July 10, 2004
The Angels are at a normal 14-11 split in terms of hitters and pitchers, but the last three spots on the bench belong to fillers: Josh Paul, third catcher, backup first baseman Robb Quinlan, and...well, an infielder. Amezaga might have a future, although at this point, it's more and more speculative, and hitting .157/.213/.171 is a lousy way to keep that a going concern. But in the meantime, the Angels are contending, and Halter, despite his many shortcomings, fills the role in a way where you don't really worry if he goes stale. He's like a roster twinkie: you don't want to have to use him, but you can leave him on the shelf, in or out of the wrapper, and he'll be about what you expect no matter how long he sits there. Anyway, it's a bench for Mike Scioscia to lavish with neglect.
Outrighted OF-R Chad Mottola to Ottawa; added Huckaby to the active roster. [7/7]
I don't mind the idea of the Orioles moving off 13 pitchers, but to add Huckaby? I know he's considered a good sport and all that, but what do the Orioles need with a third catcher? Roberto Machado barely plays, and now they have Huckaby too? And why get rid of their fourth outfielder? And why then demote Bauer a day after you dump your fourth outfielder for another reserve infielder who can really only play first base? It says a lot about the Orioles and their predicament that I'm arguing in favor of having Leon and Mottola around over other people. Happily, Melvin Mora shouldn't be on the DL any longer than the two weeks.
Meanwhile, in the chutzpah department, I give you an angry Rick Bauer. It isn't every day when a reliever with a 6.11 ERA thunders about injustice and a lack of appreciation, but let's face it: he was optionable. Admittedly, there's veteran chaff on staff that needs culling. But near-term, outright releases would just feel good, while potentially missing an opportunity. Mike DeJean should be released by the end of July, but he should get the opportunity to pitch his way into dealability in the meantime. If he doesn't show something this month, then he can be released. Buddy Groom's in a similar strait, especially now that the O's have sensibly decided to give B.J. Ryan and John Parrish the high-profile work in the pen. So Bauer can complain, but if he waits a couple of weeks, he'll probably get one last crack at getting his ERA down to a number he can count on one hand, and better still, one that Mordecai Brown could count on one hand.
It pays be Ozzie's little buckaroo, doesn't it? As I've mentioned before, I'm a bit chary of awarding Garcia acedom, given his past performance, but maybe if you pay him like one, it will make it so. Nothing like backing up the power of positive thinking with your checkbook. Just ask any faith healer.
The moves relevant to this year are a little more important for the time being, what with the Sox in contention. Scott Schoeneweis's return gives the Sox the rotation of their design, with the front three notionally being Garcia, Esteban Loaiza, and Mark Buehrle, with Jon Garland and Schoeneweis trailing. But Loaiza seems to be slipping into the second tier, which might not keep the Sox from winning the title, but it won't help them in October.
Maggs' return isn't a moment too soon, however, with Frank Thomas breaking down. It'll basically set up a plug-and-play arrangement, with Ross Gload, Timo Perez, and Willie Harris all staying in the lineup, spreading around the at-bats available by having them play some outfield, some second base (in Harris's case), and some first (in Gload's), with guys like Ordonez or Paul Konerko getting some time at DH. It's a very Sparky or Tom Kelly sort of solution, not that Gload wants to be compared to a guy like Dave Bergman, but in Thomas's absence as with Ordonez's before, Ozzie and Kenny Williams seem content to split the playing time up around the people on the roster. It might frustrate prospect mavens, but the Sox have decent bench players, and if it means that Guillen enters the stretch with a bench full of weapons kept sharp from frequent use, the Sox might reap the same sorts of benefits that Kelly or Anderson did in tight spots from unlikely heroes.
Wickman's return will no doubt be blamed for the turnaround in the Indians' pen, what with his makeup or closer's aura or whatever. But it was already happening, with Bobby Howry and Matt Miller earning their keep, David Riske getting back on track, and Kaz Tadano having his moments. Hoss won't be handed the closer's role at any rate, as the Tribe eases him back into a more important role.
I suppose it's a bit extravagant to simply release Jimenez right now, but let's face it, the scouting reports will tell people he's a one-pitch pitcher, his career results look ugly because of Coors Field, and he's been lousy this year. So odds are, there wasn't going to be much of a market for him.
The Indians understand how the schedule works, so why keep a fifth starter through the All-Star break? Davis has made four really ugly starts in his last five, and they won't need him back until the week after the All-Star break, so why not let him work on his craft against some collection of International League crash test dummies? Meanwhile, Eric Wedge gets another situational lefty, and maybe Bartosh earns his keep this time.
It's easy to characterize this reshuffle of the back end of the pitching staff as a good idea going into the weekend. You won't need a fifth starter, so why not let Bull Halsey pitch on his regular turn? What doesn't make sense is calling up Marsonek, a minor-league closer of doubtful merit. At Columbus, he's allowed 20 runs in 40 innings. This says more about the extent to which Joe Torre has lost confidence in Prinz than an endorsement of Marsonek.
Still, it makes for an interesting pair of call-ups, since both Marsonek and Padilla were live minor-league arms picked up in deals where the Yankees dumped big leaguers. Marsonek was part of the swag received for making Chad Curtis a Ranger, and has decent velocity. Padilla is the more interesting guy, and not just because he was stolen from the Twins for the rotting remains of Jesse Orosco. In the Twins' organization, he was sort of lost among their wave of good arms, and as a college draftee without great heat, he was easy to give short shrift. He has excellent command of a breaking pitch repertoire, allowing two unintentional walks in 43.2 IP (against 34 strikeouts). Like Mike Nakamura, he's one of those guys I hope makes it.
Recalled LHP Nick Regilio from Oklahoma; designated LHP Nick Bierbrodt for assignment. [7/7]
This isn't exactly good news. How can it be? Although the Rangers have sort of foregone carrying a bona fide utility infielder, and Herb Perry hasn't gotten much play, it's Manny Alexander. Sure, it might be kind of neat that he hit .292/.332/.495 in Oklahoma, but I don't think we're about to see a Jeff Kunkel-style renaissance.
You might wonder why Regilio is up, but after dispatching Bierbrodt, somebody has to be around for Sunday's start. It would have been Bierbrodt's start, but his career really looks like it's been Blassed off, especially after a dozen walks in his last five innings pitched. Bobby Witt might be part of the franchise's storied past, but that doesn't mean the Rangers are bound by tradition to carry someone for whom a walk allowed per inning would represent improvement. Regilio hasn't been all that hot in his first season back from labrum surgery, walking a man every other inning, but 71 strikeouts in 90 IP looks promising. The alternative would be another dance with Johnny Wasdin, but that hasn't turned out very well lately. "Who's in the rotation this week?" won't be a long-term problem, not with Chan Ho Park and Juan Dominguez almost certain to be back before the end of the month, but that simply trades one form of mystery ("Who?") for another ("When will Park pitch well?").
Bobby Seay is one of those guys you can almost feel sorry for, except that he chose to be a D-Ray, and there's still not a point at which you might envision a player saying "It's great to be young and a Devil Ray!" without anticipating the subsequent sniggering. At any rate, Seay still looks like he'll be a fine lefty in the pen after mowing people down in Durham. As a Bull, he posted a 1.72 ERA, allowing 36 baserunners and 35 strikeouts in 36.2 IP. Keep in mind, as much as it seems like he's been around forever, it's because he has been, but he only just turned 26. When you sign out of high school, your professional life can last long enough to iron out a few kinks and finally earn a place working your craft.
My random "It would be cool if" thought on Seay is that he could wind up like Alan Embree, a good arm who took time to get sorted out, but an asset within a good pen. I'm probably being silly, considering that his PECOTA comps include people like Brian Bohanon, David West, Bill Pulsipher, and Dennis Powell, but they did have careers (OK, not Pulsipher). If Seay was as good as David West was as a reliever, that would be pretty sweet.
...and not a moment too soon. One of the not-so-secret secrets is that the Jays are exploring what the market for Delgado would be if he were to waive his no-trade clause. So there are three weeks to let him play to show people he's sound, after which they can get it done, or not. It isn't like keeping Delgado is the end of the world, although I say that with no knowledge of what people think of the draft class that will be available in June 2005. (Consider it a professional weakness; I'm more concerned about roster design and guys like Howie Clark. I know, a wack sense of priorities.)
On that note, Howie's not quite out of a job, but his days of playing a lot seem to have ended. Josh Phelps seems to have heated up, and in the finest of managerial traditions, that's good enough for Carlos Tosca. I suppose it would be worth letting Clark get spot starts against the right-handers with big platoon splits, especially now that Reed Johnson has cooled off again.
Sure, Green wasn't going to play much, not with Tim Olson hitting... well, badly, but they say that Olson can play shortstop, and with two second basemen around, and Robbie Alomar playing well enough to be dealt, there really wasn't playing time to go around. So the Snakes shifted to a 12-pitcher staff, but they sort of had to, because one of the 12 is Greg Aquino, and he's up too soon, so they're appropriately afraid to use him. So really, they're playing short-handed, without even carrying a Rule 5 guy or something. I guess you can give them a bit of pity because of all the injuries. Still, who employs the likes of Matt Mantei or Shane Reynolds and doesn't expect bad things? Keeping with a theme established last winter, the Snakes don't really know what they're doing. They're reaching the awareness stage of recognizing the problem, but it still sort of snuck up on them.
The key news is that follow-up examinations didn't reveal anything significantly wrong with Kennedy's arm, so he's only getting a two-week vacation. We'll see how they handle it in the rotation in the breach, but I suspect it means more Adam Bernero and a stay of excution for Denny Stark. Over in the bullpen, like most lummoxes summoned up from Sector 7-G, I don't know what we can expect from young Simpson, but there's something ironic about his being in the same bullpen as Scott Dohmann. What do you think it would take to coax Boston into parting with Matt Duff? Not much, not when they're going out of their way to add the pitching profession's equivalent of mid-December turkey casserole in the form of Jimmy Anderson.
There isn't much for me to add to what Rany and Will have said about Beckett of late. Like Ismael Valdez, finger blisters are just something you overcome eventually. We'll have to see what happens.
It's easy to think about this as another great Miguel Cabrera sort of decision, where the Marlins get better by going younger. And why not? Jeff Conine's a soggy bit of jerky these days, and the Marlins need all the help they can get if they're going to stay in this thing. Willingham was an offensive machine in Double-A, hitting .282/.428/.581. However, he did get a month or so there in 2003, so it wasn't his first exposure, and at 25, he wasn't exactly young for the level. Here in The Show, he's been moved back into the outfield, but down on the farm, he was still catching regularly. It would be fun to see if he can stick--and the Fish need the help, so why not? Of course, he's another guy who can hit, and not do all that running and stuff some still pretend was the source of the team's date with destiny last year.
Duckworth might be back, but he won't be trusted, not by Jimy Williams. Apparently, losing a lead and giving up two runs in the fourth inning is too rich for the old man's blood, especially if the Astros are going to win the AL Central by...well, what, the end of the month? Instead, Williams jerked Duckworth out of the game, even though he was due to lead off, wouldn't double-switch because that might take the great Brad Ausmus out of the game, and had to use two relievers to get out of the inning. Give Jimy his props, he's nothing if not active and agitated. More basically, this is what happens when you're panicked: You fail to seek solutions, and instead wig out over every little problem.
For of those of you still trying to keep track, the Expos rotation has been reduced to Livan Hernandez, Tony Armas Jr., and whatever answers the Magic 8-Ball provides. Currently, the three answers that floated up from the murky depths are Scott Downs, Shawn Hill, and Rocky Biddle, usually mixed in with 'Outlook Not So Good.' It's situations like this where you really want to pop the top and stick in some better answers. How about 'Steve Rogers,' 'Bill Gullickson,' and 'Floyd Youmans.' Man, that would rock! Just like that, the rotation would be fixed, and we varied Virginians and carpetbaggers and native Districters could all have something to get fired up about.
Now that Vance Wilson is back, the Mets get another wrinkle to their "Who's on First?" routine, because as long as Jason Phillips fails to hit, the Mets can give thought to playing VW behind the plate and letting Piazza play a lot of first. Phillips is their best defensive catcher, and it's not like he's a zero at the plate. Art Howe has been exceptionally patient with Phillips, but if the Mets are going to take this contention thing seriously, they have problems to address beyond the rotation or finding an upgrade at third base.
This should make things a little more interesting as far as the playing time in center field goes, as Ledee enters the mix. Jason Michaels was doing a great job of getting on base, but he wasn't really bopping. So the three-headed center fielder gets rolled into action, with Ledee and Michaels handling the at-bats, and Doug Glanville stranded in that defensive replacement/pinch-running role you have to hope he's good for.
Signed RHP Kevin Jarvis to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Nashville. [7/9]
The hope here is that the pen rights itself, because the Giants have failed to find a solution from outside the organization. It isn't all bad news. The core group of Jim Brower, Wayne Franklin, Felix Rodriguez and Scott Eyre have done good work, and Tyler Walker has had his moments. But nobody's been flat-out great, and Matt Herges has been a complete flop in the closer's role. The Giants have a similar problem to the Reds, but the Reds don't have Barry Bonds, and nobody expects them to win the division. So if you like the Giants, you have to hope that Brian Sabean does something about this.