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July 29, 2002
July 26-27, 2002
With Troy Percival back, the Angels are in the happy state of having too many relievers doing well at once, with the additional good fortune that several of them have options. Lou Pote loses out not because he's pitched badly, but because the current hot hands in the pen are Brendan Donnelly, Scot Shields and Ben Weber, and Al Levine just got back from the DL himself. The last slot in the pen is taken by lone lefty Scott Schoeneweis, at least until Dennis Cook comes back off of the DL. Unless Schoeneweis is made somebody else's fourth starter, he has to stick around. Cook had been doing well as the pen's left-hander, and Schoeneweis has not, which creates some impetus to make a deal.
There's plenty of talent in this pen, enough so that the Angels don't have the roster spots to hold it all. Ongoing talk of adding a "power arm" for the bullpen is more wasted breath and effort on an area that isn't a problem. The Angels need a catcher who can hit more than they need somebody who will have a hard time topping the good work the Angels are already getting from the guys they have on hand. Not that any of this does Lou Pote any good; he's essentially an insurance policy in case either Donnelly or Shields stumble, or if Levine hasn't recovered fully. He's a good sixth man in a bullpen that runs at least seven deep.
Tests haven't shown any serious damage to Damian Miller's back, but without him, the Snakes' lineup starts turning into a five-man show. It's bad enough that they're going to be lucky to get anything significant from Tony Womack or Matt Williams down the stretch; if both players simply hit as they have in recent years, they'll be millstones again.
Now that they've lost Miller, they get to review the direct evidence that they have no good internal alternative if they lose Miller for the season. Chad Moeller is an adequate temp and backup, and Rod Barajas is a nice catch-and-throw backup for somebody like Carlton Fisk, a guy who catches 75-80% of your games. Without Miller, and with no certainty that he's going to be fine once he gets back, the Snakes need to poke around to see if someone like Mike Redmond or Todd Pratt can be had cheaply.
The only relief, now that one of the Snakes' worst disaster scenarios has occurred, is that at least they're getting Erubiel Durazo back.
The Braves are so far ahead of the rest of baseball in terms of their bullpen's performance that they could probably make do with six randomly selected living relatives of Albania's King Zog the Only for a week without having to sweat whether or not they're going to finish the season with the game's leading pen.
Darren Holmes should know, since he pitched about as well as an Albanian royal in his last big league season (2000).
Ick. In terms of random reshuffling of beefy spare parts, this could be an unhappy decision. On the one hand, El Guapo took offense at the suggestion that he should go down to Pawtucket, and the bullpen is not one of the Red Sox' team strengths. With seven unintentional walks allowed in the 8 1/3 innings he'd pitched since coming off of the DL, he could obviously have better command. His command would probably improve if he got regular work, but then there are questions about whether he's healthy enough or fit enough to work regularly. Understandably, the Red Sox are caught in a bit of a vicious circle. Bringing back Baerga doesn't really solve the bullpen problem or give them something that can chase Tony Clark to the bench, but it does bring things with Rich Garces to a head.
Recalled 2B/CF-L Willie Harris from Charlotte. [7/26]
Willie Harris is up to fill Ray Durham's slot on the roster, and on a certain level, he's more of what your new White Sox want. He'll play second base or center field, wherever they ask. Unlike other defensively-challenged second basemen who tried to become center fielders (Chad Meyers and Keith Miller come to mind), Harris can actually play the position pretty well.
Once the White Sox deal Kenny Lofton [ed. note: for more on this, see Tuesday's TA], they can play Harris in center and Tony Graffanino at second, at least until Tim Hummel is ready. If they could only make Royce Clayton disappear, they'd have an infield with Jose Valentin at shortstop, Joe Crede at third base, and Graffy at second; that unit would put some runs on the board while not killing them defensively.
Among the group of relievers that the Royals are evaluating, Brad Voyles has done the least well. While Kris Wilson and Blake Stein need to be evaluated now, because they may not be retained for 2003. Ryan Bukvich and Jeff Austin just got here. Roberto Hernandez is an "asset," at least by some forms of scouting accountancy. Scott Mullen is feigning effectiveness, and Jason Grimsley has a World Series ring. Most importantly, Voyles has an option.
It's unlikely that Allard Baird will find someone to take Hernandez or Grimsley off of his hands, but he can't cut them until he's certain, or with the spectre of a labor stoppage hanging over his head--cut players get paid, striking ones don't. Naturally, this all depends on the happy notion that Baird realizes that Grimsley and Hernandez aren't doing him any good.
In terms of right-handed middlemen, Mike Jackson has been less important than either LaTroy Hawkins or Tony Fiore, and Kevin Frederick made a nice initial impression. Mostly, this is just an opportunity to give Jackson some rest, because his injury isn't considered serious, and the Twins can afford to coast as the White Sox and Indians gut themselves.
Assuming for the moment that the Expos still need to be taken seriously, in losing Tony Armas they lose their fifth-most effective starter out of five, behind Bartolo Colon, Javier Vazquez, Tomo Ohka and Masato Yoshii. With an off day on Monday, the Expos won't have to pick a fifth starter until August 3, which creates a pretty wide range of possibilities. Omar Minaya might trade for a body, some appropriately inexpensive veteran good for a couple of starts and working in a swing role. He already has that sort of pitcher on the roster: Matt Herges, Jim Brower and Dan Smith have started games before.
Frank Robinson could rob Peter to pay Paul, and put T.J. Tucker in the rotation, but the Expos bullpen is so weak that this seems unlikely. Most likely is that he'll just use Zach Day, although as bad as the bullpen has been, if Day shines in a spot relief appearance before next Saturday, he could be the team's co-closer du jour.
This is supposed to get people excited, right? The mighty Yankees, coming up short, wounded by the loss of the once-invincible Mariano Rivera, the pitcher who hasn't been the same since October 2001, yaddayaddayadda. Superficially, it's easy to say that the Yankees won't miss Rivera, because they have Steve Karsay, and he's pitched even better than Rivera has, and they still have Mike Stanton. The problem is that those guys are almost all they have. Ramiro Mendoza isn't back to what he once was, and beyond that trio and Rivera, that's your Yankees bullpen. There is a very real danger that, having failed to develop or create a regular role for anyone else in the bullpen in-season, Joe Torre might burn out the few relievers he trusts before October.
Recalled RHP Satoru Komiyama from Norfolk; designated LHP Bobby M. Jones for assignment. [7/26]
The fascination with the Other Bobby Jones had to wear off at some point. The death knell was a combination of things: the Mets' newfound semi-relevance, the good work they've gotten from rookie lefty Jamie Cerda, and the need for someone who could at least be semi-effective in the mop-up/long relief role that's gone unfilled since Grant Roberts broke down. Satoru Komiyama isn't going to put any more fannies in the seats and he was just another "everybody's signing them" imported flavor of the week, but he can probably handle two- or three-inning assignments in games in which the starter's been blown out or felt a twinge.
Optioned OF-R Adam Piatt to Sacramento. [7/26]
Adam Piatt lost his spot on the roster to the Ray Durham pickup. I'm less than enthusiastic about the decision, but Piatt does need to play every day. Until Terrence Long is somebody else's problem--after Ray Durham shows anything convincing about becoming the team's center fielder--it really boils down to Piatt or Eric Byrnes or Olmedo Saenz or John Mabry. Mabry's safe, as he's been an enormous surprise so far, while Saenz is sort of Scott Hatteberg's platoon mate at first base. That really only leaves Byrnes, and as long as David Justice has to play some left field, and until Durham is playing in the outfield, the A's need to carry Byrnes' blend of defense, pinch-running ability and offense over Piatt's value as a hitter off of the bench.
Jay Witasick has been the Giants' best set-up man, which matters when Felix Rodriguez refuses to come clean about how his arm really feels. Short term, this shouldn't be a killer, although the Giants have to worry. Tim Worrell is only a mediocrity who can struggle throwing from the stretch, and Chad Zerbe has been useful but hardly dominating.
Fortunately, Manny Aybar isn't chopped liver; he can throw hard, and has been pretty successful as the closer in Fresno, notching 24 saves while striking out 47 in 44 2/3 innings. However, he's still without an effective change of pace, and he's been amazingly bass-ackwards for the Grizzlies--right-handed hitters have pegged him for a .302 average and slugged .531 off of him. If he gets plopped into a situational right-handed role, coming in to face Paul LoDuca with men aboard, that could annoy Dusty Baker pretty quickly. What the Giants really need is the old Felix Rodriguez.
Reynaldo Garcia flopped pretty dramatically in his two-game trial, begging the question of why he had to be added to the 40-man roster in July. He wasn't being taken seriously as someone who could keep a job ahead of Francisco Cordero once Cordero came off of the DL, and he hadn't earned the promotion. Why add him now, when on some theoretical level the Rangers are supposed to be adding prospect packages in exchange for veterans? If they get multiple players from somebody else's 40-man roster, they're going to have to pass somebody through waivers; Garcia might make it through, but why create the risk in the first place?
Without looking it up, I wonder how many struggling veterans walked out during the course of the 1994 season? Between performance and issues larger than yourself getting you down, I can't say I'm surprised to see a veteran like Darrin Fletcher pack up and go home early. Of course, this comes a little before it would have been done for him, so the Blue Jays can survive just fine in his absence. Tom Wilson is a solid hitter, and Ken Huckaby is a decent catch-and-throw backup. Until Kevin Cash is ready to be called up, that's an effective and cheap pair of temps to hold the position in the meantime.
Fletcher had an interesting career, not quite an Ernie Whitt one, but one in which he was useful. He's easily identified with baseball in Canada, having spent all but 62 games of his big-league career playing for the Jays or Expos. Not that anyone's going to put the '94 Expos with the '27 Yankees, but Fletcher was that team's catcher. For a guy passed over by teams that had Mike Scioscia and Dutch Daulton, he ended up making a name for himself.
At the beginning of his career, it was interesting that the Dodgers gave up on him as quickly as they did, trading him in 1990 for Dennis Cook when they decided they were better off with Carlos Hernandez as their Scioscia replacement of the future. The next year, the Phillies dumped him on the Expos for Barry Jones, which wound up being one of those lop-sided "gotta get a veteran reliever" trades that perhaps helped set up the Phillies for their heartbreak in 1993. For an organization with as little young talent as the Phillies had back then, giving up Fletcher to get Jones was what might politely be referred to as a misallocation of limited resources. At the time, the fact that Fletcher had been traded twice for mediocrities was considered a warning sign, but sometimes teams just aren't as smart as they ought to be; once a player gets flipped, he's usually reflippable.