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May 10, 2012

Transaction Analysis

No Lefty Left Behind

by R.J. Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Purchased the contract of INF-R Steven Tolleson from Triple-A Norfolk. [5/9]

Optioned LHP Zach Phillios to Triple-A Norfolk. [5/9]

Recalled LHP Zach Phillips from Triple-A Norfolk. [5/8]

Optioned RHP Jason Berken to Triple-A Norfolk. [5/8]

Signed INF-R Miguel Tejada to a minor-league contract. [5/7]

Optioned RHP Tommy Hunter to Triple-A Norfolk. [5/7]

Optioned C-R Ronny Paulino to Triple-A Norfolk. [5/7]

Recalled RHP Jason Berken from Triple-A Norfolk. [5/7]

Purchased the contract of RHP Stuart Pomeranz. [5/6]

Sunday’s 17-inning affair saw Hunter exit the game before completing five innings. The inevitable fallout has Baltimore cycling through fresh arms. Pomeranz, Drew’s older brother, came first. Then Berken, who went down in order to make room for Phillips, who then made the trip back to Triple-A for Tolleson. Chris Tillman appears to be in line to take the vacant rotation spot, according to MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli. Ghiroli also provided reasoning on Paulino’s demotion:

"He's done some good things for us, and I just want to let him catch every day down there and try and get back to where he's comfortable, build up some of his leg strength and get some consistent at-bats," Showalter said of Paulino, who missed the first three weeks of camp with visa issues and made the team because of an injury to Taylor Teagarden. "Luis has been doing well there, and it gives us an opportunity to look at him. Obviously, Matt [Wieters] needed a day after 17 innings."

A Tejada-Baltimore reunion is odd given what happened in 2010. You may recall that the Orioles traded a lifeless Tejada to the Padres. Tejada then played well down the stretch. The explanation of choice had Tejada reenergized by the pennant chase; an implication that suggests he quit on the hapless Orioles. It made for a compelling, believable narrative until Tejada signed with the World Series champions and his resurrection went by the wayside. Tejada returns hoping to land a bench spot on a playoff-bound team. Whether Tejada or the Orioles get that far will unfold soon.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Placed LHP Jonathan Sanchez on the 15-day disabled list. [5/9]

Recalled 2B-R Johnny Giavotella from Triple-A Omaha. [5/9]

Sanchez’ start with Kansas City is going swimmingly, thanks for asking. The wild southpaw heads to the disabled list with biceps tendinitis after another rough outing. Finding a positive without resorting to snark (e.g., “Kansas City’s rotation improves without Sanchez”) proves difficult; Sanchez is throwing fewer strikes, missing fewer bats, and has not pitched into the seventh inning yet. The Royals are hoping some rest will do Sanchez well, and it should—if only by default.

One of the spring’s more surprising demotions, Giavotella forced his way back to the show by hitting .331/.408/.504 over 31 games in Triple-A. The intrigue here is whether Giavotella can develop into the Royals’ everyday second baseman. Alas, the only person who can block the discovery process is Ned Yost. Playing Chris Getz over Giavotella seems pointless; however, the veteran utility man is off to a good start. Sometimes managers have to keep the clubhouse happy by playing the hot hand. One could argue that Giavotella himself is the one on fire, but Yost may opt for the veteran. 

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Recalled LHP Christian Friedrich from Triple-A Colorado Springs. [5/9]

Optioned RHP Adam Ottavino to Triple-A Colorado Springs. [5/9]

Friedrich was once a top prospect. Physical, mature, and left-handed, Friedrich threw strikes and kept batters guessing with two plus-pitches. His fastball could touch 95 and sat in the low-90s and he complemented the hard stuff with a hammer curve. A willingness to pitch inside to righties and an idea about how to pitch in general made Friedrich an easy-to-project future major-league starter. Elbow and command issues have plagued Friedrich since, but his performances in 2012 are cause for optimism. Whereas Friedrich walked a batter every three innings last season, he is now walking one batter for every nine innings. His strikeout rate is also up (from seven per nine to eight per nine) and his hit rate is down. Caution is necessary when dealing with 30-inning samples, but if the improvements prove genuine, Friedrich might become into a middle-of-the-rotation starter after all.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Activated 3B-R Ryan Zimmerman from the 15-day disabled list. [5/8]

Signed LHP Michael Gonzalez to a minor-league deal. [5/8]

Another laggard finds a home. The cause behind Gonzalez’ delayed signing is unclear, but his best utility is not: he gets left-handed batters out well enough to be a lefty specialist. That might not be all there is to Gonzalez’s game, despite a multi-year .280 True Average against righties. A poor 2011 season inflates that figure, as Gonzalez appeared usable against righties in the previous two seasons. The Nationals will get a good look at Gonzalez’ stuff at their complex before shipping him to a minor-league affiliate.

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

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