August 18, 2014
Closer Reclamation Season
Would you have believed 12 months ago the team that employed Johnson, Joakim Soria, Joe Nathan, and Joel Hanrahan could still have bullpen issues? Such is the state of the Tigers bullpen. Johnson returns to the majors not even a month after he was released by the Athletics. He appeared in four games with Toledo, and the numbers don't speak positively—then again, it's not like a four-game sample says much anyway. If the Tigers can get Johnson back to throwing his sinker and curveball for strikes, he has the chance to make a positive contribution. At minimum, he has the opportunity to end 2014 better than he started it.
Drabek receives his first call to the majors in almost a year. It's not because the Blue Jays need a starter, but rather because they need a reliever. Drabek moved to the bullpen back in June, and has since pitched better than he had in the Buffalo rotation: 21 innings, 12 more strikeouts than walks, just one home run allowed—the negative is he allowed more than a hit per inning. If Drabek is to have a big-league future, it'll come in the bullpen—imagine reading that sentiment a few years back. Stringing together a few solid appearances here would be a good sign.
Kevin Towers started his Arizona tenure by ridding the roster of high-strikeout types. Here, possibly near the end of his reign in the desert, Towers acquires a player who would be a big-league contributor were it not for severe contact woes. Jackson has struck out 98 times this season in 257 Triple-A plate appearances—or 38 percent of the time, which is the worst mark in the PCL by an embarrassing margin. His other tools are good enough to play in the majors, but he'll be limited to organizational depth. What a shame.
Purchased the contract of RHP Dylan Axelrod from Triple-A Louisville; placed RHP Homer Bailey on the 15-day disabled list (strained flexor mass); transferred 1B-L Joey Votto to the 60-day disabled list (strained quadriceps). [8/16]
You have to admire Axelrod's ability to sneak into rotations despite lacking a big-league skill. He doesn't throw a ton of strikes, or coerce a lot of groundballs; he doesn't miss many barrels, let alone bats; and he doesn't have better stuff than results. Yet somehow, someway, he's back in the majors for the time being. Cincinnati's decision to promote Axelrod rather than rush a kid is understandable, it's just amusing to see a pitcher with little discernible value or upside find another start or two through attrition.
It's a good thing the Dodgers have a healthy division lead, because they're without both of their starting left-side infielders. Triunfel joins a collection of no-hit infielders that includes Miguel Rojas and Darwin Barney. (Justin Turner's surprisingly competent season spares him mention.) Why did Triunfel get the call over Alex Guerrero, who signed a four-year deal worth $28 million over the winter? Likely because Guerrero has (understandably) struggled since returning from a bit ear. Presumably Erisbel Arruebarrena, the only other infielder on the 40-man roster, was skipped over as a favor to beat writers and announcers alike.
Acquired RHP John Axford off waivers from the Indians; placed RHP Stolmy Pimentel on the 15-day disabled list (sprained ankle). [8/14]
The Pirates are Axford's fourth organization since the beginning of last season. Chances are, he'll join a fifth before long. Axford signed a one-year deal with the Indians after being non-tendered by the Cardinals. He opened the season as Cleveland's closer, but lost the gig in May following a few rough appearances. Axford has since rebounded, though he remains a true-outcome pitcher: lots of strikeouts, walks, and too many home runs for comfort; that's because his stuff, while good, is often loose within the zone. He'll try to replace Ernesto Frieri as Pittsburgh's reclamation reliever of choice for the rest of the season.
While Axford has two more years of team control remaining, it seems unlikely that the Pirates will tender him a contract this winter. In other words, get ready for this plot to repeat itself again next year.
Cabrera rejoins the Pirates not even two years after being traded to the Tigers for Andy Oliver. Whatever hopes he had of a Brayan Pena-like career have been dashed. He reported to Double-A.