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May 28, 1999

Transaction Analysis

May 25-27

by Keith Law

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Recalled pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim from Tucson of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); optioned pitcher Bobby Chouinard to Tucson. [5/27]

Kim blew threw Double-A and Triple-A, leading to talk that he, like Billy Koch, will soon be installed as the major-league closer. Kim did pitch well in the PCL, but in one of the league's better pitchers' parks (Tucson). Also, he worked as a starter, so it's unclear how he'd respond to the bizarre work patterns of closing.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Activated first baseman Will Clark off the 15-day disabled list; designated infielder Willis Otanez for assignment. [5/25]

Hard to see how the O's will be able to get anything for Otanez if Willie Greene passed through waivers unclaimed, but Luis Polonia is back in the majors, so stranger things have happened.

BOSTON RED SOX

Recalled catcher Creighton Gubanich from Pawtucket of the International League (AAA); designated catcher Mandy Romero for assignment; sent pitcher Bret Saberhagen to Pawtucket on a rehabilitation assignment; selected pitcher Danny Haas from Sarasota of the Florida State League (A). [5/27]

Gubanich will be Jason Varitek's caddy for the bulk of the season with Hatteberg out, although Gubanich is clearly the better hitter and arguably the better defensive player. Saberhagen looked sharp--sorry, "shaahp"--in his first rehab outing last night, and could be back in the rotation next week.

CINCINNATI REDS

Recalled infielder Aaron Boone from Indianapolis of the International League (AAA). [5/25]

First he wasn't good enough to be in the majors; now he might supplant Lewis as the starter? Either way, the Reds lose: Boone's lack of offense or Lewis' putrid defense. Jack McKeon is proving to be about 20% better than Ray Knight, much in the way that Jerry Manuel is 20% better than Terry Bevington. Slight improvements like that do nothing to help a ballclub complete a rebuilding process.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

Placed pitcher Mark Langston on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation of the left elbow; recalled pitcher Rich DeLucia from Buffalo of the International League. [5/25]

Agreed to terms on a contract extension with pitcher Ricky Rincon through the 2001 season with club options for 2002 and 2003. [5/26]

This begs one really important question: when the hell did he become "Ricky?" Is some overeager sportswriter in Cleveland an "I Love Lucy" fan? He was Ricardo the whole time he was in Pittsburgh, although I can understand why he might want to put the whole Pittsburgh thing behind him. Anyway, Rincon's extension is another in a series of extensions given to injured players, which seems both rash--can't it wait until he gets healthy?--and a sign that some GMs have more money than they know how to spend.

DETROIT TIGERS

Purchased the contract of outfielder Luis Polonia from Toledo of the International League (AAA); placed first baseman Tony Clark on the 15-day disabled list with a ligament sprain in his right shoulder. [5/26]

Polonia's 5-for-5 outing on Thursday may entrench him in the leadoff spot for some time, which is absolutely terrifying, since he might be the one man on earth less suited to the leadoff slot than Brian Hunter. Heck, at least Hunter knew a stop sign when he saw one.

FLORIDA MARLINS

Promoted pitcher Dan Vardijian to Portland of the Eastern League (AA). [5/25]

HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed third baseman Jack Howell on the 15-day disabled list with a right groin injury, recalled infielder Carlos Hernandez from New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League (AAA). [5/25]

For all the talk about how certain teams (e.g., the Devil Rays) are "jinxed" this year by injuries, let's talk about the Astros. They lost their starting left fielder for most of the season, starting shortstop for half the season, probable starting catcher for the whole season, and now the starting and backup third basemen are on the DL. Oh, by the way, the Astros are in first place and running away with the division. I wonder how this team will do when they're almost whole in September.

Hernandez is a semi-prospect with a good glove but a very questionable bat (.255/.337/.294 at Triple-A this year) who could see some late-inning d-rep time until either Howell or Caminiti returns.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Reassigned pitching coach Charlie Hough; promoted Albuquerque pitching coach Claude Osteen to pitching coach; announced that Glenn Hoffman will now coach third base while Rick Dempsey will assume the bullpen coaching duties. [5/26]

We let most coaching moves go by, but this was a disgrace and deserves comment. The pitching staff isn't really the problem in Los Angeles; the Dodgers are 10th in the league in runs scored and 11th in slugging, but sixth in ERA despite a thin bullpen and a damaged Carlos Perez. If Malone wanted to fire someone, he should have fired the twit who told him Todd Hundley was healthy.

Of greater concern is that the firing was apparently a surprise to Davey Johnson. I'm sure he's already suffering bad flashbacks to his days in Baltimore, where front-office types would pull rank on him and undermine his ability to run the team.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated second baseman Fernando Vina from the 15-day disabled list; optioned pitcher Horacio Estrada to Louisville of the International League (AAA). [5/25]

With Vina back, the Brewers will send Ron Belliard back to Louisville on Saturday when they recall Rafael Roque. Belliard did get the chance to show the Brewers why they should move Vina, hitting over .300 with a .400+ OBP, with solid defense. Of course, they could just bench Mark Loretta and suffer a slight defensive hit to get a big boost in offense, but that would only make sense.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Purchased the contract of outfielder Tony Tarasco from Columbus of the International League (AAA); designated catcher Mike Figga for assignment. [5/25]

Thus bringing the ridiculous saga of Mike Figga to an end. At least it exposed Don Zimmer's pettiness and hastened Joe Torre's return. Recalling the talented enigma Tarasco is baffling in that Ricky Ledee was already on the 40-man roster and is more a part of this team's future than Tarasco. That said, Tarasco has some speed, some pop, and once upon a time knew how to draw a walk, but hasn't had a consistent opportunity since his first extended slump with Montreal in June '95.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Sent pitcher Kevin Jarvis to Modesto of the Pacific Coast League (AAA) on a rehabilitation assignment. [5/27]

This should stop Huckabay's one-man "Bring Back Jarvis!" picket line outside the A's front offices.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed pitcher Dan Hubbs and assigned him to Reading of the Eastern League (AA). [5/26]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Signed pitcher Mike Williams to a two-year contract extension through the 2001 season. [5/26]

Talk about your knee-jerk reactions: The guy picks up eight saves, and suddenly he's worthy of a two-year deal? Does Cam Bonifay not remember that he plucked Williams out of the trash heap just 18 months ago? The lesson here isn't that you should lock up every reliever on a hot streak to a long-term contract; it's that good relievers--like good hitters--are free talent, and should be treated as such.

SEATTLE MARINERS

Assigned outfielder Raul Ibanez to Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League (AAA) on an injury rehabilitation assignment; claimed pitcher Frankie Rodriguez off waivers from the Minnesota Twins; designated pitcher Greg McCarthy for assignment. [5/26]

Signed infielder Ricky Magdaleno and assigned him to Lancaster of the California League (A). [5/27]

The right move by the wrong team. Rodriguez is a project, to be sure, but I wouldn't call him a lost cause just yet. The Reds, Expos or even the Red Sox would be good bets to salvage something here. Unfortunately, Saint Lou Piniella isn't exactly the handler of young pitchers that Felipe Alou is, in the same way that Keanu Reeves isn't exactly the Shakespearean actor that Sir Laurence Olivier was.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Purchased contract of pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb from Memphis of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); optioned pitcher Rick Heiserman to Memphis; transferred pitcher Matt Morris from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list. [5/26]

Desperate? Perhaps, although Slocumb didn't get a fair shake in Baltimore, and is a better bet in a bigger stadium in front of a good defensive infield with a pitching coach who fares well with veterans. And he didn't walk a batter in two Triple-A innings, although he did hit one. I'm not rushing to claim him for any rotisserie teams, but Slocumb could quietly put together 30 or so decent relief innings if used patiently.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed outfielder Quinton McCracken on the 15-day disabled list with an injured right knee; recalled outfielder Randy Winn from Durham of the International League (AAA); announced that senior vice president of sales and marketing Mike Veeck has resigned for personal reasons and been named marketing consultant. [5/25]

Placed pitcher Rolando Arrojo on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation; recalled pitcher Mike Duvall from Durham of the International League (AAA). [5/26]

Signed pitcher Aaron Small and assigned him to Durham of the International League (AAA). [5/27]

All these injuries will provide convenient cover for the Rays when they 1) miss the playoffs and 2) fail to draw two million fans this year. McCracken is probably done for the year, which brings Randy Winn back a little sooner than the Rays would have liked; the tradeoff will only exacerbate the Rays' problems in putting men on base for Canseco and McGriff. The Rays blew a potential silver lining to the injury by recalling the speedy Winn instead of someone familiar with walks, such as Terrell Lowery (.307/.404/.493 at Durham) or Rich Butler (.263/.370/.424 at Durham).

Meanwhile, Arrojo and Saunders have vacated 2/5 of the rotation, with fragile Wilson Alvarez in another slot and the always-exciting Bobby Witt in another. Julio Santana and Bryan Rekar are probably the two most likely fill-ins, with Esteban Yan getting some consideration if the Rays can stabilize their bullpen. In other words, beyond Ryan Rupe, this staff is looking like an 11-jetski accident on the Intracoastal.

As an aside, we send our best wishes to Mr. Veeck and his daughter, who is suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, the same disease that robbed San Jose Sharks' owner George Gund of his sight.

Related Content:  The Who,  Ricky Rincon,  Year Of The Injury

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