April 16, 2003
April 11-13, 2003
All in all, this didn't work out too badly. Oscar Villareal goes to the pen, John Patterson gets his shot at the fifth slot, and the Snakes have made another concession to youth. As much as I fidgeted last week over the decision to keep Villareal around, if he's on the team in a long relief role where he'll get 80-90 innings, it's not a bad decision at all. Can Bob Brenly get him those innings on this staff? You can pretty much count on Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to put up seven innings per night per time through the rotation. You've got one of the game's most useful swingmen in Miguel Batista, and he needs his innings. I like the potential for what can be done here, but looking after the young pitchers while they're busy worrying about the dry rot that's set into the lineup and sucked the team to the basement may not be easy.
As expected, some of the people on the Opening Day roster are going to be squeezed out of the picture by the limping legionnaires. But to repeat the obvious, the Braves are counting on a 35-year-old Reynolds peddling what many considered blown stuff as well as already-established problems posting an ERA convincingly below five. Then there's the enormous calculated risk that the Mike Hampton they're counting on activating in time for this coming weekend is related to the guy who was so tasty in the playoffs in 2000. Sometimes, it's easy to rest on reputation, and just assume that the tradition of good pitching and perpetual victory is just part of your regularly scheduled program. On the other hand, this is the year that the Braves were self-conscious enough to swap announcing teams to go with voices considerably more tractable than Pete Van Wieren, which speaks volumes about how confident somebody in programming is about the nature of the content Braves fans can count on consuming this summer.
It's not a good thing to lose Embree for any length of time, considering that the Red Sox were daring themselves into hoping that this would be another one of Embree's good years. He's not considered to be seriously injured though, and should be back by the end of next week, right on schedule. As a precautionary measure, I guess we can consider this a nice reminder of the continuing absence of Dr. Pappas.
With or without Embree, as mentioned by many, the touted committee is floundering. (Chad Fox, unreliable? Shocking. No, really.) While Kevin Tolar's call-up gives them someone in the pen who does throw lefty, the absence of a quality lefty in the pen has to be a source of concern. Considering that Casey Fossum is once again having trouble as a starting pitcher his second time through a lineup, a solution suggests itself to this particular problem, especially with Robert Person's arrival in the offing. We'll have to wait and see if that's where the Red Sox go, but from our vantage point, we can afford to wait. In Beantown, the usual local panics won't be fun for Theo Epstein and company to have to stare down.
Named Ron Schueler professional scouting assistant to the general manager. [4/12]
OK, it isn't Sosa for Jorge Bell, but getting Ron Schueler while "letting" spectacularly hyper-testorized Bruce Kimm slip over to the South Side just seems like one of those sorts of moves that keeps making the Sox look bad at the hands of their in-town rivals. This is just another reminder that the guys responsible for building the best farm system in town and the most recent division winner now work for the same team, and it ain't Reinsdorf's outfit.
Signed RHP Joey Hamilton to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Louisville. [4/11]
They had him last year, he's available now, and what can you say? It isn't quite as bad as some of Joe Mantegna's observations about Lindsay Crouse and dogs in his final speech from House of Games, but it's close. Or, to be kinder, "you're a bad pony, I'm not going to bet on you." With Jimmy Haynes looking as bad as officially-designated Bad Idea Jimmy Anderson, and the Danny Graves-to-the-rotation experiment not generating happy results, the Reds can use alternatives for their rotation, even if it's last year's flop.
Activated RHP Justin Wayne from the 15-day DL and optioned him to Albuquerque. [4/13]
From an organizational perspective, either Mike Tejera or Justin Wayne should be considered the team's sixth starter, should anything major happen to any of the staff's regular five. Tejera got the first crack in a one-start opportunity, which puts Wayne in a tough spot. Not only will he have to be healthy and do good work in the PCL, he has to outshine the organization's options for second lefties, and the Isotopes are irradiated with options, including Tommy Phelps and journeymen Juan Alvarez and Oswaldo Mairena. Should everyone in the rotation stay healthy, the point is moot, but how likely is that, even if there weren't reasons to worry about A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, or Josh Beckett, starting with Jeff "Get Along, Li'l Doggie" Torborg?
Placed CF-R Marlon Byrd on the 15-day DL (lacerated knee). [4/13]
Marlon Byrd's injury at home plate isn't a blessing per se, but at least it takes him out of the line of fire from Larry Bowa. Invariably, Bowa seems to get cranky about "the new guy." Well, that's not fair, he gets cranky about the old guys too, as even Doug Glanville could wear out his local charm. But now, Ricky Ledee gets a shot at the job, because for whatever reason this winter he made the jump from "new guy" to "made guy." So now he's trusted, although the transformation is undoubtedly intimately related to a great camp and a couple of weeks of nice hitting in-season. As for Byrd, once he heals up, he can still get out from under the "new guy" bias. Pat Burrell did, after all. While the victimization of Scott Rolen should leave everybody on notice that a guy with an '80 Series ring still carries more weight with this organization than a quality ballplayer, in general, the Phillies have given their kids their time. Mike Lieberthal, Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, and Rolen all got their chances to shine. Of course, so was Marlon Anderson. At any rate, Byrd will get his chance when he's back, regardless of what Ledee does.
At this point, it's uncertain if Giles will be out two weeks, four weeks, or six weeks. Losing your best player for any length of time isn't a good thing, and no matter how many mercs got hauled in this winter to give the Pirates a facsimile of a major league lineup, this takes the wind out of their lineup worse than a collapsed lung. Worse still, in losing him, it's clear they aren't going to tab the team's best possible replacement, Craig Wilson, but will instead try to muddle through Matt Stairs' slowing bat, Rob Mackowiak's amiable versatility, and perhaps Hyzdu's ongoing Jack "The Natural" Voigt impression and 'never say die' attitude. It's all noble and well-intentioned, but it keeps one of their best hitters marooned on the bench for lack of an alternative at backup catcher. That Wilson, the team's second-best hitter behind Giles last year, rots, is more than a little bit of a surprise.
As expected, Herges slips onto the staff, giving Bruce Bochy an alternative to Brandon Villafuerte for save situations. Ideally, this just means that he won't reserve either Villafuerte or Herges for closing. Villafuerte has the talent to just flat-out need the work, and not pitch on the unreliable day-to-day wish that the Pads will have leads in the ninth inning. That's not an endorsement of a thoroughly replacement-level talent like Herges as much as it is a future-oriented hope that they'll let Villafuerte pitch instead of squirreling him away for situations that, like real winter, just don't come to San Diego all that often.
The question remains as far as what the Pads really expect to do with the fifth slot of their rotation. The slot won't come up until Saturday afternoon in Coors Field, and then not again until the following Sunday in Cincinnati. Too little time between outings to do what they just did with Dennis Tankersley should they want him up in Coors, where he got in a start in Portland, and is available to be yo-yoed back to the big leagues and a high-pressure start. The alternative is that Clay Condrey might get the shot, assuming he's gotten rest and his groin injury is sufficiently healed.
The Rangers looked and pondered, but in the end, they went with Ryan Drese as their Mr. Right...Now. Their alternatives had sort of winnowed themselves: Frank Castillo went to Sacramento--the city Dan O'Neill referred to as a special plane of hell and the political pigsty of Western Civilization--while Shane Reynolds went to America's most-Shermanized city (a process that undoubtedly heralded future atrocities by the Federal Highway Project). None of which helps the Rangers, out in their mall. So they turned to Drese, a control pitcher with moxie and breaking stuff who takes his lumps and not a lot of velocity and the other bit of swag brought in with Einar Diaz in the Travis Hafner deal. Some day, he might grow up to be the next Frank Castillo, which sounds like faint praise, but there was a time when Castillo was valuable. Drese was tentative at points last season, but if he stops nibbling, I don't see why he can't be a fine fifth starter. Considering the Rangers' lot in life for the time being, better that they look at him than haul in a late-model Castillo or Shane Reynolds. As is, the retreads in the pen look worn to the nub, and they should start thinking about breaking in young future starters in long relief roles instead of hunting about for the next Pat Mahomes or Mark Petkovsek.
As for the demotion of Reynaldo Garcia, not that he'd done much to stick, but he had just pitched 3.2 innings on Saturday, just before his demotion, so he was blown for the next couple of days anyway. And to their general credit, perhaps nobody has as much appreciation of the value of a long reliever as the Rangers, unless it's their bullpen.
If there's a choice that's a little surprising, it's the decision to ship out Mike Lamb. While I don't have a whole lot of use for Lamb as a regular, set yourself on 'auto-boggle' trying to figure out why they're keeping three catchers and a DH among their 13 position players. If nothing else, Lamb could stand around in any infield or outfield corner, and catch in an emergency. Why lug around both Chad Kreuter and Todd Greene? Because Einar Diaz isn't that great? Why then trade for Diaz? It's a circle of unfair unanswerables, to be sure, but it makes for a misshapen roster at the very least.
In my own personal Little Big Man-style journey through life, there was a point at which, I confess, I enjoyed or tried to enjoy the fashion of the '80s. You might even say I was downright Eurotrashy. (To skip to the happy ending, the following year I went back to boots, jeans, and a Gossage-style mustache.) At any rate, one particularly low point in my clumsy life of fashion was when, as a college student on a budget and not being able to buy a leather jacket, I instead bought a black shell jacket left over from the Indonesian Navy at a local Army-Navy surplus store. It was an especially pathetic substitute for the real thing, I wore it once before having to concede that it was $25 badly spent, and then I left it hanging in the closet for about five years, before finally conceding that I needed the hanger more than I needed the jacket, which was much better employed as a liner for that week's garbage.
To cut to the chase, the Jays were much smarter than I was. Sure, they bought the damned jacket, styled it around briefly, but only a little more than a year into ownership of said loathsome article, designated it for assignment, perhaps back to the Indonesian Navy, which, I suspect, can only begin to appreciate its comparatively desperate shortage of catching help. More happily still, the Jays have hauled in a real fourth outfielder. Reed Johnson can handle center well enough, he'll talk a walk now and again, he has some power, and he can run. If, as it appears, he's kicked off the rust from last year's wrist injury, he's ready for the job, and is a better fit than DeWayne Wise because he can spot for Frank Catalanotto in right against some lefties. At 26, Johnson's future is now, so better that the Jays take their chances with him in the present.