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May 5, 1999

Transaction Analysis

April 30-May 4

by Christina Kahrl

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Released RHP Heathcliff Slocumb outright; recalled RHP Gabe Molina from Rochester. [4/30]

Recalled 1B Calvin Pickering from Rochester; optioned INF Jesse Garcia to Rochester. [5/3]

Random flail of the weekend: things are going badly, somebody has to die, and you don't casually kill family. Slocumb has swung between mediocre and bad throughout his entire career, but it isn't a stretch to think someone could still use him. Heck, with as many reincarnations as Mel Rojas gets, it isn't just Tony Fossas and his left-handed cousins that are tougher than cockroaches, it's anyone who's ever logged a save in the major leagues!

Molina hadn't allowed a run in his brief stint in Rochester, while racking up four saves, but I wouldn't race to call him a prospect. Professional baseball doesn't cut short right-handers much slack; add in that Molina's best pitch is a changeup, put him in Camden Yards on a bad team, and he may need more than one shot to stick. Meanwhile, the best news the Orioles have gotten in weeks is right here: Pickering's up, and if there's a man on this team who's going to be on the next division-winning Orioles team, it's this Cal. His shoulder may not be 100%, but if they work him in past Jeff Conine, they won't regret it.

CHICAGO CUBS

Activated RHP Kevin Tapani from the DL; placed RHP Kurt Miller on the 15-day DL (strained ribcage). [5/1]

Slowly but surely the reinforcements arrive, meaning that much less of Miller and Brad Woodall. Once Jon Lieber is reactivated, the Cubs will have to go back to reviewing what's really wrong with this team: the lineup. They're babbling about how unlucky they've been, but they are in the middle of the pack in terms of stranding runners, and they've got a passel of people coming off of better-than-expected seasons. In desperation, fun players like Glenallen Hill and Tyler Houston are being propped up on pedestals, which will only lead to more disappointments.

CINCINNATI REDS

Assigned RHP Mark Wohlers to Indianapolis for a rehab assignment. [5/2]

Recalled RHP Steve Parris from Indianapolis. [5/3]

As expected, Parris gets first crack at a rotation spot. Here's hoping Wohlers doesn't hurt anybody at any level, including himself.

COLORADO ROCKIES

Placed C Kirt Manwaring on the 15-day DL (pinky fracture); recalled C/UT Henry Blanco from Colorado Springs. [5/1]

Announced that OF Pat Watkins cleared waivers and was outrighted to Colorado Springs; recalled INF Chris Sexton from Colorado Springs. [5/3]

Optioned RHP Jamey Wright to Colorado Springs; recalled OF Edgard Clemente from Colorado Springs. [5/4]

Jim Leyland is already railing about Wright and John Thomson with his usual straight lines about worthless and weak prospects, which means that at least in Thomson's case, Leyland apparently doesn't know much about the team he's running. Thomson isn't a prospect: he's one of the better starters in the National League. But one of the media's favorite managers needs to make somebody feel bad for the poor work being done by the bullpen or slow starts from half of the lineup, so guys with options make easy targets.

This is basic reshuffling intended to show that somebody's in charge, without actually doing anything about real problems, like road anvil and glove goon Fonzie Bichette. One interesting thing about the Rox bench: with Sexton, Blanco, Kurt Abbott and Lenny Harris, they've got one of the most multi-positional group of benchies you're going to find. Blanco can play third base well and catch, and the other three can probably play every position but shortstop or center field, and even those in a pinch. That doesn't mean it's a good bench, but it does mean the Rockies don't lack for alternatives.

DETROIT TIGERS

RHP Brian Moehler was suspended by the AL for doctoring the ball. [5/3] Purchased the contract of RHP Nelson Cruz from Toledo; optioned INF Luis Garcia to Toledo. [5/4]

Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of Moehler's being caught has been manager Larry Parrish's response, about how everyone cheats. That doesn't fly with Officer Thug when I try to weasel my way out of a speeding ticket, so I'm not overburdened with sympathy for Mr. Moehler. At least the mandatory suspension was a punishment that even Gene Budig couldn't de-fang.

As for calling up Cruz, he's a big fly finesse pitcher who hasn't been fooling many people in Triple-A the last few years, so other than being better than Mel Rojas, he doesn't have much to offer. I wonder if the Dodgers will pay the Tigers for using Cruz instead of Rojas...

FLORIDA MARLINS

Returned RHP Alex Fernandez to the 15-day DL (pulled groin); recalled RHP Rafael Medina from Calgary. [5/3]

Let's just say Alex is a large man, and it's going to take more than ballroom dancing to get him fit enough to recapture his former glory. As for the Marlins' current rotation, they have the equally foreboding alternatives of Medina and Kirt Ojala. Just a quick recommendation: if you want to see a pitching staff being run in a very strange way, just check out Calgary (PCL). Almost everyone's getting a start here and there, almost everyone's pitching in long relief here and there, and it'll be interesting to see who comes out of it for the better.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Activated RHP Antonio Osuna from the DL; optioned LHP Jeff Kubenka to Albuquerque. [5/3]

I'm not down on Kubenka after three mopup outings, but he didn't exactly make a great case for sticking around. In the meantime, Osuna's on-again, off-again relationship with health will be one of the more important pitching stories for the Dodgers over the next few months.

MONTREAL EXPOS

Optioned RHP Shayne Bennett to Ottawa; recalled RHP Guillermo Mota from Ottawa. [5/2]

I wonder if Felipe Alou is running his staff with a basic rule: run your ERA up to 9.00 or higher, you lose your job. Mike Maddux is out, now Bennett's out, Mike Thurman has lost his rotation slot and the Expos are going to add to the current fascination with position-players-turned-pitchers by calling up Mota. He's raw, and still working on anything other than his fastball, but he doesn't have control problems so far and almost anything's better than Bennett.

NEW YORK METS

Activated RHP Rick Reed from the DL; optioned LHP Rigo Beltran to Norfolk. [5/3]

With Reed's return, the Mets are now wrestling with the choice of epic fifth starters: Allen Watson or Masato Yoshii. I say call up Octavio Dotel and be done with it, but then what would the Post shriek about if the Mets did the right thing?

NEW YORK YANKEES

Placed RHP Jeff Nelson on the 15-day DL (inflamed elbow); recalled RHP Jay Tessmer from Columbus. [5/3]

Pity the Yankees; the choice wasn't easy about who to call up when they finally decided to rest the always-fragile Nelson. The Clipper bullpen has been hot in the early going, with not only sidearmer Tessmer pitching well, but also hard-throwing Todd Erdos and the very big Ben Ford. The Yankees shouldn't worry about rushing Nelson back, because it isn't hard to envision all three of these guys being useful pitchers in a major league bullpen.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated RHP Marc Wilkins from the DL; optioned RHP Jason Phillips to Nashville. [5/1]

Mercifully, Phillips gets sent down. Add Wilkins to the list of guys who might get a save for the Pirates, as they avoid committing themselves to anyone. Mike Williams is a journeyman having a nice week or two, Rich Loiselle is a nice little pitcher who won't be allowed to forget the best stretch of his career, and ... well, hey, Heathcliff Slocumb is available.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Placed RHP Mark Leiter on the 60-day DL (torn rotator cuff), and LHP Butch Henry on the 15-day DL (torn labrum); recalled RHP Eric Weaver and LHP Sean Spencer from Tacoma. [5/2]

Mt. Piniella and five rookie pitchers (soon to be six once Brett Hinchliffe is recalled). That's almost grounds to fire the big guy on the spot. Maybe that's unfair, but managers--like players--have their strengths and their weaknesses. Whatever his strengths, Piniella has an awful track record with pitchers, particularly young pitchers. If the organization likes Lou but also has some sort of good-natured faith in the Mac Suzukis of the world, wouldn't be better for everyone to send Mt. Piniella to the sportfishing circuit for a few months?

George Steinbrenner, love him or hate him (actually, does anyone love him?), at least recognized that different managers offered different skills, and the Mariners do not need a moody, domineering volcano belching out bitter self-pitying tirades at a group of young pitchers who need to be given a chance to make progress if the Mariners are going to do anything before A-Rod and Griffey decide it's time to walk away.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed RHP Julio Santana on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis); recalled RHP Ryan Rupe from Orlando (Double-A). [5/3]

Optioned LHP Tony Saunders to Durham; recalled RHP Eddie Gaillard from Durham. [5/4]

Monkey-see, monkey-do. Saunders' demotion is sort of like Turner Ward's multi-year contract. Whether or not you buy the dubious rationale for either action, the Devil Rays seems to operate under the assumption that if other teams are doing it, the Devil Rays have to jump on the "punitive demotion" bandwagon. Isn't Larry Rothschild supposed to be a pitching guru? Why can't he iron out Saunders? Because he's spending all of his time wondering what a Danny Clyburn does, and whether that's related to baseball?

TEXAS RANGERS

Placed SS Royce Clayton on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); recalled SS Kelly Dransfeldt from Oklahoma. [5/1]

Clayton's bum shoulder was hurting him at the plate, which the Rangers weren't too upset about. But it was also getting to him in the field, which they couldn't afford. Dransfeldt's callup isn't really premature in terms of his age, because he is 24 (i.e., four years older than Benji Gil was when Gil was called up prematurely). But if you've read this column in the past, you know what's coming: since Clayton's under a long-term contract, why call up the prospect with very little experience above A-ball when you can tide yourself over with Scott Sheldon and Jon Shave? Isn't that why you have them around in the first place?

It could still work out; Dransfeldt could hold his own for a couple of weeks, learn a few things and be ready in case Clayton goes down for an extended period of time.

Totally off-topic, but Royce shouldn't be the only veteran hearing footsteps. Tom Goodwin has been struggling, while Ruben Mateo has already smacked seven home runs while hitting .333/.417/.643.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Placed C Darrin Fletcher on the 15-day DL (fractured orbit); called up C Kevin Brown from Syracuse. [5/2]

Placed DH Geronimo Berroa on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/2 (strained knee); recalled OF Anthony Sanders from Syracuse. [5/4]

The Jays know Fletcher is fragile, which may be the only explanation for why they'd drag a career stiff like Mike Matheny into town. Now that Brown's back up, the Jays would be better off to just play him every day, while letting Matheny continue to handle those valuable bullpen and pre-inning warmup chores.

As for losing Berroa, now that Kevin Witt's up and playing, having Sanders around actually makes better sense, since he gives the Jays a legit fourth outfielder, not that Shannon Stewart, Jose Cruz, Jr. or Shawn Green need many breaks. Sanders' chief skill is that he's the best outfielder of the group, giving Jim Fregosi the opprotunity to get Stewart's weak arm off the field once in awhile.

Who's lost in the shuffle? Willie Greene, yet again, and as unfairly as ever. That's only going to get worse, because somebody will eventually have to take a fall for Dave Hollins, should he ever heal up.

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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