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May 21, 2004
May 17-20, 2004
Glaus may miss the rest of the year, but so far, it's only definite that he's gone for two months. In his absence, you've got an Angels team about as adrift as Frederick the Great during some of the more grim moments of the Seven Years War: you might know that you've been winning recently, but you have to wonder whether or not you're actually going to win. Certainly, trying to get by with Shane Halter at third base is a bad idea, so more realistically, the temporary solution should involve a whole lot of Chone Figgins at the hot corner, and Jeff DaVanon in a regular role in the outfield. Offensively, that's not bad news, although Figgins will definitely conjure up memories of Joel Youngblood or Butch Hobson at third. When your alternative is Halter, though, you need to put yourself in a shopper's frame of mind, and see what other people are willing to peddle.
Whenever Garret Anderson gets back, they can put him in center for stretches. In an ideal world, once Darin Erstad gets back, they'll have an established Casey Kotchman at first and a defensive replacement for Anderson. Unfortunately, just as Arte's Angels don't have a third base alternative to Figgins, Kotchman isn't hitting for power, and isn't really establishing himself just yet. So they're short-handed, and barring conscription or sending a press gang to Sacramento to kidnap Graham Koonce, they've got problems at both infield corners. If Bill Bavasi isn't cranky about how things played out, maybe a push to bring Scott Spiezio back would work out. Of course, they could promote Dallas McPherson; at Double-A Arkansas, he was showing more power and more patience than Kotchman was prior to his call-up. But Kotchman's struggles and their place in the standings might make the Angels a little gun-shy about just throwing themselves upon the mercies of youth.
One of the more bankable virtues of a twelfth pitcher is that you usually won't have to worry about employing the roster spot in some other way should something come up. So when Bill Mueller's knee gave him trouble, you just flip out the least-used body for something you need right now, which happened to be Moneyball icon Kevin Youkilis. Pleasing everybody-well, okay, I'm sure somebody at Baseball America will decry it as another death knell for the industry, but everybody else-Youkilis did good stuff in his first game up. Let me briefly rain on this otherwise sunny image by noting that Youkilis hadn't hit much as a Pawsock (.258/.347/.406), so I wouldn't race to put the Radio Flyer up on blocks to launch a bandwagon just yet. It's cool, but they're still better off with Mueller at third and Mark Bellhorn at second. Because he's only able to play third, Youkilis will have a hard time sticking around, especially once Trot Nixon and Nomar Garciaparra are ready to come off of the DL.
Optioned RHP Felix Diaz to Charlotte; recalled LHP Kelly Wunsch from Charlotte. [5/19]
Diaz only got two cracks at the fifth slot in the rotation, but giving up four bombs to the Orioles in his debut, and then getting mauled by the Tribe, you can understand why Ozzie decided to squelch this bid, and finally move on to the Cotts option. As previously kicked around, in putting Neal Cotts into the rotation, they replaced him in the pen with Wunsch, giving the Sox that neat righty-lefty sidearming situational duo of Wunsch and Shingo Takatsu. That still leaves them with the big three of Damaso Marte, Mike Jackson, and Billy Koch for the last three frames of tight games, and leaves Jon Adkins appropriately reserved for long relief and mop-up duties. That's a pretty good setup, and if Koch finally does get his kinks worked out, the Sox might have worked their way into a solid top-to-bottom pitching staff.
Which isn't to say that Cotts won't have his fear-inducing Steve Trout moments, but it's an improvement over a hopelessly damaged Danny Wright (out for the year, and perhaps forever, with injuries to both his elbow and shoulder) and an unready Diaz.
Acquired RHP Andrew Brown from the Dodgers to complete the Milton Bradley deal; claimed RHP Joe Dawley off of waivers from the Royals, and optioned him to Buffalo. [5/19]
Brown's a nice bit of additional talent to have gotten in addition to Franklin Gutierrez. Despite elbow problems last year, he's shown that he's healthy so far, having blistered Double-A with 58 strikeouts in 40.1 IP.
Yes, it's Jimmy Haynes, but if you can hold off sniggering, the Mudhens have really only been able to count on Shane Loux, and if the Tigs wanted to call up a veteran for an emergency start, nobody else in Toledo fits that bill since Ariel Prieto defected. Just pray there's no need, and if you have a sense of humor, send Haynes flyers on the charms of scenic Maumee.
Surprising perhaps no one beyond Joe Torre and the Osbornes-is it just me, or is Ozzie always the last one to notice these things-Donovan's done. I suppose the return of Homer Bush has filled that desperately important Sojo psychic salve and nostalgic love bundle roster spot. I would suggest that it is this quality of the organization, more than any other, that makes them so loathsome to so many. Who likes seeing a team play with a Costanza spot on the roster? Or in Enrique Wilson's case, right there in the lineup? Plenty of attention has been given to the guy who paid to be a St. Paul Saint, but I think as reality excursions go, the day-to-day 'no... way' 'no, dude, way!' experience has to belong to Wilson.
Wow, a reason why! Sometimes, the D-Rays remind you that there's a reason to hope and care, and that they actually play baseball instead of watch what the other guys are doing. In the past, it's been because of players like Aubrey Huff or Rocco Baldelli, and now, hopefully, it might also be because Jonny Gomes. will give those odd few who call themselves Devil Rays fans something to care about. Gomes earned his promotion by hitting 274/.364/.740, but keep in mind, as gaudy as a .740 slugging percentage is, other Bulls have been enjoying insanely sweet springs as well: Midre Cummings was slugging .640, and Bubba Trammell's at .756 and Jorge Cantu .551 as I write this. (Why don't we ever get stories about happy Haitians or elaborate juicing conspiracies where the minors are concerned? I guess it could be because they're the minors, but I usually assume it's because these sorts of things only happen in the minds of Oliver Stone, sportswriters, and similar sources of elaborate fictional entertainments.)
Having Gomes around might light a fire under Jose Cruz, Jr., and maybe he'll get a few platoon starts against lefties for Carl Crawford's benefit. At any rate, Gomes is an actual ballplayer instead of the usual sideshow freak the organization tries to sell tickets with-not that you should worry, Fred McGriff's been signed up to bemuse fans already inspired by the heady history and contributions of great players like Wade Boggs and Jose Canseco and... and Fred McGriff, remember him? And how could anybody forget Dennis Quaid; he was good too. Disney told me so.
On that note--comebacks that weren't--I guess we have the sad situation of Jeremi Gonzalez. After last season's high note, where Gonzalez didn't exactly come back as much as he finally lived up to long-ago expectations for talent injuries kept him from ever realizing before, he's endured a series of shellackings and had a divorce to sort out. A wit might note that the shellackings are more of a return to form for Gonzalez, as he pitches about as badly as he did as a Cub way back when. But this is a guy who's gone through a lot of downtime, lost a large part of whatever career he might have had to surgery, and I hate to see this happen to him. I think the Rays have overreacted a bit, since he has managed a couple of quality starts, and it isn't like Paul Abbott, Mark Hendrickson, or Victor Zambrano have done all that much to inspire confidence.
But that does bring us to another... well, again, not a comeback, but an opportunity for another pitcher who was once called a prospect: Rob Bell. Another former Braves wunderkinder accused of having coachability issues, Bell seems to have re-gilded his prospect rep with a nice seven-start run with the Bulls, going 5-0 with a 1.69 runs allowed average (as in, no unearned runs neither), while striking out 35 and walking only eight in 37.1 IP. I suppose it's never too late for pitchers, but keep in mind he's never posted an ERA below five in a big league uniform, his career ERA is 5.86, and he's allowed a whopping 95 home runs in 485 innings. If you read through that and it says 'Devil Ray' to you too, I'm glad I'm not alone.
The move that might really leave you wondering is the decision to demote Gaudin. He's supposed to be going down to be prepped to return to the big league rotation, but why bother with that? It isn't like there's something going on with the big league staff that wouldn't encourage you to just stretch him out as a long reliever here and now, and then plug him into the rotation. I understand the virtues of creating achievable goals and providing players with as much comfort in a transition like this as possible, but this is seems overly elaborate. Gaudin has done fine in the majors, there are innings to go around given how often the rotation gets slapped around, and calling up Jason Standridge doesn't serve any purpose beyond hopefully sorting out what he's on the 40-man for. At best, they're being timid with one of the few players on the roster who's showed anybody anything, and at worst, they're monkeying with his service time.
You might question why, but the Syracuse outfield of future greatness hasn't exactly taken the International League by storm just yet. Alexis Rios doesn't have his OBP over .300, and he isn't slugging .400. Gabe Gross hasn't been able to play a lot of outfield, and he isn't hitting either. John-Ford Griffin is playing first and not hitting down in Double-A. Not even Noah Hall's helping much. Simon Pond has been in and out of town, his peregrinations determined by actions on the larger stage across the border. So yeah, they needed Marvin's man-made might and creaky wheels.
Again, Hairston's back, and again, the Snakes have to come to terms with their fascination with Matt Kata. As expected, Kata's reverted to his natural mostly-harmless state, so maybe there's some hope. But as we've said in the past, Hairston's bat isn't exactly all that, not relative to the expectations he seems to have generated. Hairston's hit a superficially impressive .313/.375/.565 for the Sidesnakelings, but that falls short of the top performers in the PCL, and translates to only a .254 Equivalent Average in the majors.
But that's not the whole problem: since Hairston's defensive shortcomings are a well-recognized issue, he keeps getting considered for a move to the outfield, where he's gotten some action for Tucson. So while Chad Tracy's glovework made it relatively easy for Bob Brenly to ink Tracy's name onto the lineup card, it's not as straightforward a proposition to put Hairston's leather into an infield that has to help several young, struggling starting pitchers.
Plugging Hairston into the lineup would represent an acknowledgment of sorts. Yes, it would complicate things for the Caseys Fossum or Daigle, or make Brandon Webb's wormkilling groundball tendencies a little more adventurous. But like sticking with Tracy, it would tell them something about what they might want to do at the trade deadline. Perhaps they'll have seen enough to know that it's time to close up the 2001 memory file, and stick with the guys who might be the building blocks of the next good Snakes squad. If they've managed to keep within ten games of first, they'll risk entertaining the same sorts of fanciful visions of contention that they held dear last year. But either way, Kata isn't their best choice, either to come to a decision to rebuild, or to push for the best team they can field right now. He might be a safe choice, but that's 'safe' in the sense of 'safely ignoring any sense of obligation to improve, now or ever.' If Arizona thinks that they're still a contender, they're going to have to take a few risks.
I touched on this last time around, but as the last few games have shown, the lineup is a shutout begging to happen. Hopefully, Raffy Furcal will be able to play in the field shortly, which would at least leave the Braves with a three-headed game of musical chairs for the free infield slot, with Nick Green hopefully pushing Jesse Garcia and Wilson Betemit into less-frequent playing time. But betting on Green sticking, let alone the Braves sticking with him no matter how badly Garcia and Betemit do, is no sure thing. At least with a converted shortstop like Green, you can hope that he has the arm to play some third, so that once Giles can come back, they might finally have an alternative to Mark DeRosa at the hot corner. Overall, that reflects the extent of the desperate plight of Turner's Serfs. Atlanta hasn't burned this badly since Sherman. Well, OK, since Chuck Tanner; there wasn't much left after the Age of Perry.
Placed RHP Kerry Wood on the 15-day DL (triceps), retroactive to 5/13; recalled RHP Michael Wuertz from Iowa. [5/20]
DuBois has continued to progress from when the Blue Jays tried to snag him from the Cubs via the Rule 5 draft, and at Iowa this year, he was hitting .299/.382/.628. (By way of the contrast, the more frequently touted Dave Kelton is hitting .269/.327/.469, but at least he might finally settle into an outfield corner.) Sammy's only supposed to miss the two weeks, so it's somewhat academic, because Dusty won't play him, not when he can get playing time to Todd Hollandsworth or Jose Macias or Tom Goodwin. Hollandsworth has had his uses as a fourth outfielder, so we can cut Dusty some slack in terms of getting him the at-bats, but the Cubs could help themselves by seeing what DuBois could do in a platoon role, if nothing else. Even if they'd rather not rely on him, at least they might create interest by showcasing him, and as they're a contender and all that, why not? It isn't like anybody's going to ask for Macias at the end of July.
As for losing Wood for a couple of weeks, although they're whining about how to restructure his suspension, by itself, this shouldn't kill the Cubs. At the end of the day, it isn't Sergio Mitre who's costing the Cubs games in the standings, since he's being about what you would expect, a useful enough fifth starter. The problem has really been Greg Maddux. The injuries have helped create enough other sources of grief to fret over, but life would be a lot simpler if Maddux was providing the security he was supposed to give them. Now, it isn't so much that anybody in the rotation has pitched flat-out bad, as much as Matt Clement is the only guy left who's pitched well. The schedule to come isn't going to do the Cubs any favors; two off days next week and the double-header against the Pirates might press Wuertz into a spot start, and they'll wind up stuck with Glendon Rusch for another two turns or so. But as long as the NL Central race is all frivolous hares with nary a determined tortoise coming from any direction, let's face it, we should have plenty of stretch drama whatever Dusty does.
Beyond the good news that they've got Kearns back, there's the additional good news that he hit well during his rehab stint, so this might actually add up to a reinforcement, and not just an extension on his rehabbing the shoulder through big league playing time. You can only go so far on a three-man lineup (or four, counting Ryan Freel), and a healthy Kearns will do heaps to get the Reds out of 14th in the NL in offense, in addition to making Dave Miley's life easier by allowing him to just leave Freel at third base until Brandon Larson heals up, should that ever take place. If there's a guy who just drew the short straw, it's Tim Hummel, especially because they seem inclined to avoid letting him ever play short, and that basically eliminates any chance he might have of becoming a useful utility infielder.
Okay, I know the Marlins aren't ahead of the Phillies any more, so they might be troubled by losing Wil Cordero for a stretch, but the Fish really ought to take the opportunity to see if Hee Choi can hit lefties, and if he can't, then they can platoon him with Jeff Conine, with Abraham Nunez moving into an outfielder corner against portsiders. As is, Nunez needs at-bats, and Choi's "problem" deserves to be defined before achieving existence through assertion. If Choi hits lefties, they learn something, and enrich their menu of options. If he doesn't, and Nunez gets a chance to avoid going stale, well, again, they'll have a better range of choices in-game. Those sorts of things could come in handy later in the year, especially if the Phillies haven't achieved the big lead they were supposed to be able to enjoy.
Not that getting the Flatearther back is bad news, but can the Expos make a few choices already? Terrmel Sledge, Juan Rivera, Val Pascucci and Matt Cepicky could all wind up being useful ballplayers, but dithering with all of them simultaneously isn't going to let any of them get on to having useful big league careers anytime soon. At this point, it should be perfectly clear that Endy Chavez can't play this game. If that means you have to put Brad Wilkerson in center, and let Sledge and Pascucci play first while Cepicky and Rivera fight for at-bats in whichever corner Everett isn't haunting, that at least gets everyone into places where they can try and stick. Futzing around with everyone without picking from among any of them only reflects the absence of a plan, not an absence of talent.
Zipping from the outer reaches of Seussian jokery, the Lorax's pinch-runner is up to fill roster space until the Mets figure out what they really want to do with the spot on the roster and in the rotation. Given how difficult the Mets have found filling the fifth slot in the rotation to be over less than two months, this is the sort of thing that could snap the season's back and consign them to a bedridden 90-loss year with remarkable ease. Neither Aaron Heilman or Jeremy Griffiths have really gotten hot in Norfolk, Neal Musser isn't doing any better at Binghamton, and it would be pretty foolhardy to rush Matt Peterson up with less than a half-season's worth of experience at Double-A.
Perpetual organizational soldier Geary is up, and that's the closest thing to good news here; getting Roberto Hernandez back is sort of like getting confirmation that your least favorite relative is definitely going to make the reunion, and has insisted on drafting your couch as his or her base of operations. If the offense can keep Hernandez in a spectator's role, fate will have been very generous to Ed Wades's charges.
Davis had good reason to not be in the lineup, but almost everybody in Pittsburgh can be happy nevertheless: Jason Bay's playing well, and Daryle Ward seems to have realized that there's no time like the present to get his career under way. Kid McClatchy has to feel good for money saved without impacting the quality of the team. Who knows, maybe they can afford Kris Benson these days, assuming that Lloyd McClendon can let go of his grudge on that front. Other fat is being trimmed or at least slenderized: Tike Redman and Chris Stynes are seeing the certainty of their playing time fade, and the Boyd experiment has died noiselessly. In a pen that already ranks as the most effective relief corps in the majors according to Michael Wolverton's reliever evaluation tools, Boyd had been the sole ineffective member. Rather than let him hang on since everything else was going well, Dave Littlefield refused to settle and instead recognized that the time has come to let Gonzalez pump his high-octane lefty gas in the bigs; at Nashville, he'd already struck out 33 in 18.2 IP.
Not that everything's perfect; this bumblebee-colored world would be a happier place if Ryan Vogelsong and Josh Fogg were pitching at all effectively, for starters. I'd like to see Bobby Hill get some more regular work, although playing him at third would make it that much easier to run with a platoon of Rob Mackowiak and Mateo in center, with Redman handling the defensive replacement duties. Mateo's up after hitting .316/.391/.711 in Nashville. Slugging .711 aside, Mateo has never had it so far, and maybe he never will, but if Ward can find new life playing here, seeing what a retreaded Mateo might be able to contribute could make this team that much more fun.
I suppose when you're confronted with an adult telling you that the dog ate his homework and busted up his wrist and sorry, you can either laugh it off as something you'd expect with a guy who wishes he could be an extra in a Brian Bosworth movie, or you can get all strident and disciplinary. The Pads have plenty at stake, and decided that it was better not to wig out and go Bill Virdon on Jumbo in mid-May, when they might be able to forget the whole thing by June. Coming as it does in the same season that Rod Beck has to go away, while everyone complains about this weird new space they have to play in, it's starting to feel like a Robert Altman movie, with multiple narratives and odd crises leaving everyone feeling mildly annoyed while some other stuff happens. Okay, it's a little bit better than that: they're in first place, and they're still in an entirely Lily Tomlin-free workplace.
What losing Wells for a couple of starts does do is serve as a reminder that the Padres aren't blessed with a lot of big league-ready pitching. Sterling Hitchcock and Ismael Valdes might be their normal options to fill the fifth slot and provide a replacement to any of the front four, just like right now, but both are notoriously fragile. Hitchcock's rehabbing, and should be back by the first weekend of June, but that's later than would come in handy right now. The Beavers awaiting the call include Dennis Tankersley; he's been a watchword for elaborate failure two years running. There's Brian Sweeney, and it's a bit of a surprise that he didn't get the call; he's the prize in the deal that stuck them with Jeff Cirillo, after all. Joey Hamilton's the notional veteran, but he's been terrible, and Matt Bruback hasn't done much to get himself back onto the 40-man roster. So why Germano, months shy of 22, armed with what's considered a modest repertoire, and with less than a season's worth of experience above A-ball? Frankly, I have no idea, but they're going to feed him to the Phillies over the weekend, and I don't see that working out at all well.