Happy Thanksgiving! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume Monday, December 1
June 25, 2003
June 16-22, 2003
Sometimes, the bad news of having to work through losing significant portions of your roster for extended periods of time produces happy, near-accidental results. Certainly, the Snakes offense has picked up of late, but it's a testament to the success they've had in turning to younger, less famous talent. The lineup has benefited from changes, in the infield and the outfield.
In the infield, things have improved in the last week in no small part through desperation. Bob Brenly hasn't overcommitted to anybody in an extremely fluid situation, which has helped create an opportunity to play everyone to advantage. Alex Cintron is playing everywhere, in no small part because Tony Womack isn't starting at short every day. It's just as well, since he hasn't earned the time ahead of Robby Hammock at third or Matt Kata at second, so Cintron plays all the time, while everyone else gets real at-bats as well. As long as desperation is mothering this particular invention, it's worth noting to his credit that it's worked. In the outfield, losing Danny Bautista isn't really a setback as much as it comes conveniently timed after they had already gotten Dellucci back, allowing Brenly to alternate between Hammock and Dellucci without having to push Quinton McCracken into the lineup with any troubling regularity. Hillenbrand should be back by the end of the month, which will create a nice depth issue that the Snakes wouldn't have had if they hadn't gone through all of this, leaving them with the usual choice about Tony Womack, his notional value, and their best potential (read, Womack-less) lineup.
All in all, it's given the lineup a new look that, in conjunction with the performance of the young pitchers, has slowly lifted the team back into the fringes of contention in the NL West. With the Giants not really building on their early lead, and with the Dodgers' lineup still AWOL, there's no reason why the Snakes can't keep pace. This isn't a situation where they're hoping that somebody like Matt Williams or Mark Grace or QMcC or Danny Bautista will start hitting as much as they're counting on a young core.
Now that he's back, it's nice to see that the Sox are returning to a semi-commitment to Willie Harris. Simply making a commitment is progress in itself. The problem isn't whether Aaron Rowand or Joe Borchard or Harris are any good; they're all useful, and if you give them a job, any one of them could answer that confidence. They're sort of letting Rowand get platoon at-bats, but the job is Harris' to lose...for now. He's already come out hitting, so the really interesting angle to wonder about is whether they'll leave him alone, and start shopping Carlos Lee that much more aggressively. Lee is going to be arbitration eligible after the season, so he'd likely be a 15-month rental at most, but the Sox haven't talked up their interest in signing him to a multi-year deal. It seems they're sort of waiting around to see if they get to contend by reason of division-wide indifference. So far, that line of thinking hasn't produced a lot by way of results, but the Twins aren't putting the AL Central away.
As for the bullpen, losing Kelly Wunsch hurts, since he was the best of their three lefty relievers, but recent struggles aside, Damaso Marte's been solid. If losing Wunsch gives the Sox a chance to take a longer look at David Sanders, that's OK. Given how the season is going, they're not taking themselves very seriously, so learning something about Sanders would rank pretty high on their list of achievements this season. He's pitched a whopping 4.2 innings this month, so it isn't as if Jerry Manuel really needed 12 pitchers. It makes for a better all-around roster, but it does place that much more pressure on guys like Sanders, Rick White, and Gary Glover to make the most of the in-game opportunities they get. Manuel can be capricious enough as is.
There it is, the ultimate confession of confusion. Not only could the Cubs not actually accept what they saw with their own collective eyes out of Mark Bellhorn last season, creating the far more comfortable third base controversy along the way, they've managed to suck Bobby Hill into the collective morass of indecision. Why call Hill up to potentially play third base, a position he has next to no professional experience with? Why is Hill up, now that Hernandez has been acquired? Why is Hill up, when he was only hitting .255/.332/.380 in Iowa? What does it tell anybody when the Cubs were apparently so hot and heavy in their pursuit of Hernandez that he must have been their dreamy answer to their self-induced problems?
The nice way to look at this situation is that Hernandez gives the Cubs a little bit of lineup and roster flexibility they previously lacked. Before the deal, nobody on the roster could really handle shortstop beyond Alex Gonzalez, and now, with Hernandez around, they have somebody who could play the position for the rest of the season if anything happened to Gonzalez. On the tactical level, in-game, Dusty doesn't lose much defensively if he pinch-hits for A-Gonz or pulls a double-switch that takes him out of the game. Having Hernandez notionally frees up Ramon Martinez or even Hill to play some second as Mark Grudzielanek continues to cool off. Finally, having Hernandez hopefully eradicates any further danger that Lenny Harris will get multiple starts in a week or a month or the rest of the year, but that depends on Dusty's judgment, and that's not really any different than it was before. You just have to take the Cubs' word for it that, now that he has a player he's more comfortable with in Hernandez, he might actually use the guy.
Sadly, there is the more general problem than the Cubs' taste. You have to come to terms with Hernandez's general limitations, despite his solid power for a shortstop, or even--in this down era for third basemen--hot corner minders. In the last four seasons, counting the current one, he's had OBPs of .315, .306, .356, and .305. His career rate is .313. As much as he's a decent power source, as much as he's coming over after an All-Star season with the Brewers, he's about to turn 34, and he's not the answer to this club's offensive problems. He's not even a partial answer, not unless Gonzalez breaks down, and in a lineup riddled with on-base issues, that's just a straight patch, not an upgrade per se.
What's jarring is that the Cubs identified that they had a problem, self-inflicted though it was, and failed to fix it. You have to begin wondering if they've even noticed that they're carrying one of the worst benches in baseball, and if they do, if they'd even know how to fix it.
Frustration is one thing. The Reds should have known, going in, that Felipe Lopez is a player who required a steady hand and some guidance, since it was his rep coming in. Did it matter? Hardly. Instead, they've placed themselves in the most ridiculous alternative imaginable, committing to an awful lot of Juan Castro and Ray Olmedo in the middle infield. It's an interesting reflection on the speed with which the team has quit on so many of its options, or failed to really stick with any of their previous good ideas. If they're willing to play Aaron Boone at second, why not so that they can get Russ Branyan into the lineup at third? If this is only a temporary attempt to inspire better work out of Lopez by reminding him that the minors involve less exotic locations and bus stations and crummier food, why not at least try to improve the offense in the meantime? Why not give Branyan a shot at warming up, rather than letting him continue to stagnate on the bench? Of course, it's also worth asking whether a temperamental young player like Lopez was really the sort of charge you turn over to Bob Boone, and certainly this is a contretemps that the Reds had to have accepted what was within the realm of possibility.
More happily, plugging Jimmy Anderson into the rotation isn't the automatic disaster you might believe it to be. First off, he's replacing John Riedling, so that's a pretty likely instant upgrade. Then there's the other good news, which is that because of the recent work Paul Wilson, Jimmy Haynes, and even Ryan Dempster for an inspired two-start stretch (against the D-Rays and the Cubs, however), the rotation hasn't been quite as awful as it has been. That's a long way from good, but it's improvement. That's still a rotation that looks like a damaged starter (Dempster), a former closer (Danny Graves), two #4-5 types, and the tasty risk that Paul Wilson represents, but by the Reds' standards, that's as good as it can get. Sadly, it might be too little, too late: the sweep at the hands of the Snakes was basically crafted by a combination of pen ineptitude and Bob Boone's desire to avoid same (particularly in Anderson's start). If the pen's spent now, it will have been sacrificed on the altar of another season of Red irrelevance. The Reds are in the awkward position of having to count on that rotation to give the pen some rest in the next week or two, or there's little chance that they'll manage to push themselves back into contention.
This is less a condemnation of Tallet's contributions to the Tribe, which hinted at more good stuff to come, than an acknowledgment that Ricardo Rodriguez is about to come back off of the DL to resume his slot in the rotation, and an acceptance that the pen had put in eight innings on Saturday. It might resemble nice, unexciting, thoughtful roster management, with the lone quibble being they might have brought up Santiago a day earlier, optioning Tallet the day after his last start. And as it turned out, that could have been significant on Saturday, since the Indians ran out of relievers and lost the game after asking Dan Miceli to pitch a third inning. If ever there was a cautionary tale about the virtues of aggressive over-management of your 25-man roster and abusing roster management rules to effectively extend it to 26 or 27 men over the course of a series, this was it.
So Traber goes down, if a game late, but it's still a worthwhile call. The Tribe has already committed themselves to giving Rodriguez and Jason Davis full shots, and they're seeing what Billy Traber's ready to do, so Tallet gets squeezed out as the sixth starter in a rotation waiting to see if Brian Anderson has any trade value in the next six weeks. Davis has come along extremely well, and Rodriguez opened the season well, and Traber's a great talent, so it's all to the good. In recalling Santiago, they get a spare arm in the pen until they reactivate Rodriguez, and should they outright Santiago at that time, they'll only be risking losing somebody with significant experience with life on the wire.
Released OF-R Gabe Kapler outright. [6/19]
Acquired INF-B Mark Bellhorn and LHP Travis Anderson from the Cubs for INF-R Jose Hernandez. [6/20]
Talk about a bold stroke: Mark Bellhorn for Jose Hernandez? What's not to like? You cut salary, potentially improve your offense by replacing Chris Stynes with Bellhorn (once Ronnie Belliard comes off of the DL and takes his job back at second), and make room for Juan Uribe to resume his role as the team's shortstop of the future. Is there a downside? Well, sure, they could find ways to keep Bellhorn on the bench. Arguably, that they could have gotten someone with more of a future than the two or three good years they can get out of Bellhorn (not to mention whatever Anderson might ever be, beyond the usual live-armed minor league lefty). However, it's worth remembering that Hernandez didn't fetch much from the Braves in 1999, and the biggest bidders in his last two stints have the Brewers and the Rockies, so it isn't like a lot of teams have had the good sense to value him of late. Assuming they have the good sense to play Bellhorn in 80-90% of their games, they added a 28-year-old switch-hitter with power and patience who will give them another OBP source they need for a lot less than most teams spend on a guy who popped 27 home runs last year.
Elsewhere, as thrilling as the Aaron Cook versus Jason Young debate has been for some, the experiment had to come to an end once the veteran starters started making their returns. Whether the Rockies can convincingly showcase the likes of Denny Neagle (or whether they even want to) to anyone might inspire incredulous chortling, but remember, they did move Mike Hampton, even finding a way to make someone else foot a big part of the bill. It might seem a bit of a surprise that Cook lost his slot in the rotation to Scott Elarton, especially considering Elarton's been pasted by the Tigers twice in his last three starts/pastings, but patience with shoulder rehabbing is what's required, and the Rockies are making a nice gesture here in anticipation of the return of Denny Stark to the rotation. It might surprise that the Rox are making that particular call, since there's no way anyone can count on Elarton to be reliable in any role, and they're not exactly out of it just yet in the NL West. But moving him to the pen would do him little good, since it wouldn't give him the regular work and the repetition his arm needs to bring him anywhere close to where he was. However, starting him resembles throwing in the towel, or placing development-oriented demands of their future ahead of their admittedly slender opportunity to make some noise. At the end of the day, they're still going to have to make a tough call on whether to outright him or try to pass him through waivers, and giving him another start just delays the decision another week, or the false hope that everyone else will have filled up their 40-man rosters with better alternatives in the meantime.
If there's a sad note, it's the latest downward step in the career of Gabe Kapler. Practically speaking, he lost his bench job to Greg Vaughn and Mark Sweeney, which says something of how low his stock had fallen. Vaughn's been tasty as a bench bat, but he's fresh off of the wire himself. Sweeney's a career 41st man, bumping between outright assignments, minor league contracts, recalls, and extended stretches as a Greg Gross-style pinch-hitter extraordinaire. That's not prospecty in flavor, but it was handy enough to trump Kapler's flagging potential.
Serves me right for singing Ernie Young's praises, but admittedly, his window was pretty narrow, and a few floors up, so he wasn't really all that likely to get much slack, even on a spectacularly inept team like the Tigers. But even so, it wasn't that improbable, not when you consider that this team's solutions to its problems involve turning to Warren Morris and A.J. Hinch in their moments of need. Young got all of four starts at DH before being excused. But asking for a thoughtful determination of this team's needs by those most intimately associated with its squalor might be a bit much. After all, they've hauled Andres Torres back up, only to plant him on the bench, because this is a team that has to keep Alex Sanchez on the field, and who won't pick between Ramon Santiago and Omar Infante now that they're determined to keep Warren Morris in the lineup. In short, this is a bad team with staying power, not one that will rally to play .400 ball in the second half. It's a testament to greatness, like a crashing flock of lead zeppelins, bigger, badder, and perpetually combustible for your amusement.
The more interesting problem is the rotation. The Tigers are clearly swooning over Matt Roney, since he was their most successful (or only successful) reliever, and they what to see what he can do in the rotation. The real question is why Knotts had to be the guy who lost his job in the rotation, when he's outpitched both Jeremy Bonderman and Adam Bernero. I guess I can understand how Bonderman represents some sort of deadly double dare, but why the loyalty to Bernero? I suppose it doesn't matter all that much, since the Tigers have invested themselves in seeing what a Matt Roney is for, and given the multiplicity of the team's problems, hoping that Fernando Rodney will give the pen a worthwhile replacement for Roney isn't really all that outlandish. As the Mudhens' closer, Rodney had logged 16 saves, struck out 37 in 27.2 IP, allowed only 18 hits, and managed to hit four batters. Not that closing in the minors means much, but Rodney's at least still throwing with the same blazing heat that has been his calling card.
Optioned OF-R Chad Allen to Albuquerque. [6/19]
Already cited before this season as one of the game's better prospects, in his debut season at the make-or-break level, Double-A, Cabrera has been one of the best hitters in the minor leagues, lighting up the Southern League at a .365/.429/.609 clip. Although the clear need for an outfielder with any sort of sock led to a hasty conversion to left, if the Fish do finally give up their delusions of relevance and deal Mike Lowell (and the timing for dealing Lowell is perfect), they should be able to move Cabrera back to the hot corner in no time. Either way, it's nice to see them accept that the outfield isn't a source of clear strength, and try to do something about it. There is the concern that Cabrera is being rushed, and he is. I'm less worried about it with Jack McKeon at the helm, since McKeon dissolved into naugahyde long ago, and hardly thin-skinned enough to start getting twitchy about keeping a commitment to the organization's best prospect.
Another week, another new rotation. I guess there's a grim lesson here, in that the Astros take themselves seriously enough to have rushed Roy Oswalt back off of the DL, only to re-lose him, leaving them just as desperate as they were before. For this moment, the Astros can trot out Wade Miller and Tim Redding, and then old friend Ron Villone, and Jeriome Robertson, and now Rodrigo Rosario. It isn't as bad as it sounds. Robertson's been perfectly adequate for a bottom-of-the-rotation starter since his recall, and Wade Miller has been improving. Unfortunately, Villone is never going to be anything more than a temporary patch, and Redding is starting to break down. That leaves Rosario, who has been one of the organization's top prospects for a couple of years, and arrives after a semi-adequate run in New Orleans, posting a 4.03 ERA while allowing 71 hits in 87 IP, with a 68-32 strikeout to walk ratio. He's got a nifty high-velocity sinker and good breaking stuff, so he can make it, but past concerns about shoulder trouble linger, and the Astros haven't exactly demonstrated a recent interest in people's long-term health. It's been said before, but bears repeating: this team has to deal for a starter, and soon, if they want to contend and if they want to win any games in October.
Activated RHP Albie Lopez from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Les Walrond to Omaha. [6/16]
Released RHP Albie Lopez. [6/19]
I guess, technically, they had to activate Albie Lopez before cutting him, but it didn't help, since he did have to go through a humiliating final performance before heading off to heaven or waivers or Milwaukee or wherever it is he gets to go. I guess he just lacked that jacktastic sangfroid we associate with successfully bad pitchers, like Jose Lima. As for the decision to go with a leftyless pen for the moment, that looks more like accident than design. Walrond showed promise, and the Royals couldn't bring him back within 10 days without an injury to somebody, so instead he's down, and there's nobody else available to fill the role. This is more desperation and lack than an inspired bit of experimentation.
Much as I'm happy to see indy league star Morgan Burkhart back in the bigs, what is he for? Pinch-hitting for the catchers? Carlos Febles? To scare Ken Harvey with stories of the days when you could eat like a king at the Schaumburg Bennigan's? It sort of defies explanation, but it is nice to have a good bat (.266/.373/.443 at Omaha) on the bench. It's just a bit unusual for the Royals, I guess.
Activated 1B/OF-L Daryle Ward from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-L Bubba Crosby to Las Vegas. [6/17]
The return of Daryle Ward couldn't be much better timed, since Fred McGriff's already on the DL by the time you're reading this, leaving the Dodgers even more short-handed on offense than what's apparently becoming normal. The happy solution to the problem is that Jim Tracy will try to get by with a Ward-Ron Coomer platoon. I'm pretty optimistic about how that will work out, not because I think Coomer has any remaining value, but because Ward can do more than he's shown in blue so far, and this is the first real opportunity he's getting here to settle into the lineup and just hit.
The Brewers? Are they even still in this league? Well heck, now that one-time roto godling Glendon Rusch gets to burden the Indy Indians with his contributions, maybe they are. Certainly, Danny Kolb regilded his pedigree with a great couple of months in Indianapolis, and this is a team desperate enough to take advantage of waivers to see if they can stumble across some value. The real problem will be fixing the rotation, which at this point is short at least a couple of viable starters. Rusch has been a disaster from the get-go, having briefly deceived some hopefuls with a semi-adequate 2000. Since joining the Brewers, he's managed to resurrect 'Remember Randy Lerch Night' at the ballpark. Ruben Quevedo has pretty well pitched his way off of the team, leaving the organization short of alternatives. They're talking about pressing Rule 5er Matt Ford into one slot this weekend. And beyond that? Former Jays hand Pascual Coco might be their best bet, because otherwise, you've got to start weighing the virtues of Nate Teut against Dave Burba, or start greedily considering rushing any of the kids up from Huntsville. Mike Jones is looking good, after all. All in all, it's better to try and protect the innocent from this team for as long as possible, but if the Brewers don't see it that way, it wouldn't be the first time.
Yes, kids, that's what we call a commitment to unexceptionalism. Rick Reed's back and ready, so who leaves the rotation? The team's best pitcher, silly wabbits. See, Joe Mays and Brad Radke are making money. So is Rick Reed, for that matter. Money's more important than winning, at least that's what Czar Bud and his banker buddy/Twins owner pal have to believe. It's even more capricious, since it gives hope to the White Sox and even the Royals that, no matter how bad their problems get, the Twins are there are to keep things interesting, instead of putting the division out of its collective misery. It gets worse, I guess, when you consider that when the Twins are playing in October, they probably won't start Johan Santana even then, wedded as they are to the concept of "going with the guys you got you there" till death, or historical footnotery, do you part. There are few things I'd describe as a criminal shame, but the timidity with which the Twins have dealt with having Santana around and trying to decide how to avoid deciding what to do with him has been the organization's blackest mark of the last three years.
Optioned LHP Anthony Ferrari to Edmonton; recalled RHP Sun-Woo Kim from Edmonton. [6/20]
Sure, it's a year too late, but Joe Vitiello earned this then, and it's nice to see him get it now. It doesn't really fix the team's problem at first base, any more than losing Fernando Tatis (or eventually getting him back) does anything to the team's immediate and long-term need for a third baseman, but that's the Expos in a nutshell: they're in limbo. They don't fix problems, they have them. Occasionally, they acknowledge them, but mostly, they're get-along, go-along, which you might be too if you had 29 intemperate bosses. So in the absence of a big league third baseman (a normal situation), the Expos get to make do with Edwards Guzman and Jamey Carroll, just as they're making do with Ron Calloway in right field. Admittedly, Scott Hodges isn't hitting nearly as well as Terrmel Sledge down in Edmonton, so he isn't on the same level in terms of obvious solution to an obvious problem that Sledge is.
A little more unfortunately, the Expos have to turn to Sunny Kim to be their fifth starter for the time being. Zach Day's shoulder will take at least another month, and there's still no real timetable for Tony Armas Jr. Essentially, they can count their blessings that Claudio Vargas has come up huge in recent weeks, and take hope in Tomo Ohka's recent improvement.
Signed vice president and senior advisor Gene Michael to a multi-year contract extension. [6/17]
Yes, folks, they're dancing in the streets in Corvallis now that Mike Thurman's back up. Historically, the bottom of Yankees benches have a certain cachet. I mean, who can forget a tradition that involves Ralph Houk or the original Johnny Grabowski? Sammy Byrd? Wayne Tolleson? Jimmy Jones? Art Ditmar? Those are names that mean something, perhaps something we don't want to know, but you can rest assured, Mike Thurman's in the same place for the time being.
More significantly, and I'm sure the Bossologists are a-twitter, is re-upping Gene Michael. Michael's been one of the pillars of the Yankees' nearly collegial (some might suggest chaotic) front office team, and the one least likely to draw attention or criticism. He was a key member of the steering committee that saved the Yankees from the worst excesses of the mismanagement of the late '80s and early '90s during the Boss' unlamented exile, and has a deservedly respected track record as a judge of talent and as a field manager. In short, he's exactly the sort of adult the Yankees really ought to be going out of their way to remain associated with, so it's a good thing to see that he's still safely ensconced within the organization.
It isn't often that I have nothing to say, but this is just another bit of deck chair reshuffling, moving from one organizational soldier to a minor league journeyman. It might be interpreted as a case of Jim Duquette playing a hunch, but it's pretty small beer for the time being. Wheeler wasn't blowing away the International League, giving up more than a hit per inning pitched while posting a 3.94 ERA in a swing role. At the most, it's the case of preferring someone with a modest amount of big league experience over an organizational soldier and converted third baseman named after a motel.
Losing Simon isn't really a setback. After all, he was merely being Randall Simon to the best of his ability, hitting about as well as you could expect, and not really helping his ballclub as much as your regular first baseman might. The nuisance is that instead of letting this new and interesting development change their thinking about Craig Wilson, so that they might finally get him some playing time, they're turning to Carlos Rivera on the basis of his torrid .263/.300/.435 opening in Nashville. This being Rivera's introduction to Triple-A, nobody should have been really surprised; he's 25, and he's not a top prospect by any stretch of the imagination. It would have been better to have called up Humberto Cota or even Brad King, not because they're hitting (they're not), but just to give Lloyd McClendon someone who belongs in the bench-rot job of backup backstop, and finally unshackling one of the team's best hitters.
Placed INF-R Miguel Cairo on the 15-day DL (fractured hand); purchased the contract of INF-R Bo Hart from Memphis. [6/19]
Cairo's out for anywhere between three and six weeks, so this is Bo Hart's moment to shine. He wasn't really tearing up the PCL, hitting .298/.332/.445. This season has been his first real work above Double-A, and he's been a useful utilityman in the organization, but this can't be considered an excellent development, beyond the object lesson provided by demonstrating how easy it is to replace the likes of Miguel Cairo.
As for getting Lance Painter back and asking Dustin Hermanson to do his thing elsewhere, this is sort of another little step towards a functioning bullpen hereabouts, but it isn't the sort of dramatic upgrade that's going to fix the unit. They're still relying on Jeff Fassero and Cal Eldred and Esteban Yan, after all. They've got Izzy back, and they've got Steve Kline and Kiko Calero. It's not a complete pen, but it's a start. This way, Tony La Russa can get back to devoting his time to this important issues, like public pissing contests with Brett Tomko because he's overly defensive about a pretty slim inferred slight against pitching coach Dave Duncan. But that's La Russa: he may not eat the dog, but he'll send it into random fights to defend his particularly strident concept of honor. For some, years of leadership do not grant a sense of gravitas.
Placed OF-L Marvin Benard on the 15-day DL (knee), retroactive to 6/16; recalled OF/1B-L Francisco Santos from Fresno. [6/18]
Reactivated Torrealba from the bereavement list, and optioned Lunsford back to Fresno. [6/22]
Most of this doesn't add up to much, since there are really only two points to make. First (and yes, this is a big step for me), I have to concede that losing J.T. Snow is going to hurt. Against right-handed pitching this year, he's managed a .400-plus OBP, making him sort of the latter-day Joe Judge or Mike Hargrove to partner up with the Big Cat's usual lefty-mashing, high-contact style. It makes for a nice platoon, one that has kept Snow from becoming too obvious an overpriced liability while placing each player in a role where he's able to best help the team. To the credit of both Brian Sabean and Felipe Alou, price tag hasn't dictated playing time, and the Giants have fielded a productive veteran platoon. In Snow's absence, I'd expect Andres Galarraga to wear down after a bit. Happily, Snow's injury seems slight, and the move to send him to the DL is essentially a precautionary one.
Elsewhere, you can expect to see guys like Valderrama and Santos getting pinch-hit at-bats, but the Giants won't be hauling any of them on their postseason roster or starting them for any length of time. Valderrama is already 25, and has to show more consistency above A-ball, while Santos is pushing 30 and has an even less-distinguished track record as a hitter. While this might serve as a more general reminder that the Giants should probably get a little more active in the minor league free agent market in the offseason, you can basically count on Sabean shopping around for veteran bats to give the team some depth to overcome any potentially annoying injury to a regular.
Effectively exchanging Carrarra for Soriano was a bit overdue, but it's nice to see nevertheless. While Carrara alternated between nice outings and grisly ones, there wasn't a lot of rhyme or reason to when which happened, and Soriano's the better arm with the better performance and the better future. At some point, even Pat Gillick has to grudgingly let the talent win out. With Kaz Sasaki on the DL and Julio Mateo in some sort of "don't use" doghouse, they need to see if Soriano can harness his mid-90s heat to give the team the sort of relief help that will let them leave the veterans in their roles while keeping the team in games in early blowouts. And should a starter break down, Soriano's assortment is still intoxicating enough to inspire a decision to drink deeply, simultaneously catering to Gillick's preferred late-July stand-pattery.
Not to be lost in the elegance of the swap from Carrarra to Soriano was the equally nice move from third catcher Pat Borders to John Mabry. No, it doesn't really help or hurt a weak bench, and it doesn't get Dan Wilson out of Ben Davis' way behind the plate, but heck, in happened. The really troubling choice will be when Greg Colbrunn can come off of the DL. Not that it will endanger the odd Bloomquist or something, but the M's won't have as easy a choice. I mean, not Luis Ugueto, no? He's the team's backup pinch-runner, after all.
You might consider this just more of the same floundering, but the D-Rays are beginning to stumble into a utile rotation. Jeremi Gonzalez might be their All-Star at this rate, Victor Zambrano is beginning to be a consistent asset in the role, and Jason Standridge and Rob Bell have had their moments. More happily still, Joe Kennedy should be back off of the DL shortly. Less happily, Dewon Brazelton has been a complete flop, allowing 49 runs in 48.1 IP. The inevitable bubbling of Mt. Piniella might fall short of full eruption, settling for a little bit of poison ire seeping through the cracks in Brazelton's direction, since somebody has to move for Kennedy when he comes off of the DL. The D-Rays are about to hit their roughest part of the schedule, so they may as well get out of the player development business for a few weeks, since the stretch between now and the All-Star Game is more likely to lower the team to Detroitdom than give them reason to think fourth place might be in their future within the next three years. I guess the nicest way to look at the situation is that as long as the D-Rays are sifting through retreads like Parris or Gonzalez or Bell or Carlos Reyes, better that they cut bait quick if they flop.
Announced that RHP Jamey Wright has requested and been granted his release from Oklahoma. [6/16]
We sort of anticipated most of this last week, so there isn't a lot here that should have snuck up on anybody, beyond Jamey Wright's exasperation at not being called up. Your current rotation of the week is John Thomson, the frequently present Ismael Valdes, Benoit, and the pair of lefties, the once-touted Tony Mounce and the more-recently touted Ramos. Beyond the rolls of the dice that both Mounce and Ramos represent, it's another variation that serves as a reminder that things aren't as bad as they were a month ago. That won't help them move up in the standings or anything, but heck, at least the Rangers ought to be the proudest, most confident under-.400 team in baseball.
Signed RHP Juan Acevedo. [6/17]
I know and you know that Service's peripherals with the Snakes were decent in terms of his hits or walks allowed, or his strikeouts--you name it, there's some nice-looking data there. I know his numbers in Tucson were pretty nifty as well. I also expect him to get splattered like a rotten grapefruit if he's not carefully spotted against primarily right-handed-hitting combinations in opposing lineups. Admittedly, the Jays needed the help in the pen, and Service and Acevedo give them some veteran temps for the bottom of the pen until somebody like Brian Bowles or the like figures something out. I'm not wild about this move as much as I think it's motivated by genuine need instead of inspired calculation. Nevertheless, short term, it comes in handy, it doesn't cost the Jays really anything more than the minimum, and after Jeff Tam's implosion, they have to try something.