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June 10, 2004
June 2-8, 2004
Placed RHP Troy Percival on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation), retroactive to 6/2. [6/6]
Purchased the contract of LHP Dusty Bergman from Salt Lake; transferred RHP Brendan Donnelly from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/8]
Rotoheads might quail, but let's face it, closers are like shop stewards in a business that's broken its union: the guy might be making more, but that shouldn't convey any extra respect or thought about their irreplaceability. Certainly, the foursome the Angels have been able to rely upon in relief so far-K-Rod, Scot Shields, Kevin Gregg, and Ramon Ortiz-have all pitched significantly better, so it isn't as if they're handicapped as much as they're left wondering about the esoterics of roles. This might discomfit the slavering rotohead hordes, hungry for their statistical footnotes, but on the more practical levels that concern Mike Scioscia, it'll just mean turning a few game-important situations in the sixth or seventh innings over to Hensley or Bergman. That's not all bad news: having given up 20 baserunners in 28.2 IP as a Stinger, Hensley seems to be just so much more stamped dough cranked out by the Angel's sweet relief cookie cutter.
The real question is how long this has to be that way. Percival's long-term prognosis seems pretty cloudy, and Brendan Donnelly won't be back until the end of the month at the earliest. You can hope the ten days or two weeks or a month in Utah might get Weber back to the devilishly effective reliever the Angels have been able to rely upon for the previous three seasons. But again, relying on Hensley isn't so bad.
Outrighted LHP Kelly Wunsch to Charlotte. [6/5]
Two questions arise: how long will Maggs be out, and did the Ozzeroo make the right call by deciding that this represented a nice opportunity to get Timo Perez or Ross Gload some at-bats. (That, or rotating Willie Harris out to center and letting Juan Uribe get more action at second base.) The answers are interrelated, of course. As admirable as Guillen's willingness to try to get Gload or Perez freshened up to become reliable bench weapons down the stretch might be, now that we know that Ordonez is out for at least a month, and perhaps two, I'm not wildly enthusiastic about the decision. As is, Uribe has been getting playing time, and Timo! is already getting time spotting for Aaron Rowand in center.
So this really boils down to a more fundamental proposition, which is whether you'd rather have Ross Gload or Jeremy Reed, or perhaps Joe Borchard, in the lineup. If Reed were hitting like he could, it would be an easier proposition, but he's only hitting .277/.367/.404 in Charlotte. Borchard's showing the power we all have been waiting for (.284/.330/.514), but 11 unintentional walks in ~200 plate appearances isn't exactly a testimony to his readiness. So, surprising the prospect mavens, it isn't an easy choice. Under these circumstances, and perhaps abetted by the Twins' sloppy willingness to keep the division race interesting, I guess taking a bit of a look at Gload works. His 2003 at Charlotte was better than either Reed's or Borchard's seasons have been so far, and Gload is still only 28. He might seem older, having exploded onto some prospect radars in 2000, but he's still too young to play for Tony LaRussa. So while I'm not crazy about it, I can accept and endorse the logic. If Gload is going to demonstrate he's worth a spot on the active roster down the stretch, it's just as well that the time is now. If he flops, then the Sox can turn to either Reed or Borchard, hopefully on the heels of their having demonstrated that Triple-A has nothing left to teach them. If he succeeds, then the Sox have a sharpened lefty bat on the bench. For all of the expectations involving Ozzie's bluster, it's a pretty sensible choice.
Placed RHP Joe Dawley on the 15-day DL (strained elbow), retroactive to 6/7; recalled RHP Kazuhito Tadano from Buffalo. [6/8]
Giambi's supposed to be back to his old self, and since Tony Clark and Ruben Sierra have done more than okay in their spot duties, the guy who's really out of luck is still Kenny Lofton. Once he's ready to come off the DL, you can expect the trade rumors to really start flying, as every potential jilted suitor in the Beltran sweepstakes makes the usual inquiries about Lofton's availability.
Losing Chavez sucks in all sorts of ways for the A's, not least which is that it highlights a few problems on the farm. Adam Morrissey should have made a nice call-up around now, but he isn't hitting for power, and basically hasn't turned into the prospect we once hoped he'd be. Jason Grabowski would come in handy, but he's now a minion of the Dodgers. So in the breach, Mark Teahen has been propelled up into Triple-A in the hope that he might be close to ready soon. He has the patience the organization likes, and he's not a bad glove at third--but basically, until he has a good couple of weeks as a River Cat, it's going to be a whole lot of Mark McLemore at the hot corner. There's only so far you can ride a red-hot Hatteberg, so the A's had better live off a well-timed soft spot in the schedule for as long as they can, because Chavez should be gone until the All-Star break at the least, now matter what they risk in terms of treating him in the meantime (for more on that, check out Will Carroll's comments in Under the Knife).
Placed OF-L Raul Ibanez on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring). [6/3]
Recalled SS-B Ramon Santiago from Tacoma. [6/4]
I could say something, but what would it matter? We've already taken Derek's belt and shoelaces away from him, and we make him eat with a plastic spork. He choke himself to death on his sandals, I guess, but Mariners fans should be used to this sort of thing, it's a birthright of sorts. Given that Randy Winn's sort of a latter-day Dave Collins (what good is a speed guy who can't play center or put runs on the board?), you would think it would have made some sense to have called up Jamal Strong, but Mariners fans don't even reap that sort of satisfaction. Still, for all that, there's hope. Clint Nageotte's shot at sticking is fun to fret over, since it would be a credit to the organization for holding onto him through a few years' worth of offers. (Although to be fair, Pat Gillick didn't really deal any of his farm arms, and look what it got him: no Kodak moment, and a lot of scragged farm arms.) And I think we all hope to see J.J. Putz make it too, even if it's only for the name.
Signed RHP Rick Helling to a minor league contract. [6/8]
Whenever you feel any doubt about whether or not somebody's still active in the majors, but you're not quite sure, I suppose there's one of two courses of action. You can either take the trouble to look the guy up by name, or you can cheat and simply take a gander at the Rangers or (usually) the D-Rays. Jay Powell's still active and everything. Who knew? And hey, he's even cashing checks! That's pretty swell. I mean, we were all worried, weren't we?
More important is signing up Helling after he left the Twins' organization in disgust (can you blame him? Seth Greisinger?), because as ever, the Rangers' rotation needs the help. Ryan Drese achieving adequacy is a good start, of course, but it isn't enough, and Kenny Rogers can't do everything by himself.
Sold RHP Dicky Gonzalez to the Yakult Swallows of the Japanese leagues; designated UT-R Charles Gipson for assignment. [6/4]
Yow, purgetastic mayhem! With a sprightliness usually reserved for Katie Couric, the D-Rays got their perk on, sacrificing one of the vestigial crusty roster growths that seem to remind Lou Piniella of his rainy days of yore in the Pacific Northwest. But having excused Abbott from the Rays, you might think they're finally sifting through the upper level talent they have to sort out if they're going to start taking their 40-man roster seriously. But is it really all that happy? Colome still isn't overpowering people, having walked 16 in 30.2 IP, while only striking out 17. For all of the hosannas and hopes thrown his way, Brazelton comes up having allowed 6.3 runs per nine innings over ten starts. There are, however, a large number of guys trying to press their way up off the Bulls or the Biscuits, so if this is hope, it's of the darkness before dawn variety, where the Rays are evaluating whether or not this is the Jesus Colome Farewell Tour.
Worse yet, it remains to be seen if they learned anything from how they handled Abbott. The man gave them quality starts in five of his first six starts, but he lost the 'quality' label in the seventh inning in two of them, which is more like 'suckitude by managerial decision' than anything else. So Abbott may not be done, despite being released by the Rays; instead, he might be ready for the Mike Morgan role, and given how many teams need a filler fifth starter, I sort of expect him to be recycled. Might the White Sox come a-callin'?
The genuinely good news, though is the decision to drop Bautista onto the tail end of the roster. Third base is a desperately weak position in terms of organizational depth for the Rays, and while Aubrey Huff is acquitting himself well enough at the position for the time being, there's nothing coming up behind him. Holding onto Bautista for regular playing time in Montgomery or Durham next year is exactly the sort of risk the Rays should be taking, on the off-chance he turns out… well, hopefully better than Eddie Williams, who also had to deal with Rule 5ery, but who managed a decent career nevertheless.
Activated SS-R Chris Woodward, OF-L Frank Catalanotto, and RHP Justin Speier from the 15-day DL; optioned DH-L Simon Pond to Syracuse; placed 1B-L Carlos Delgado on the 15-day DL (rib cage), retroactive to 5/30; placed LHP Valerio De Los Santos on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 6/6. [6/8]
Can we come up with any more scenarios where the Blue Jays don't ever come close to fielding the team they assembled this past winter? What's next, Vernon Wells getting carried off to Churchill by polar bears? Canada dissolves into a three-way civil war, with angry Quebecois (Over what? Does it matter?) seceding and conquering Toronto? A phalanx of drug-hungry blue-haired zombies blitzing across the borders to empty the city and its environs of every consumable semi-chemical substance, including the resin bag and all of the pine tar? Is there any way things could possibly get any worse?
As a result, there really isn't a lot to assess. Gregg Zaun's batting fifth, and Howie Clark is playing first. Stubby Clapp and Juice Benard can't be too far off. There is no up-side there, it's what happens when you have season left to play, and the not enough ready youth to review. Pond's struggles are a mild disappointment, of course, but with Delgado out, he's untradeable (well… well, you'd think so, even on Selig's laissez faire watch). The hope is that Delgado will get rest and only miss the two weeks, but given how repeatedly snakebit this season has been (see, here's where Arizona's teeth went), you can understand their caution.
And to answer an unasked question, no, I do not make a habit of screaming, and certainly isn't the big stuff, like these moves, that upset me. It's the chickenshit piffling, the constant tweaking, the exploitation of off-days and scheduling and ten-day yo-yos that let teams that want to spend a little bit of extra cash work with 27- or 28-man rosters, where the endless gamesmanship of flitting between twelfth pitchers, third lefties, third catchers, fifth starters, second utility infielders, pinch-runners, and Lenny Harris leave you wondering what's the point of observing a twenty-five man roster in the first place, save as a way to let the wealthy and hyperactive try to exploit the thrifty, the indolent, or the simply patient. I guess if we had a commissioner, or a rules czar who was more than a genial empty suit, we might have some noodling on the subject. Unfortunately, like those right-left, white-black clowns in one particularly preachy Star Trek (no, not the 'We Plenista' episode, the other one), I suspect my whining is the stuff of corny lessons about how we can fix simple, stupid inequities.
Optioned Gonzalez back to Tucson; purchased the contract of 1B-B Alan Zinter from Tucson. [6/8]
Well, this almost resembled a solution to the fifth starter question that doesn't involve something really regrettable, like giving it back to "Glue" Dessens. Not that Dessens should be knackered just yet, not when he can be tossed into a deal, but let's face it, the Snakes look coiled up this summer. They're better off sorting through who they have in-house who might be able to help in 2005. On that score, trusting to their own organization soldier, Tim Olson, as the lone utility infielder makes sense, and taking a look at Gonzalez even moreso. The organization's top upper-level pitching prospect, it surprised some when he didn't get much of a look in camp, but he's only 21, and not equipped with much more than a season's worth of experience above A-ball, so the Snakes have probably been right to be cautious. He struggled early on in Tucson (a 5.63 ERA, but only 62 hits allowed in 56 IP thrown in the PCL, with a 34-10 strikeout-walk ratio), but he's supposed to be sound now. But this didn't really represent an honest opportunity, because one bad start was enough to jerk him around. Having made that choice, they could go back to Dessens, but for the time being, it looks like they're going to take a look at Andrew Good.
Placed RHP Joe Borowski on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled RHP Jon Leicester from Iowa. [6/6]
Well, he's here, short the loaves and the fishes, but perhaps more like that Lazarus cat, ambulatory and everything. Besides, now that fugu will lack that little bit of danger, you can keep the fishes, and if you haven't been appropriately indoctrinated about the nation's raging carbohydrate scare (currently, we're at terror level Fuscia), I'm sure our Attorney General can arrange to have you politically re-educated-just get in the boxcar and don't ask questions.
As several Cubs made the point of reminding me (sagely so, and thank you much), Carlos Zambrano's had a fantastic season. Throw in that Greg Maddux has given them seven quality starts in his last nine, and Glendon Rusch has been a nice little upgrade on Sergio Mitre. So the rotation is probably at its best right now. So too is the pen, for that matter: JoBo's finally out of the way, Francis Beltran has proved he belongs, Leicester is another one of the scads of hard-throwing farmhands the Cubs have stocked up for every occasion, and Kent Mercker's return might spread some lower-leverage lefty work Mike Remlinger's way so that he can pitch himself into fully working order. The bad news is that LaTroy Hawkins won't get into high leverage spots before the ninth now that he's closing, but that's pretty small beer compared to the concern that Borowski inspires these days.
It might seem strange to argue that the Reds will miss Harang, considering he's done everything in his power to remind them of the dearly departed Jimmy Haynes, but at least according to Michael Wolverton's Support-Neutral stats, the Reds have the second-worst rotation in the National League, ahead of only the Rockies. That sounds pretty grim, but they do have Paul Wilson going strong, and Jose Acevedo is pitching much better than his ERA, having produced eight quality starts in eleven opportunities (counting one blown in the seventh). As fifth starters go, Todd Van Poppel can hang on, and I guess Cory Lidle's still what he was, a fourth starter who can handle the pressure of that slot. What the Reds need if they want to be taken seriously is someone to match with Wilson at the top. Considering Dan O'Brien got the job because of fanboy enthusiasm, will he roll the dice as a rookie? My snidery aside, why not? Nobody owns the NL these days, and the Cubs and Astros seem enthusiastic about keeping things interesting.
The dilemma remains health, with this team being particularly brittle. It would, of course, be nice if Brandon Larson magically solved the third base problem this team has inflicted on itself, but nobody should wait around for that. While Austin Kearns remains injured, Ryan Freel will be shunted around all over the place as needed, meaning that Larson will at least get a bunch of starts to finally put up, or recede into Gary Scott's special limbo dimension. At least D'Angelo Jimenez got back to hitting again, because I'm less than confident that Tim Hummel is ever going to be anything more than the new, slow Shane Halter.
Placed LHP Brian Fuentes on the 15-day DL (strained 'side'); purchased the contract of RHP Marc Kroon from Colorado Springs; transferred RF-L Larry Walker from the 15- to the 60-day DL; claimed RHP Tim Bausher off waivers from the Brewers and optioned him to Tulsa (Double-A). [6/7]
Did you ever play cards with someone whose real joy in the game wasn't in playing off other people, it was in the shuffling and dealing part of the program? Of course you have, ever posse of casual gamblers has one, a sweet-shufflin' artist, going through all that finger stuntery, only to forget that the hands then have to be played. Goofy, right? Well, welcome to Dan O'Dowd's world. Now that Jim Bowden's gone, there is no more avid practitioner of the random reshuffle for no other reason than to make sure the phones still work.
Given the unfortunately overly positive feedback he's gotten about the decision to call up Matt Holliday (pursuing every minor league tweener outfielder's dream of trying to be the next Todd Hollandsworth, and win a Rookie of the Year Award courtesy of an indolent electorate), I suppose he just had to look at Freeman as well. In Freeman's case, there's the added virtue that he can actually play the outfield, and since nobody from among Jeromy Burnitz, Holliday, or outfielder du jour can do better, he should get a few starts. But he doesn't come up having hit his way into the majors (only .294/.328/.456 in Colorado Springs), and his running game died a couple of years ago. Like Holliday, he's a prospect because this organization doesn't really have prospects. Unlike Holliday, he might not have that hot first week that makes him a long-term question.
Marc Kroon? The one and only? Yow, sometimes guys remind you of TINSTAAP, and sometimes guys remind you that while TINSTAAP is the rule of the day, 'never say die' should be the rule of every pitcher's life. Kroon was a fireballer once upon a time, and he's still sitting people down (33 strikeouts in 24 IP in Colorado Springs), and he's still wild (six wild pitches already?). He's not supposed to be around for long, but hell, Tim Harikkala finally made it, so on this team, stranger things really have happened.
Suspended OF-B Milton Bradley for four games for his conduct in Tuesday's game against the Brewers. [6/3]
Activated OF-R Jayson Werth off the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Edwin Jackson to Las Vegas. [6/4]
Sadly, Jackson isn't going to be up to stay just yet. With Nomo back, they do have the Jose Lima-Wilson Alvarez tag-team in the fifth slot, after all. But Jackson isn't that far off from being up to stay: he was only giving up a hit per inning in Las Vegas, no mean feat, and he'd let only four pitches leave the ballpark in 57.2 IP. The 28 unintentional walks aren't happy news, of course, but it's only a matter of time, and who's to say he won't stop nibbling in the roomier pasturage of Chavez Ravine?
As for Milton Bradley's latest run-in with authority, I think it's worth noting that Cowboy Joe West deserves about as much respect as a professional and as an authority figure as Jeffrey Jones did as Ferris Bueller's principal. But still, we're talking about someone with anger management issues, and if Terry Clark is going to bait him at the plate before he goes to work, he's the one who has to rise above the nonsense. Hopefully, the game will also work with Bradley to let him simply play baseball, instead of singling him out for his capacity to fly off the handle. I have no idea if it would help, but a mature black player or coach with sufficient status to command some respect from Bradley seems to be a typical gambit. As a fan, I hope the Dodgers work it out with him, because I think we're all better off with getting to see the game's great talent play to its best ability, while being comfortable that the game works with the people who need the help. As in life, so it is in industry; one size does not fit all.
Sometimes, there's that old reality-driven bitchslap that, upon receipt, should remind us that some things defy easy explanation. Certainly, if you'd told me two years ago that one of Scott Podsednik and Peter Bergeron would be a successful leadoff man and regular in center field, and I had to pick which, I would have been decisively wrong. But if Alex Sanchez can get another chance and flirt with usefulness, I don't see why taking a chance on Bergeron is a bad idea. It only cost them a light-hitting DH and a spare Childers, and the potential payoff in a best-case scenario is a useful everyday player. Don't bet on it, but it's a chance worth taking, certainly.
Bergeron, an Ex^2po? Amidst the bitter harvest that this (perhaps) final season has yielded, I guess there's some small satisfaction to be derived from their having finally gotten rid of him. On some level, you can even take hope that they got stuff of value for him, but that's not saying that much. Unlike some, I'm not a big believer in Belcher's prospect status. Although he's young, he's not much of an outfielder, and he has yet to prove that last year's modest hitting exploits weren't entirely the product of hitting in the always-cozy Cal League. I suppose Childers might come in handy: Jason's the older, less prospect-y of the pair, but the one who has managed to stay relatively healthy while throwing strikes. Given the Expos' desperate need for relief pitching of any stripe, I guess this is what best resembles getting good stuff for a player the organization was ready to discard entirely.
Really? Ice Williams is now a member of the Hall of Big Apple Superfriends, the guys who have played for both the Yankees and the Mets? I suspect Hall President Neil Allen and Sergeant-at-Arms Darryl Strawberry will make gracious welcoming speeches, to be sure, especially since Ice has one foot in the active list, and another joining the two of them in the historical.
There's a certain amount of hopscotch going on here, as the Phillies try to adapt to life without starting pitching. Given that Bowa has yet to prove he's a crisis management sort of guy, if there are any Marlins fans, you can expect them to be snickering around now. Given how well the offense is going, I'm a little surprised that they haven't taken the most conservative path available in Wolf's absence, and pushed Amary Telemaco into the rotation. Madson had that whole Sturtze/Mirer/deer in the headlights thing going for him in his start against the Sox, and Hancock has looked awful. Since it's hard to believe that Eric Milton will last the season, chances are, they'll probably get into Telemaco territory at some point.
Polanco's return is good news, at least, since Chase Utley didn't stake a great claim to the job in his absence, and with David Bell earning his keep, the infield is actually pretty set, at least for as long as Jim Thome can waddle out there and take the field.
So JoBo and BriBo hit the DL… does this mean we're going to see a Bobo comeback? Not that Newsom wouldn't be pretty helpful these days. He was durable, although it's entirely guesswork as to whether or not he'd get a reputation as a clubhouse character, or someone frighteningly strange beyond the conception of any of the milquetoasts on the beat. Anyway, Gonzalez remains the talented hard-throwing lefty he was the previous week, when he was on the team, so this isn't really a setback for Lloyd McClendon's menu of bullpen options.
This isn't really a case of the cavalry riding in. Terrence Long is still going to get to play in Ryan Klesko's absence, and Nady really wasn't hitting all that well at Vegas (.314/.391/.466). Nobody's hitting well enough above A-ball to really provide a lot of help, so Nady is here almost by default. If there's a silver lining, it's that in a situation like this, Jon Knott might get a real look. He's a Three True Outcomes (homerun, strikeout, or walk) sort, but Petco may be exactly the wrong place for him, considering he's got a flyball stroke in a park where long flies stay in play.
As for Jumbo's return, it's good news and all, and hopefully he and Rod Beck can commiserate about life down by the river, but in Wells' absence and Jake Peavy's, Dennis Tankersley has earned a longer look, while Exxon Valdez tossed a shutout his last time around. So the rotation is well-stocked, and the only regular you have to start wondering about is Adam Eaton. Peavy's due back at the end of the month, at which point something is going to have to give. If Tank's still earning his keep, it'll either be time for another one of Jumbo's wacky adventures, or for the Pads to start thinking of moving Eaton into a long relief role until he gets his kinks worked out.
Surprising nobody… well, okay, perhaps Dean Taylor, again… Jeffrey Hammonds was worthless again. Is there really anybody left who looks at him and sees Rickey Henderson? Because at this point, they should check their specs, and get used to seeing Jerald Clark 2.0, like the rest of us. It's a testament to how desperate the Giants' plight is, that Dustan Mohr and Todd Linden are solutions to anything beyond Cap Anson's potential solutions for this team's problems. Mohr deserves more playing time than Alou was giving him, but Linden wasn't hitting much, and not for any power, in Fresno, where a crash test dummy would get doubles just on HBP ricochets. Case in point, Cody Ransom's back into the dismally Durham-less middle infield picture on the strength of his having hit .316/.404/.610 as a Grizzly. Since he fields better than Deivi Cruz, and hits better than Neifi Perez, you might jump to the conclusion he's an improvement, but those are weak-sister arguments. I mean, he's more alive than Suleiman the Magnificent, but that doesn't make him an Ottoman sultan, does it? (Suleiman shares a birthday with Walter Johnson, Chad Curtis, and me; I have to wonder which of us is the most mild-mannered Scorpio of the lot.) Still, for all that, they're in this thing, and once Durham comes back and should A.J. Pierzynski ever start hitting, well, why not a Giants team in contention?
If you were the regimented sort, and you wanted a list of players people get all wild-eyed and happy about because of intangibles, Matheny's always close to the top of the list. As easy as it is to point out that even veteran pitchers probably need some mature advice now and again, and as clearly deserved as Matheny's rep as one of the game's toughest hombres might be, let's face it, you have to think that Matheny's about as replaceable as a veteran catcher can get. So I'm not really busted up about his absence. Not that Molina is entirely ready or destined for stardom, but he's not exactly shabby either, having come up hitting .310/.390/.381, i.e., a bunch of singles. It's slightly bold to bring him up and start him regularly, but he's not even 22 yet, but his defensive rep is top-shelf, and he is only replacing Matheny in the lineup. Plus, it isn't like Cody McKay is really a powerless sub-Mendoza hitter. (If you're wondering where he is now that he might be needed, Keith McDonald is in Nashville, being mostly harmless.) The Birds have problems, and more in the offing, but this particular straw isn't going to break anything's back.