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June 20, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Tampa Suffers Another Rotation Malady

by R.J. Anderson

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American League
National League

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Placed OF-L Scott Podsednik on the 15-day disabled list. [6/19]
Activated OF-R Cody Ross from the 15-day disabled list. [6/19]
Recalled RHP Clayton Mortensen and OF-L Ryan Kalish from Triple-A Pawtucket. [6/17]
Placed RHP Josh Beckett and OF-L Ryan Sweeney on the 15-day disabled list. [6/17]

No big-league team has deployed more outfield combinations than the Red Sox, as Cee Angi illustrated earlier in the week. Boston’s margin of lead should increase due to a confluence of circumstances. Adrian Gonzalez is playing right field as of late to get David Ortiz (in National League ballparks) or Kevin Youkilis (in American League ballparks) into the lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury is now taking batting practice, and Carl Crawford is playing catch; both could return sooner than later. Factor in yet another injury—Daniel Nava’s aching hand—and the Red Sox outfield will remain in flux.

Kalish debuted in 2010 but missed most of 2011 while suffering from a bulging disk in his neck and a labrum tear in his throwing shoulder. At the time of the promotion, Kalish had appeared in 39 games over the past two seasons, including 15 this season. The results were solid enough—he hit .345/.449/.655, with most of the damage coming in Triple-A—to convince Boston to give Kalish a shot rather than acquire another low-grade veteran. Kalish is athletic enough to man center (at least for the time being) and earns points for his energy. His bat seemingly progressed enough in 2010 to remove the tweener tag. Whether those improvements will withstand the test of time, injuries, and big-league pitching is to be determined, however.

Beckett heads to the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Boston chose to start Franklin Morales, ignoring his once-failed attempt as a starter with Colorado, and the southpaw left a positive first impression. Mortensen is the other benefactor of Beckett’s short-term demise. It was clear that Boston had changed Mortensen’s position on the rubber the last time he pitched in the majors.

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Recalled RHP Christopher Archer from Triple-A Durham. [6/19]
Placed RHP Jeremy Hellickson on the 15-day disabled list. [6/19]
Recalled OF-L Rich Thompson from Triple-A Durham. [6/18]
Optioned RHP Brandon Gomes to Triple-A Durham. [6/17]

Hellickson heads to the disabled list with shoulder fatigue, with the stint retroactive to the day after his last start. Archer replacing Hellickson is fitting because Hellickson replaced Matt Garza last season, and Archer came over in the Garza trade. Try as he might, Archer will never escape Garza, not even in uniform number (both favor 22). 

There is a lot to like with Archer. He stands 6-foot-3, is a good athlete, touches 95-96 mph with his fastball, and receives grade-70 marks on two of his pitches. There are plenty of negatives too, though. Archer’s inability to repeat his mechanics makes consistent strike-throwing difficult. A below-average changeup serves as Archer’s third pitch, though he did improve on the offering last season. Then there’s the matter of his pitching philosophy, with reports suggesting he tends to suffer from second-guessing, leading him to rely too heavily on his slider early in the count. The big question with Archer is whether he will develop into a middle-of-the-rotation starter or an end-game reliever. He should supply some answers in what projects to be a two-start trial.

Thompson returns and brings with him a wave of warm, fuzzy feelings. Not because of his story this time, mind you, but because it means the deconstruction of another 13-man pitching staff. After sending Luke Scott to the disabled list, the Rays chose to recall Gomes and go with an eight-man bullpen. Gomes appeared twice, including at the tail end of a 15-inning affair. You might think that a lengthy game would be the perfect venue for a big bullpen to prove its worth, and you would be right: the Rays still had two unused relievers at the conclusion.

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Purchased the contract of RHP Tyler Thornburg from Double-A Huntsville. [6/19]
Designated UTL-S Brooks Conrad for assignment. [6/19]

Let it be known that Thornburg made it to the majors as a starting pitcher. That factoid could become trivia in time, as Thornburg doesn’t look like a starter. He stands no taller than 5-foot-11, and his delivery… ugh. Describing Thornburg’s delivery leads to Tim Lincecum comparisons and concerns about his effort level. See for yourself:

Thornburg remains a starter because he might just make it work. A low-90s fastball, advanced changeup, and decent-to-good curveball will get major league batters out. Even so, the worries about how his body will handle a 30-start workload persist. The entire picture leaves Milwaukee in a difficult situation should Thornburg exhibit durability concerns in the early going.  

Conrad is a switch-hitting reserve player that relies on his bat instead of his glove. The word flexibility buzzes about Conrad’s name, though his protean nature stems from necessity, not utility. At the plate, Conrad can take a walk and hit for some pop, but he strikes out a lot (30 percent for his career and more than 36 percent this season). It’s difficult to peg whether Conrad will latch onto another team’s 25-man roster.

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

Related Content:  Tyler Thornburg,  Ryan Kalish

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