probable choice is Kirt Ojala, and as I've said before in this space, that shouldn't hurt too badly; little lefty Jesus Sanchez (the Rule V draftee out of the Mets' organization) is already in the rotation and due to start on Wednesday, and since he outpitched Brian Meadows in the Eastern League last year, its nice to see he'll get the chance to do the same thing in the majors this year.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Recalled RHP Danny Rios from Omaha; optioned 2B Jed Hansen to Omaha. [4/16]

Why the Royals feel the need to go to 12 pitchers is totally beyond me. Maybe the team's doing too well for Herk Robinson's tastes. Why you add Rios, a long reliever, to a team that's getting six innings per start from all five starters (none of them Kevin Appier), and has Jim Pittsley and Jose Rosado in the pen for long relief, is inexplicable. As for demoting Hansen, that at least does make some sense, in that he's gotten almost no playing time behind Jose Offerman, and probably needs some regular work at Omaha. But for an unneeded body?

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Activated SS Kurt Abbott from the DL; optioned SS Jorge Velandia to Edmonton. [4/16]

Placed CF Jason McDonald on the 15-day DL (groin strain); announced they will recall CF Ryan Christensen from Edmonton. [4/19]

Slowly but surely, the roster that was supposed to be there on Opening Day starts taking shape. Christensen will have to show some of his spring training glimmer to hang on to the CF job in McDonald's absence, because he was struggling at Edmonton (.217/.308/.283). All that's left now is for Tejada to get healthy and reclaim the shortstop job, and for Mark Bellhorn to chase Mike Blowers off the major league roster, and the A's will be moving on to the serious business of building a team to compete with.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Placed RHP Bob Wells on the 15-day DL (strained abdominal muscle); recalled RHP Felipe Lira from Tacoma; announced that RHP Jim Bullinger cleared waivers and was outrighted to Tacoma. [4/16]

In the overstated hysteria surrounding all things involving the Mariners and their bullpen, even the loss of a guy like Bob Wells gets portrayed as a disheartening blow. Wells has his uses as a mopup man and middle-inning slopper, but has he ever been somebody you really have to have around? Felipe Lira is somebody who's coming off of an outstanding '95 in the Tigers' rotation, followed it with a good '96, and now suffers from an apparent incompatability with Lou Piniella. He's been better than Bob Wells for quite awhile now, not that being better than Bob Wells is a remarkable level of skill. Unfortunately, it isn't likely that Lira will fit the bill for the Mariners: he needs to work on his mechanics, and the Mariners are busy panicking about winning the AL West by May 1.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Signed CF Ray Lankford to a five-year contract extension through 2003. [4/15]

Placed RHP Matt Morris back on the 15-day DL (sore right shoulder); activated LHP Donovan Osborne from the DL. [4/16]

Five innings, 10 baserunners, 88 pitches, and a return to the DL for Morris. It'll be a shame if LaRussa really has slagged him for whatever benefits there were for having him carry one of baseball's heaviest workloads after last August 1. Even without him, the Cardinals' rotation is being held together with baling wire: Osborne may never be right, and Aybar is a big injury risk. Fortunately, Cliff Politte has been good early, but in this case, the Cardinals are probably one of the few teams that should carry twelve pitchers: having Busby, Petkovsek, and Acevedo around for long relief is a worthwhile investment that may let the team spare the rotation any more work than it can handle.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed RHP Rick Gorecki and 3B Wade Boggs on the 15-day DL; recalled RHPs Jason Johnson and Eddie Gaillard from Durham. [4/18]

Johnson's D-Rays debut in the rotation will come on Thursday (the 23rd), and since he last pitched for Durham on the 14th, he'll be well-rested. As I usually do, I'll gripe that going to a 12-man staff isn't a good idea, but since Rothschild almost never goes to his bench (he went almost two weeks before he made any in-game changes to a lineup in a D-Rays win), it doesn't matter too much for anyone other than Gaillard, who will get work infrequently.

TEXAS RANGERS

Activated RHP Danny Patterson from the 15-day DL; designated RHP Julio Santana for assignment. [4/17]

Acquired OF Chad Mottola from Cincinnati for a PTBNL. [4/18]

The slender benefit of having a bunch of junk left over from the Grieve era in the upper levels of your organization is that you can put your ex-#2 prospect (Santana, '96) on waivers, and other than worrying about the perpetually curious Jim Bowden, you can probably sneak him through. Santana is still learning the basics of the craft of pitching, and he didn't belong in the majors before expansion, so I wonder if his demotion post-expansion means something to that group of folks predisposed to whine about "expansion pitching."

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Placed RHP Kelvim Escobar on the 15-day DL, retroactive to April 16 (inflamed right elbow); recalled 3B Tom Evans from Syracuse; announced 1B Carlos Delgado will begin a rehab assignment with Dunedin (A). [4/17]

We gain a bit of insight to Escobar's early struggles. Evans was hot in the early going in the International League (.318/.423/.818), and his callup brings the Jays back down to 11 pitchers. It'll be interesting to see what happens: will the team finally trade Erik Hanson so that Chris Carpenter can return to the rotation, or will the health of Pat Hentgen or Roger Clemens make that point moot? Will Evans eventually go back down, so that the Jays can keep Juan Samuel around? Does Evans, let alone the long-suffering Pat Lennon, really have to wait around because Tim Johnson wants to carry a roster with four DHs (once Delgado returns in two weeks) and no backup outfielders?

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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