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August 19, 2004
August 11-16, 2004
Outrighted C-R Ken Huckaby to Ottawa. [8/13]
Released OF-R Alex Escobar. [8/12]
This would have been a lot more difficult to deal with before they picked up Josh Phelps, but now that they have him, they can worry less about spotting Merloni in the lineup at first base against lefties. He should be back off of the DL shortly, at which point you have to wonder if he'll be pressed into action out in the outfield a little more often. Jody Gerut and Matt Lawton aren't doing so well against lefties, so it would make sense. However, it might make even more sense to spot Merloni at short for Leetle O, since Omar Vizquel might be the worst bat in the lineup against portsiders, and it isn't like he's playing for his defense these days. It won't ever really become a formal platoon, of course; Merloni's versatility will keep him moving around the diamond. But if it's a must-win game against Mark Mulder or Kenny Rogers, why not?
Knotts may be back, but it's only back and into his old mop-up role, not the rotation. Wil Ledezma is earning his keep and has a place in the future, after all, and despite all the hijinks involved with this year's reclamation-of-dignity project, there's next year to start wondering about, after all.
Placed RHP Nate Field on the 15-day DL (torn oblique). [8/14]
Kansas City is as good a place for Kinney to get another chance as any. The need, after all, has basically been permanent since the Floyd Bannister trade. At any rate, whether he's plugged into the rotation or left in the pen as a long reliever, you can be sure he'll get work.
Good news? Guiel seems to be entirely recovered from his vision problem, having hit .310/.438/.621 at Omaha. Since it seems pretty much certain that Dee Brown will join a lengthening list of Royal prospect flops (he can take a seat next to Mike Tonis), the Royals are better off evaluating David DeJesus and Abraham Nunez among the future-minded kids, and Guiel and Ruben Mateo from the retread pile, and see how many of them earn any consideration for 2005.
Recalled RHP Bret Prinz from Columbus; optioned OF-L Bubba Crosby to Columbus. [8/11]
Optioned RHP Bret Prinz to Columbus; recalled INF-R Andy Phillips from Columbus. [8/14]
I'm being generous and listing Phillips as an infielder, out of consideration for the prospect he once was. He's spent most of this year at first base, and while he's hit well enough to earn a spot, it's a case of the Yankees cranking out another solid organizational soldier. At Columbus, he was hitting .294/.368/.537, but having a Rice-like talent to hit into rally killers (18 GIDPs) isn't something that's going to play well on a slow, OBP-driven Yankees team.
As much as it has to be a bit frustrating for Phillips that he isn't considered a prospect, let's face it, the system is sexier than when Kevin Jordan and Andy Fox were supposed to be stars. Not better, mind you, just sexier, with token expensive third-worlders sprinkled about the system like so much tinsel. Robinson Cano? Ferdin Tejeda? Chien-Ming Wang? Kat Maeda? (Oops, too late on that last one.) They're all just so exciting! Props to the Yankees publicity department, of course. You can't make an omelette without painting some rocks to look like eggs and trading them for an omelette, right?
Anyway, to get back to Phillips, I suppose it really doesn't matter. It isn't like Torre is going to sort out who he is or what he can do. He's "new guy" until somebody Torre has heard of is ready to come back from Tampa and A-Rod's suspension comes to an end.
I'm always going to be happy to see Billy McMillon in the big leagues, but it's hard to see where he'll get playing time. Other than pinch-hitting for the catchers or second basemen, or a spot start every couple of weeks in either outfield corner, he's going to be hard-pressed to get much in the way of at-bats. As the lefty bat off of the bench, he might represent some insurance for Erubiel Durazo or Scott Hatteberg, but if something happened to either one of them, turning to McMilllon wouldn't make nearly as much sense as summoning up Dan Johnson, or perhaps Nick Swisher.
Placed CF-R Rocco Baldelli on the 15-day DL (strained quad); recalled OF-L Joey Gathright from Durham. [8/14]
Joey Gathright will help the Devil Rays get that Jason Tyner fix they always seem to be jonesing for. Although you might wonder if they just need to dial up a few Marlins games, watch Juan Pierre do his thing, and get it out of their system, it isn't like Gathright is going to claim a full-time job. Once Baldelli comes back, Gathright will get to drift into the fourth outfielder's role he seems suited for.
I'm much more glad to see Cantu back. Yes, there's still sorting out what to do with having Cantu and B.J. Upton and Julio Lugo around for the middle infield, but with Upton getting significant playing time at DH, Cantu's presence still means less Rey Sanchez and less Geoff Blum, and that's progress. A very first 70-win season for the D-Rays? It seems so likely that perhaps even they can't find a way to avoid it.
The pen is also getting something worth watching, as Franklin Nunez completes his comeback from the shoulder surgery that derailed his career in the Phillies' organization. He's still throwing hard, having struck out 84 batters in 58 2/3 innings. Although everyone in the pen has been handy, the opportunity is there for Nunez to pitch his way past Travis Harper and Lance Carter if he does well now. If anything, it's surprising that the Rays haven't shown much interest in peddling a young veteran like Carter or Harper now, when contenders and pretenders are busily fussing over the back end of their bullpens.
Finally, I'm glad to see them cut Fick loose. First, I figure he's probably done enough penance for last season's bad baserunning idea, and second, I like to think that the Rays slowly came to realize that Fick needed the gig much more than they needed or knew what to do with Fick. I don't think he's as useless as he looked this year, and although his DT card will show you a downward arc as he tumbles downslope from his age-27 2001 season, he ought to be more useful than he was as another one of Vince Naimoli's rubbery minions. He'll make an interesting pickup for somebody down the stretch, assuming the stigma of his recent past has been forgotten.
Recalled LHP Erasmo Ramirez from Oklahoma; optioned RHP Nick Regilio to Oklahoma. [8/12]
What's really interesting about this is the ease with which the Rangers rely on the knowledge that, beyond Kenny Rogers and Ryan Drese, their starting pitchers are entirely interchangeable. So Mike Bacsik, even if he is probably more useful than Mickey Callaway or Scott Erickson, is recognized as not really all that likely to be significantly more useful than them. With Chan Ho Park and R.A. Dickey on the way back, we're really talking about giving names to assorted crash-test dummies, before the Rangers move on to the business of trying to outscore whatever total of runs it was that today's starting pitchback spotted the other guys. It may seem crazed, but given that the state of Rangers pitching is really no different now than at any point in the previous five years, it makes for an interesting adaptation.
Placed RHP Paul Wilson on the 15-day DL (sore back); recalled RHP Joe Valentine from Louisville. [8/14]
Optioned INF-R Tim Hummel to Louisville; recalled RHP Luke Hudson from Louisville. [8/15]
Scratch two starting players, as if the Reds' season required any extra premature punctuation. I guess the locals can seek solace in the news that at least both injuries aren't serious. Wilson should rest for a couple of weeks, then go into September looking to make a few starts to prove he's still the big dog in a big-league backwater. (Apologies to Cincinnatians: it's a lovely city, but it doesn't seem much larger than Sacramento.)
Far less reassuring is this latest ruined season for Griffey. This injury begs the question of what the Reds were thinking when they pressed him back into action when he was hurt, and why they took so long to sort out the seriousness of the injury. Given how much they have invested in him, I don't care how disappointing the previous three seasons have been, you don't roll the dice with a player's long-term health because of potential reasons ranging from his being targeted by people griping about his absences to his desire to play, and everything in between. This season was already over, so what was to be gained from pressing Griffey into action?
In their absences, you'll see two solutions. First, Hudson will step into the rotation, the latest retreaded former prospect being tried out in a rotation built on other organization's sources of despair, disgust, or disinterest. In his first season back from shoulder surgery, Hudson has pitched well, posting a 108-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 105 2/3 innings while allowing just 86 hits; opposing lineups between the two leagues were scoring 3.7 runs per nine against him. He joins Brandon Claussen and Josh Hancock in a rotation that has only Jose Acevedo left from season's start; it's still an improvement from having to rely on Cory Lidle or the incorrigibly unreliable Jimmy Haynes. How many A's discards does one team need, anyway? Where's Gil Heredia?
Which retread is next, you may ask? I'm betting on Brian Rose, who's had an equally brilliant little comeback tour through first the Southern and now the International League. Even if he might not be able to dent bread, it has to beat another Todd Van Poppel interlude.
Second, with Griffey now really out of the equation, the Reds are being creative, turning center field over to Wily Mo Pena. Who knows, maybe he'll rise to the challenge. As is, Austin Kearns won't be back soon, and somebody has to play center from amongst the club's four occasionally simultaneously active outfield regulars. If Pena can be the guy who can handle center and stay healthy, that gives the Reds a pair (counting Three True Outcomes god Adam Dunn in one corner), leaving only the other corner to really wonder whether they can get 150 starts combined between Griffey and Kearns.
Outrighted RHP Travis Driskill to Colorado Springs. [8/12]
Recalled SS-R Clint Barmes from Colorado Springs; optioned RHP Adam Bernero to Colorado Springs. [8/14]
Activated LHP Brian Fuentes from the 15-day DL; optioned Barmes to Colorado Springs. [8/15]
Two things worth noting here: I don't know what's worse, the fact that Barmes is being touted as a prospect, or that, even on the strength of his modest credentials (.318/.366/.487 at sky-high Colorado Springs, 23 unintentional walks in 544 PA), he isn't being considered for a look over Royce Clayton and the other Luis Gonzalez. Like the random preference for Aaron Miles over Juan Uribe, or the fascination with Matt Holliday, it's just another aimless exercise, movement for its own sake with no obvious goal in sight.
I suppose there's the swag from the Walker deal, except that Martinez was available for free last spring, after the Brewers freaked out about an incident involving Martinez, a firearm, and uncivil society. He pitched his way into shape belatedly after spring-training time lost to Juan Law in the Dominican, while showing the same control problems that have consistently plagued him. He didn't dominate in his third year at Double-A before being promoted. He and an A-ball reliever don't really add much to the organization beyond ballast; ballast with potential, but just that.
Where the deal really has to turn out to be more than a salary dump is by getting Narveson. A four-pitch lefty with heat, he's a Tommy John survivor who seems to have outlasted last year's shoulder tendonitis. This is his first full season at Double-A, and his second since the year derailed by injury, and he's been effective: just 114 hits and 11 home runs allowed in 127 2/3 innings, with a 121-51 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If it weren't for his end destination, you ought to be excited if you're a Rockies fan. Considering the Rox only acquired pitching, and how unlikely any pitching is to work out well for them, it's hard to see how they're going to win this deal.
Optioned RHP Ben Howard to Albuquerque. [8/11]
Activated RHP Armando Benitez from the 15-day DL. [8/12]
Benitez came back when scheduled, so now the Marlins have little to fuss about. They'll either really push for the wild card, or they won't. (Count me among the shocked if Juan Encarnacion is really part of the reason that they do. I mean, we all know Paul Lo Duca is a can of Instant Team Heart and Soul, does that make Encarnacion… the appendix? The spleen? Maybe that's why DePo had to vent him.)
Anyway, the pen is pretty solid now, and the rotation relies on the three flaky, talented kids to be a little less flaky. I still hope to see Howard get a lot more of an opportunity, but the Fish can't really spare the time to iron him out while they're locked into moving up a couple of rungs in the race for the wild card.
The Dodgers are going to be cautious with Penny, perhaps waiting until September roster expansion before working him back into the rotation. It's a caution they can afford with a six-game lead in the West and the advantage of having both Wilson Alvarez and Jose Lima to press into whatever pothole appears on the road to October. Although losing Darren Dreifort hurts, once Penny and Edwin Jackson return, that becomes a temporary problem, akin to wondering whether Hideo Nomo or Paul Shuey will ever help.
Of course, they'll still have to get by with their heart and soul marooned in Miami or Buster Olney's laptop or wherever they're supposed to be. Maybe we need a milk carton to help? Here's hoping that the press can let go of being wrong, and judge the Dodgers on their own terms, and not as Moneyball 2: The Spreading Menace. Unfortunately, I think nothing short of a World Series win will quash the clucking about how the Dodgers would have done more than win the division, they would have cured cancer and won the World Series, if only Lo Duca was still in the same time zone.
Is Ben Hendrickson about to become the new Dennis Tankersley? He's been fine down at Indy, but put him in Miller Park, and it's ugly. Ed Whitson, or perhaps Jeff Weaver, gets all the attention for wilting in the bright lights, so it seems odd to talk about somebody who can't handle the pressure of pitching in Beer City. However, I'm not seriously worried about him. I'd liken the situation to that of Mike Bielecki at the start of his career. Just because Bielecki struggled and the Pirates sucked was no reason to jump to the conclusion that he couldn't pitch.
From one Chicago pitching prospect to the next. Hand it to Omar, they may all seem like loaners, but at least he re-stocked his toy box. Beltran should be an asset in the pen, while another little setback seems to be the story of Rauch's career. From the "never say never again" file, however, it looks like Sunny Kim will replace Rauch in the rotation. Any takers on the suggestion that the fate of the Expos depends on Klaus Maria Brandauer, evil genius? I suppose I'm not alone when I suggest that any antidote to Roger Moore would rate second, but only a close second, to one for Bud Selig.
Recalled LHP Pedro Feliciano from Norfolk; placed 2B-R Jose Reyes on the 15-day DL (fractured fibula). [8/13]
Okay, so the Benson and Zambrano deals look like a decision to add a spoiler to your old car just before it loses three wheels in quick succession. To be fair, though, the pickups were dumb of their own account, and losing three-quarters of the infield within two weeks after the deals is nothing more than unhappy coincidence. I guess the Phillies can take heart; at least they won't finish in fourth place.
Meanwhile, for the Mets, it means we're back to the juggling, cycling through Eric Valent and Todd Zeile and eventually budding softball star Brazell at first base, and seeing if there's any reason to keep Jason Phillips playing ahead of Vance Wilson behind the plate. A middle-infield combo of Danny Garcia and Joe McEwing reflects what this team is now, not the contender it briefly liked to consider itself to be. I won't begrudge Jim Duquette the desire to contend, but he knew he had a slender hand to start off with, and unlike Steve Phillips, he didn't have to slip into a CYA operation. That so much was thrown away on so fragile a team to such doubtful benefit and at such great expense, sadly, was a classic Mets move, consistent with the franchise's aimless existence since the departure of Davey Johnson.
Outrighted RHP Paul Abbott to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [8/13]
It shouldn't have surprised anyone that this sort of exchange was so easily made, or that it represents an upgrade. Admittedly, that's the free-talent game for you. I guess the real question is whether trading three kids for Simon, then flipping him for Ray Sadler, really helped, but Rafael Novoa is the only one of the three players dealt to Detroit who is doing well, and Sadler's nearly slugging .500 for Altoona, so it looks like a rental-and-flip that worked. That doesn't really defend the decision to bring Simon back this year, but who's to say he wouldn't have fetched more worthwhile bait?
While getting Ward back is a generally good thing because he'd shown good stuff in his playing time earlier this season, the nice thing about Simon at this point was that he didn't have an argument to get into the lineup. That's a problem when you're Lloyd McClendon, and you're trying to play Ward, Rob Mackowiak and Craig Wilson between right field and first base. To McClendon's credit, he's not limiting himself: he's also willing to get Mackowiak more work at third base at the expense of just-acquired Ty Wigginton. That's sensible: July is history and the winds are out of Wiggy's sails, so it's appropriate for the Bucs to appreciate him on the basis of his actual merits as a part-time player. Now, if only McClendon was similarly thoughtful about second base, and would work harder at remembering that Bobby Hill is on the roster, or sharpen up those powers of observation to notice that Jose Castillo really hasn't played well enough to be a doubt-free regular.
Placed C-R Miguel Ojeda on the 15-day DL (contused wrist); recalled C-R Humberto Quintero from Portland. [8/16]
With Ramon Hernandez back in the saddle and Quintero already a relatively well-known quality, the Pads aren't really in any trouble having to switch from catcher #2 to catcher #2.5 on the roster. Indeed, Quintero could prove to be the better choice for October's bench, should that need come to pass.
Recalled RHP Kevin Correia from Fresno; released INF-B Neifi Perez. [8/13]
Sometimes, there's no dignity in taking an unbelievably long time to admit you were wrong. Not a little wrong, not sort of wrong, but entirely, completely, indefensibly goofy wrong. If there's one passage into considered, active adulthood that comes later than any other, it's learning to avoid impulse pickups. That new Snickers bar with almonds? Tempting. That framed, limited-edition Paul Wolfowitz trading card? The mood ring for the Aughts, I guess. That Shakira CD? What were you thinking? Frequently, it's a reptilian hindbrain type of choice, where the most frequent reflexive excesses resemble those of Paris Hilton, Tyco execs, and Komodo dragons. Dim needy company the lot of them.
Anyway, Brian Sabean made a similar jaw-snapping move, grabbing Perez on waivers, only to subsequently recognize that might mean having him around. Rather than admit the error, Sabean signed Perez to a two-year deal for considerably more than the minimum, using cash better spent on pitching or a real shortstop or a really good bat in the outfield. Instead, after letting Perez handicap nearly two full seasons of Barry Bonds' career, the Giants have reluctantly acknowledged that not even a yard sale will make this bad bric-a-brac go away; it's straight to the dump, no questions asked.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that the Giants are better off without him. Between Deivi Cruz, Cody Ransom, and Pedro Feliz now and again, they should have shortstop covered in a way that doesn't involve a player with the talent to make his manager consider batting the pitcher eighth. They're in the thick of the wild-card hunt; now's definitely not the time to carry around the extra luggage of mistakes long since made.
The Cardinals aren't in a cakewalk so much as a cake stomp, where various sweetly intentioned Chicago confections get crushed like so many Gallagher props. So can we blame them if they revert back to that comfortable place with having a 12th pitcher? It makes all sorts of sense now, for several reasons. First, they're clearly concerned about the workloads they've placed on their pitching staff, and having Simontacchi back gives them a true long reliever to come in early, mop up, or perhaps log a spot start now and again. That job had been Danny Haren's, but he's already spotting for Chris Carpenter. Second, they can afford the roster space now that they've acquired Walker, because they no longer need all of the components of their cafeteria of outfielders to get by. As long as they don't go into October with a dozen arms, it's a sensible little in-season adaptation to current affairs.