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May 28, 2003

Transaction Analysis

May 22-27, 2003

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Activated RHP Byung-Hyun Kim from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Andrew Good to Tucson. [5/26]

This might seem like a travesty, since Good has mostly lived up to his name during his stint in the Snakes' rotation, but the D-backs don't really have a whole lot of choice in the matter. Because of Miguel Batista's suspension coming in conjunction with Brandon Webb's elbow woes, the Snakes need bodies to fill in the rotation in the meantime. Kim's ankle is supposed to be good to go, and the expectation is that they'll call up John Patterson to paper over their short-term need for Wednesday's game. Batista won't re-enter the rotation until June 3rd, which means that Patterson will also probably have to make the start on the 2nd--unless Webb's elbow is ready at that point. You might wish that Good was an option there, except that he now has to spend ten days down, barring an injury, which is always a possibility in this outfit. Basically, Thursday's off-day is a godsend. Even so, four of their next six games could be started by a rusty Kim and Patterson, and that's not exactly a happy sign heading out of the first third of the season.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Placed OF-L Larry Bigbie on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled OF-R Luis Matos from Ottawa. [5/23]

Designated OF-B Gary Matthews for assignment; recalled OF-L Jack Cust from Ottawa. [5/24]

Gary Matthews' implosion wasn't a happy development, but anybody whose peak is your generic good stuff from any free or freely available talent, and who instead of giving you that handed you two months of .204/.254/.327--well, you can sort of see where the decision to cut bait came from. In turn, it made it that much easier to paste Luis Matos into the lineup as the regular center fielder. This gives the Orioles the twin benefits of affording them an extended opportunity to see if Matos hitting .303/.347/.457 might herald a continuing breakthrough at 24 on the one hand, while freeing up Mora to play a lot of left and, theoretically, short. Yes, in a perfect world, they'd actually let Jack Cust play some, to see if he'd at least keep cranking out walks, but he's nobody's idea of a left fielder, and David Segui's still standing around at DH. Instead, Cust is here to eat crab cakes for a few days until B.J. Surhoff is ready to resume his amiable, ineffectual, mostly harmless comeback.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Placed RHP Pedro Martinez on the 15-day DL (strained back), retroactive to 5/16. [5/25]

Activated LHP Matt White from the 15-day DL. [5/26]

Another season, another attempt to accumulate evidence for Pedro's MVP candidacy by actively demonstrating what life is like without him. The hope is that this is just an absence of the standard aorta-teasing two-week variety, and not a full-blown case of season-ending apoplexy for most of New England. In the meantime, Rule 5 pick Matt White can be admittedly healthy, before having to be rediagnosed with something terrible, like scrofula or psoriasis season-ending chigger bites or whatever happens to be the fashion for keeping Rule 5 picks stashed these days.

As for Pedro and his value, in his team-specific context, it's getting a little easier to accept when John Burkett, Derek Lowe, and Tim Wakefield are all having problems of varying severity. Admittedly, Pedro hasn't pitched as well as the front three in Oakland or the surprising full-blossom spring of Esteban Loaiza, but none of them are as lonely in their rotations as Pedro has been in his. Naturally, it would nice if Lowe kept revisiting 2002 the way he has in his last two starts, or if Tim Wakefield's knuckler reknuckled instead of producing a decent enough fourth starter. Although it's sort of cool to see the Sox take the half-desperate, half-inspired choice to plug Bruce Chen into the rotation, all of that takes a back seat to getting Pedro back.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX Return to Top

Recalled OF-B Joe Borchard from Charlotte; placed 2B/OF-L Willie Harris on the 15-day DL (separated shoulder), retroactive to 5/22. [5/23]

Losing Willie Harris before he really got to make something of his opportunity is sad, but it does push the Sox back into taking their chances with Joe Borchard. Sure, they could have recalled Aaron Rowand, but apparently the ill will from last winter's accident and this spring's ghastly start were enough to encourage the organization to look past Joe Borchard's slow start and early wrist troubles to just turn the job over to him for the time being. Given that Borchard is expected to be part of the team's future, it's worth peeking at his PECOTA card and seeing an interesting group of semi-but-not-very-comparable players among his comparables: a young Dave Henderson, a young Larry Walker, a young Jay Buhner, a young Chili Davis, and Mel Nieves, whose very name should give you the willies. None of them score as very similar to Borchard, which is sort of disappointing, but also a reflection that Borchard's skills mark him out as a particularly interesting and unpredictable talent. Sure, he could struggle with his command of the strike zone, and he might not be able to handle center forever or even into 2004. But the Sox will do well to take him seriously as a center fielder and as an offensive regular, and see how it works out. He won't help resurrect this team but it's interesting to see the Sox breaking in Borchard, Miguel Olivo, Joe Crede, and even D'Angelo Jimenez to some extent, and express disappointment that they're not winning handily. That disappointment belongs more to the previous two seasons and the opportunities already lost. This team's halfway into a rebuild, and halfway out of turning away from what has been squandered since 2000.

CINCINNATI REDS Return to Top

Placed SS-R Barry Larkin on the 15-day DL (strained calf); recalled INF-R Ryan Freel from Louisville. [5/22]

Placed RHP Ryan Dempster on the 15-day DL (inflamed nerve - neck); recalled INF-B Rainer Olmedo from Chattanooga (Double-A). [5/23]

Activated RHP Jimmy Haynes from the 15-day DL; optioned Rainer Olmedo back to Chattanooga. [5/26]

I guess it's no surprise to see Ryan Dempster break down, considering he's already earned his Torborg-inflicted wound stripes. With 43 walks allowed in 52 IP, sadly, I doubt that his troubles are restricted to an inflamed nerve in his neck. In his absence, the rotation is starting to resemble the Booney collection of oddities we probably should have expected. Admittedly, Paul Wilson is doing much less than expected, and beyond him, you have the continuing Danny Graves experiment, and the never ending question of which Jimmy Haynes will show up on any given night. The other two slots are temporarily being manned by John Riedling and Jeff Austin. Riedling is sort of a mini-Graves riff on the reliever-to-starter conversion, while Austin gave the Reds a few quality starts, then handed Boone a blown quality start when asked to throw 122 pitches, and has been hammered in both starts since. If there's any reason to expect anything from anybody from here on out, you basically have to do as the Reds have done--put your faith in Don Gullett, and hope things don't get any worse.

Elsewhere, there isn't a whole lot to be said about Larkin's latest absence. He's the National League's best shortstop since Ozzie, and he's been limping into the twilight for most of the last three years. If Carl Lindner feels cranky about the expense of keeping Larkin in the hometown red, he ought to remember whose great idea it was to cave into Larkin's demands, and take note that the merely modest attendance boost this season has everything to do with fielding a team that afforded itself Larkin but not the top starting pitcher or two that might help this team lead the division instead of merely filling it out. If the Reds can't afford somebody like that, nobody need look past where the buck really stopped.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Activated RHP Jason Bere from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Carl Sadler to Buffalo. [5/22]

Activated 1B-L Travis Hafner from the 15-day DL and optioned him to Buffalo. [5/26]

It might be strange, with the blush off the Tribe's collective rosebush, to see them turn to Jason Bere, but perhaps it's just as well. Jake Westbrook wasn't doing much to hold a slot in the rotation, and the bullpen needs a reliable righthanded arm in middle relief. That allows the Indians to showcase Bere on the off chance that somebody, somewhere, will be desperate enough to trade for him during the next two months. The only disappointment was that by doing this, they had to bump somebody, and because they had two other lefties doing good work in the pen, the optionable third lefty, Carl Sadler, lost out despite pitching well. It seems an odd decision, since neither Billy Traber or Terry Mulholland are what you'd call situational lefties, and the pen is carrying dead weight like Jason Boyd, and doesn't seem to have a reason to have Jason Phillips around.

Equally disappointing was the decision to simply send Travis Hafner to Buffalo, awarding the job at first base to Ben Broussard for the time being on the basis of his hitting .243/.317/.378 during his couple of weeks up. That's silly, but no sillier than losing faith in Hafner because he was hitting .202/.280/.392, courtesy of an early April stretch where he drew two walks and made 22 outs in 24 plate appearances. After that godawful slump, Hafner hit more like Hafner, slugging over .500 from that point until he went on the DL. Small sample-size caveats apply, as always, but they cut both ways in this case, and it's silly to punish Hafner for something he did or didn't do six weeks ago. If he's going to Buffalo until he gets his power stroke back, that's defensible, but the silly public comment was an endorsement of Broussard's performance. It's worth cutting Mark Shapiro some slack, since a GM basically has to keep his mouth moving to fulfill that part of his job description as talking head, and silly things are the inevitable result. Still, I'd like to see them turn back to Hafner as soon as he shows he's still Travis Hafner, which shouldn't take more than another week or two. Then, it's up to Broussard to have really done something to deserve to stick.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Placed RHP Nelson Cruz on the 15-day DL (shoulder soreness), retroactive to 5/17; optioned RHP Jason Young to Colorado Springs. [5/22]

Recalled RHP Scott Elarton from Colorado Springs; purchased the contract of LHP Vic Darensbourg from Colorado Springs. [5/23]

It only looks like the Rockies deleted two starters: they're really only adding Scott Elarton and looking beyond the opportunity to take a longer look at Jason Young after making start a pair of games in Coors. Otherwise, they're sticking with Darren Oliver and enduring Jason Jennings' struggles and just waiting to see what happens. In his nine rehab starts in the PCL, Elarton had posted a 3.76 ERA, allowing just over a hit per inning, and a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio (43:20 in 55 IP, to be precise), which is all good for the PCL, and nifty for someone rehabbing a shoulder injury. Given that Elarton is only a little more than a year removed from shoulder surgery, it would be silly to get wildly enthusiastic about the beginnings of his comeback. He's coming back to Coors, after all, where odds are he'll get those brutal long innings more often than elsewhere, and earlier in games, putting everything he's done to get back at risk if the Rockies aren't careful.

Meanwhile, the Rox get to reinforce an already-existing source of strength, adding Vic Darensbourg to a pen that's already getting good work out of lefties Brian Fuentes and Javier Lopez. Darensbourg should be up if Dan O'Dowd wants to showcase one of the best lefty situational relievers around who hasn't been in a big league pen in-season. There are a number of contenders that ought to want Darensbourg, and regardless of how lame O'Dowd's lame-duck status might be, he'd be professionally derelict if he failed to entertain offers.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Acquired 3B-R Kody Kirkland from the Pirates to complete the 11/25 trade involving 1B-L Randall Simon. [5/23]

Kirkland was a 2001 draft-and-follow who had a nifty debut in 2002, hitting .306/.373/.395 in the Gulf Coast League last year. He's sort of big and might not stick at third, but he's not even 20 yet. That's a decent flyer to add to the package reaped in exchange for a filler talent like Simon.

HOUSTON ASTROS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of INF-R Tripp Cromer from New Orleans; designated RHP Scott Linebrink for assignment. [5/24]

This definitely qualifies as an odd development. Admittedly, Linebrink isn't what you'd call a significant asset, since he's a long reliever and fifth starter who has trouble getting through five innings, and he's bounced on the waiver wire before. After Monday's debacle, it also looks like the Astros are about to quit on having Pete Munro on the rotation. So how will they patch themselves up this time? The really good news is that Roy Oswalt should be back this weekend, so that leaves one slot open, if you give Jeriome Robertson the benefit of the doubt now that the Astros have won the last three times he's started. The Astros are expected to call up Jonathan Johnson to fill the slot in the short term, which along with Oswalt's return will create a different set of problems: who gets kept for the pen? Munro was an asset in the pen, and Kirk Saarloos has looked good in his four appearances in relief. Will they bump token lefty Nate Bland or sidearmer Brandon Puffer? Given that Wade Miller hasn't yet returned to reliability, Oswalt's just coming back from the DL, and Tim Redding isn't a workhorse (yet), so I'd be inclined to dump Bland at the least.

As for Tripp Cromer, he's a safe waste of the roster spot until Geoff Blum's viral meningitis isn't a problem. After that, Cromer can be designated for assignment with the full confidence that he belongs in a minor league destination to be decided later. He'll be gone when Oswalt's ready to come off of the DL.

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Placed CF-B Bernie Williams on the 15-day DL (knee); recalled OF-R Juan Rivera from Columbus. [5/23]

Sure, it's fun to focus on the rancor and the usual bathtub admiralling you're wont to see whenever things go bad for the Boss's boys. The inevitable chicken-egg issue is there for all to see: Is it the pressure, in part abetted by a parochial local press so ready to talk about itself and its capacity to make news and influence events? Or is the pressure created by the losing, and the losing by the injuries? I'm always inclined to go away from anything involving the standard distractions of Boss porn and it's overwrought purveyors, and instead focus on more tangible problems.

On that level, the Yankees' problems are simple and concrete. They're an old team, and old teams have more than their share of injuries. Admittedly, that doesn't go all the way as far as explaining why Nick Johnson's distal portions of his arms seem to be made out of balsa wood, or why the staph infection Jason Giambi's struggled with won't go away. It doesn't explain the baserunning accident that cost Derek Jeter six weeks. It doesn't explain why Bernie Williams' knee chose this very moment to shred, costing him a month to six weeks. But taken at a distance, and looking at them as a population, it's the nagging problems that accumulate with the older players, and the Yankees are getting their full dose and then some.

It's interesting to watch them sort of drift and then hobble through the season's long march as various limbs get trimmed away. Joe Torre hasn't had to do a whole lot of contingency planning or long-term thinking in this job, instead happily roiling along in a seasonal job with the stability of a lead role on Broadway, basking in and deflecting that golden tabloid blow. And now that times are tough, and everyone's pointing fingers in one of the most overstated reactions to a fall into second place seen in recent memory, it's interesting to note that the Yankees aren't doing squat to address some of their longer-term issues. Is it coincidence that Derek Jeter comes back, and every starting pitcher starts giving up more hits per nine? Bernie Williams will be missed in the lineup, but moving Hideki Matsui to center might help. The question is whether the Yankees will learn from what they get to see, or if they'll go back to last year's bludgeonly squad. And that's where I think it's worth giving the ink-stained masses their due, which is that if there's anything to deter Torre from adapting to the skills of the players he has on hand on his roster, it's a tin-eared employer and the people who love to rattle their two pennies off the pan to get the inevitable eruptive response.

To skip past my self-indulgent verbiage and repeat what matters, the silk purse in this situation is having Juan Rivera up, allowing Matsui to get sucked into the job in center. Rivera wasn't hitting for much power in Columbus (.327/.371/.420 overall), but he's the best outfield prospect between Bronson Sardinha or Kevin Thompson and the big leagues in the organization. The embarrassment is that they let Charles Gipson get a couple of starts in center (against Roy Halladay and Mark Mulder; perhaps unsurprisingly, the Yankees lost both games) before getting somebody who could actually fill the fourth outfielder role back onto the roster. They could have played Bubba Trammell in one corner, but that would have placed the Yanks even more abjectly into Todd Zeile's clutches, and that's the lineup equivalent of coyote-ugly these days.

NEW YORK METS Return to Top

Placed INF-R Jay Bell on the 15-day DL (strained groin); purchased the contract of LHP Pedro Feliciano from Norfolk; transferred 1B-L Mo Vaughn from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/22]

Activated OF-L Jeromy Burnitz from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-L Jeff Duncan to Binghamton (Double-A). [5/23]

To cut this down to its essence, the Mets are about to get Rey Sanchez back, so they'll have Joe McEwing back into the utility role that Jay Bell's injury opens up, while managing to preserve Marco Scutaro on the roster. This is not really bad news, since McEwing isn't really cut out for full-time play at short, and Bell's hanging on to dear life by hoping nobody just fires strikes at him. The more interesting problem is that this means that, having eliminated one defensive problem, making Mets fans nostalgic for the days when HoJo or even Kevin Mitchell might play some short, the team is fast-forwarding to a far more grim vision from the past. Yes, I'm referring to the decision to reprise the sad, strange days when the team tried to stock center field with the likes of Juan Samuel and "the Bombthrower," Vince Coleman.

It is true that, once upon a time, Jeromy Burnitz was a center fielder. That was ten years ago, at least a couple of Travolta and Duran Duran comebacks ago, and far beyond the ability of man, beast, or personal trainer to resurrect. During his peak seasons as a right fielder with the Brewers, he'd already degenerated into one of the worst outfielders in baseball in coping with balls hit over his head that wound up rattling around in the corner or the gap. How's he going to handle covering the gaps in both left and right? Perverse scientific curiosity isn't a trait I would have identified in Art Howe previously; perhaps overexposure to Terrence Long in center has opened his mind to lineup escapism of the most artistic sort. Any more than I think most audiences are grateful to performance art, I suspect Mets pitchers and season ticket holders will find common cause in condemning this with a certainty born of conviction. The Curse of Nails might have all sorts of victims: passengers, roadkill, and lenders, among others, I'm sure. But it would seem the Mets are still snakebit when it comes to solving an outfield problem that has lingered since the titanic dilemma of Nails or Mookie was the epic question of the day.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS Return to Top

Recalled RHP Aaron Harang and purchased the contract of UT-B Adam Melhuse from Sacramento; optioned UT-L Jason Grabowski to Sacramento; placed LHP Micah Bowie on the 15-day DL (strained elbow), retroactive to 5/23. [5/24]

In part because the rotation and the key relievers have basically covered the games, and because Ken Macha doesn't seem too excited about the bottom of his bench, there are a few roster spots that can be reassigned to more need-oriented assignments easily enough. So when Ramon Hernandez lacerated his finger, it was pretty easy to exchange Jason Grabowski for the more catcherly Adam Melhuse as a third catcher and alternative to Mark Johnson behind the plate. It's interesting that you can interpret this as a comment on Grabowski's future behind the plate: virtually dead. It's also interesting that the A's called up Melhuse, the guy with a smattering of big league experience, and not Mike Rose, the better catcher. Both were hitting (Melhuse: .286/.394/.408; Rose: .288/.422/.356), but it's perhaps more significant that Melhuse has experience playing the outfield and first base, and that's handier in your third catcher and last guy on the bench when you already have a nice glove in Johnson already on the roster. It will be particularly interesting to see if Melhuse sticks once Jermaine Dye is ready to return, because Terrence Long's the man who ought to be out of a job once that happens, and that might bode poorly for someone like Ron Gant on the bottom of the roster.

The more interesting decision was the one to bring up Aaron Harang to work in long relief. The A's are effectively without a long reliever or a reliable right-handed middle reliever of any sort. That's not an indictment of the pen per se; they've got Keith Foulke, Chad Bradford, and Ricky Rincon for the standard 8th and 9th inning usage pattern. In what little time he's gotten, Rule 5 pick Mike Neu has been decent, but the A's are unlikely to press him into a larger role. You've got Jim Mecir stumping about on bad pins, trying to pitch, but he's got one foot already back on the disabled list. So there's definitely a need for someone who can handle that two- or three-inning gig if, for the sake of argument, John Halama had to hit the showers before the end of the fifth. Harang was the fifth starter at the tail end of last season, and he was doing just fine in Sacramento this spring: 7-2 with a 2.38 ERA, allowing 48 hits and 13 walks in 53 IP while striking out 46. He's not really a gasser as much as another one of the organization's favored types, the guy with command of his assortment. If he can adjust to a long relief role, and there's little reason to believe he can't, he could be an asset pretty quickly. If he decides to go Casey on us, Macha could always decide to get sneaky and start jumbling his rotation's four-five slots to match up Harang against predominantly right-handed-hitting lineups later on this summer, but I'm not holding my breath. It's just an option, and may have as much to do with Halama's hold on his job as it does with any creative thinking.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES Return to Top

Placed RHP Terry Adams on the restricted list; activated LHP Hector Mercado from the 15-day DL. [5/24]

I'm sure we'd have to have W.C. Fields explain it to us, because this is the second time in recent memory that a Phillie has had to just bug out without anybody explaining anything about the whys or whats. I suppose that's the sign of a good organization, that the Phillies can keep themselves quiet on this sort of thing, although circumspection isn't one of the qualities often identified with the organization. On the other hand, on a logistical level, no team is worse about reporting its transactions on the wire. I guess this could all be the work of Elbonian exchange publicists or something, except that it's been an issue for at least the last four years, and probably longer, if I cared to remember.

Anyway, it's a bad thing for the Phillies to lose Adams. They're already short-handed in terms of right-handed relievers. They treat Joe Roa as a trump card they hope they never have to play, and both Jose Mesa and Jose Silva have been struggling. As a result, of late the pen has been relying pretty heavily on Rheal Cormier and Turk Wendell, which is almost enough to make Ed Wade feel good about taking the time and spending the money to have them both around. Almost.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES Return to Top

Placed OF-L Matt Stairs on the 15-day DL (inflamed hand), retroactive to 5/19; recalled OF-R Adam Hyzdu from Nashville. [5/22]

Activated RHP Josh Fogg from the 15-day DL; designated RHP Pat Mahomes for assignment. [5/26]

If there's happy news, it's that Pat Mahomes knew he was doomed all weekend, as the Pirates wrestled with whether or not to call up Ryan Vogelsong a day before the activated Fogg, and Mahomes was the roster casualty no matter what Dave Littlefield elected to do. At the end of the day, he and Lloyd McClendon spotted Brian Meadows, watched him get drubbed in a see-saw affair the Pirates eventually won, and then erased Mahomes for Fogg. This returns the Bucs to their happier rotation state of one homegrown talent (Kris Benson), the pair boosted from the White Sox and the ever-generous Kenny Williams (Fogg and Kip Wells), and the veteran duo brought in to inspire visions of 80 wins or become neat bargaining chits comes July 31 (Jeff Suppan and the not-dead-yet Jeff D'Amico-the large talented one, and not the erstwhile surfer of the Oakland-Kansas City shuttle of a few years ago). If the Pirates had done anything to add some infield offensive help, those 80 wins might have been a bit more than a mirage, but as it stands, Littlefield has a nice rotation, although the disposable parts won't carry much value at the trading deadline, and he'd be silly to peddle Benson, Fogg or Wells.

In terms of roster ripples, it's pretty straightforward. Salomon Torres moves back to the pen, which needs his help considering it's suffering through whatever it is that Julian Tavarez or Brian Boehringer are supposed to be for. Even the commodities that the Pirates thought they could count on haven't been countable: Scott Sauerbeck has been a situational reliever of easy virtue when it comes to other people's baserunners, while Mike Williams has combusted spectacularly since running off a quick five saves, allowing 15 runs in 15 IP.

As far as swapping out Matt Stairs for Adam Hyzdu, that is probably more of an improvement than anything else. Hyzdu will probably outhit Stairs for the brief remainders of their careers, and beyond the marooned Craig Wilson, there isn't really anyone on the Bucs bench you'd choose to use as a pinch-hitter in a high-leverage situation. Hyzdu has some sock, and considering that the primary lefty alternative to using him against anybody is Rob Mackowiak, he deserves a daily at-bat.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Optioned OF-L Kerry Robinson to Memphis; recalled RHP Gabe Molina from Memphis. [5/23]

The Cardinals are part of baseball's shrunken middle class in terms of getting decent work from their bullpen; despite collectively achieving only 1.8 Adjusted Runs Prevented, that's good for sixth in the National League. Of course, that's sort of overstated, in that Russ Springer isn't around to wreak any more damage, and he's the only reliever the Cards used to any great extent who wasn't at least mediocre. On the other hand, nobody's doing well enough to rank anywhere close to the leader boards, with Kiko Calero doing the best job of anybody the Cards have used this year. So given the absence of excellence or much in the way of total failure, you can understand how the Cards can get sucked into the old LaRussian cravings for more relievers, any relievers, to do something, anything, everything. So of course the Cardinals are back to an eight-man pen. It almost feels constrained, limited, confining. Think there's any chance LaRussa would hold back if given the choice to carry 27 players? Want to bet he'd do a nine-man pen? Why didn't the Cardinals sign Brooks Kieschnick, anyway? You'd think that would have made sense for them, at least.

SAN DIEGO PADRES Return to Top

Claimed OF-B Gary Matthews off of waivers from the Orioles; designated OF-B Shane Victorino for assignment; placed CF-L Mark Kotsay on the 15-day DL (sprained back), retroactive to 5/19; activated C-R Gary Bennett from the 15-day DL; recalled OF-L Jason Bay from Portland; optioned C-R Mike Rivera to Portland. [5/23]

Placed OF-L Jason Bay on the 15-day DL; recalled 2B/OF-L Jermaine Clark from Portland. [5/26]

Just when you thought the Padres might get a little more interesting than wondering what Xavier Nady or Sean Burroughs have done lately, another ugly little group of events conspire to reduce them back to the flaccid dullitude to which they and their fans seem doomed and damned to enjoy all season. It was going to be cool to see if Jason Bay was going to be able to be anything like the on-base machine he'd been in the minors, but Bay was even more interesting than just that after hitting .300/.409/.533 at Portland this year, popping 10 homeruns in 181 plate appearances. At 24, he's at an age where you could expect his power to come along, and while he's had solid power numbers in the minors, that seems a bit freakish. But beyond his patience, he could also run a bit (in 2002, he swiped 39 bases against only seven caught stealings), and he's been a tremendous hitter for average during his minor league career...in short, he's been nothing but fun, and is the sort of broad collection of skills that would lend the Padres some entertainment value. So no sooner does he come up than he fractures his wrist and has to take an unwanted two-month vacation, and instead, the Pad people get to hail the replacement of Shane Victorino with Gary Matthews, Jr. while hoping that Mark Kotsay's back won't keep him out until July.

As if all that wasn't bad enough, in addition to trying to work up some excitement over Matthews, there's the return of Gary Bennett, which, along with the fascination with Miguel Ojeda, and the quick dismissals of Mike Rivera and Wiki Gonzalez. Much as I've always favored Bennett as a potential backup for a legitimately good catcher, this situation stinks. Bennett isn't a regular, and the Pads don't seem inclined to play Ojeda any more regularly than they were Rivera, which means nobody develops, and Gary Bennett collects a bunch of playing time on a bad team where he has no part in its future. I've said it before, and it bears repeating: looking at this team's pen, the bottom of the rotation, several of the regulars, and much of the bench, this is more a collection of cast-offs happy to be making their mortgage payments than it is a worthwhile expenditure of John Moores' time and money.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Return to Top

Activated 2B-B Ray Durham from the 15-day DL; optioned INF-R Cody Ransom to Fresno. [5/26]

I don't share Huckabay's distaste for all things orange-and-black, but nevertheless, I had to admit a sort of bemused schadenfreude at Brian Sabean getting his wish and having to plug in the great Neifi Perez during Ray Durham's stint on the DL. I was no less amused that Perez did enough to resemble a useful regular as to encourage all sorts of misconceptions. Threatened with Durham's return, Perez rapped out 14 hits during a seven-game stretch. That's exactly the sort of thing that will keep Sabean safe within his convictions that it was worth a roster spot and money to keep him, and confident in Perez's capacity to fill in if Durham or Rich Aurilia break down for any length of time. If you're a Dodgers fan, that's good news, since even at his white-hottest, Perez has a hard time keeping his OBP above .300.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS Return to Top

Activated OF-L Ben Grieve from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Jim Parque to Durham. [5/22]

Placed RHP Seth McClung on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled RHP Victor Zambrano from Durham.

So the D-Rays get to move back to having Ben Grieve at DH, bumping Al Martin back down to another Piniella toady on the bench, and with the whole organization hoping against hope that Grieve finally starts hitting again. That's about as good as it gets as far as news here, since the briefly sunny vision of winning with all of those young arms that Chuck LaMar has assembled over the years seems to have petered out, the Devil Fishies are parked back in their tradition last-place hidey hole, and the rotation is being stocked not with retreads, but with something less than full-size spares now that they're down to the anticipated comeback of Carlos Reyes or another spin with Victor Zambrano.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Activated RHP Pete Walker from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Brian Bowles to Syracuse. [5/22]

Placed LHP Doug Creek on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Josh Towers from Syracuse. [5/23]

Placed 3B-L Eric Hinske on the 15-day DL (wrist), retroactive to 5/24; purchased the contract of UT-L Howie Clark from Syracuse; transferred RHP Bob File from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/26]

Eric Hinske's been limping along all season with his bum wrist, and it turned out to be a broken hamate bone that will keep him out at least four to six weeks. That's bad news if you think of it as losing last year's model of Hinske, but he wasn't going to be that player with the injury, so the Jays are being sensibly proactive. In his absence, they'll get to play around with a three-headed platoon of sorts, flipping between Dave Berg whenever it strikes Carlos Tosca's fancy, Mike Bordick against lefties, and Howie Clark against right-handers who have trouble with lefty bats. It's a little more free-ranging than that, since Clark can play the outfield corners or first or second as well, and Berg and Bordick can also handle second or short, giving Tosca a lot of in-game flexibility. Clark wasn't hitting much at Syracuse (few were), so his .237/.300/.386 doesn't look like much, but his track record as a minor league hitter is better than that, and if the Jays ever could get away from carrying a dozen pitchers, Clark would make a nice spare part after consistently being one of the more worthwhile grabs on the minor league free agent market for the last few years.

As for that staff, getting Pete Walker back is good news, and having Josh Towers around as a mop-up and long relief man for a couple of weeks isn't really a bad development either. They're short-handed in the pen as is in terms of people doing good work, with only Cliff Politte, Aquilino Lopez, and Trever Miller really helping. Tanyon Sturtze and Jeff Tam are doing only a little damage lately, and the Jays have drifted up to tenth in the American League in terms of Adjusted Runs Prevented, so things are getting better. Towers will probably get bumped as soon as the Jays work out a way to have a second lefty around, although that hopefully won't involve a return engagement for Jason Kershner. Not that Doug Creek will be missed, since he's been disappointing with men on base and in situational work.

Finally, all that said, I'm afraid this is it for TA this week, as I have to put in day job hours on the road at BookExpoAmerica in Los Angeles this weekend. If anyone happens to be at the show, feel free to pop by the Brassey's booth to say hi, tell me I'm full of it on all things related to the Dodgers, or just to tell me that this column is a (hopefully addictive) waste of your time. I'm certain to appreciate all comments, fair or foul.

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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