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August 31, 2004
August 26-29, 2004
Purchased the contract of UT-R Adam Riggs from Salt Lake; activated 3B-R Troy Glaus from the 60-day DL; placed DH-R Tim Salmon on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 8/24; optioned RHP Matt Hensley to Salt Lake. [8/29]
In a couple weeks, Glaus basically went from "well, maybe" status to the starting DH. It's a reflection both on how he's kept himself up while waiting for his shoulder to heal and how far gone Tim Salmon seems to be. The Angels cannot afford the leftovers of a good career at DH, not with the AL West and the wild card up for grabs. The shoulder's recovery will keep Glaus from donning leather for the rest of the season, which is okay, because it isn't like Chone Figgins isn't earning his keep. This is a very good thing for the Angels, because if Glaus can show anything, he gives the lineup a third major power source beyond Vlad Guerrero and Jose Guillen.
The potential downside is that this pushes Jeff DaVanon back into a fourth outfielder's role from which he'll have to beg into a few starts. That can be balanced, of course, and Mike Scioscia always seems to find a way; Garret Anderson seems to need time off every week, and Guillen, Glaus, and even Guerrero will need days off, to the point that DaVanon should still be in the lineup four times a week or so.
Riggs has had a PCL MVP sort of season, the kind of year Mike Marshall (not the pitching mechanics theorist, the other guy) would write home about. Splitting his time between the outfield and the non-shortstop positions in the infield, Riggs has hit .331/.373/.633; in 112 games, he's smacked 70 extra-base hits. Sadly, it is only Salt Lake, and the Stingers have been awful, and I've given about as much thought to the PCL's electorate as you have. If the season went another month, Steve Green might have had to worry about having Brian Kingman follow him around; in 27 starts, Green had lost 17 and posted a 8.04 ERA. That's the sort of pitching even the 1930 Phillies would have had trouble putting up with.
Anyway, in what seems to be the season for long-suffering minor-league vets to finally catch a break (witness David Newhan), Riggs has a shot at some work, since he'll be stepping into the Figgins supersub role now that Figgins is going to be the everyday third baseman for a bit.
Optioned LHP Josh Stewart to Charlotte; purchased the contract of RHP Jason Grilli from Charlotte. [8/27]
If you've already tuned out, I guess the thing to note is that the rotation is fraying pretty badly as the season winds down. It hasn't been titanic meltdown, but while Jose Contreras has worked out every bit as well as they thought he would, Freddy Garcia has unfortunately already demonstrated his non-acedom, Jon Garland seems to be doomed to linger on the fringes of near-mediocrity, and the wound in the fifth slot started suppurating months ago. The only real rock has been Mark Buehrle, and even then, it might only take some cranky Texans with cash to try to wipe that from the historical record.
Into that disappointing mire, Grilli is being tossed in as a soak, with the privilege of sopping up two starts in five days to cover for Garcia's strained forearm. Although you might see this as a form of surrender, it's more a problem that reflects the absence of a plan for who's going to be looked at and why over the last five weeks. That's because so few of the system's vaunted arms made it to August still vaunted. At some point, they're going to have to create time to really look at Stewart, but Arnie Munoz has struggled so badly in the minors that his being called back up would be a courtesy he might struggle to repay. Beyond that, you might see Ryan Meaux or Ed Villacis or Heath Phillips, but none of them should really be in the picture just yet. Neal Cotts would be an option, except he's being handled as contemptuously as the team's fifth starters without being granted the privilege of being among their number.
The noble effort to give the Twins something to fret about is petering out, so the Tribe seems to be shifting gears so that they can start evaluating people for next season. So Guthrie is getting promoted, having skipped trying to master Triple-A after failing in each of the last two seasons. Unfortunately, he hasn't really mastered the Eastern League yet, not this year, not after giving up 5.2 runs per nine, or 145 hits in 130 1/3 innings, or after hitting 16 batters in that time. That many hit batsmen seems strange, considering he was walking fewer than three hitters per nine innings pitched, so either he's cultivating an addiction to violence, or being sharpened for the task, sort of like Vincent D'Onofrio in Full Metal Jacket, but hopefully without R. Lee Ermey singing Carl Mays' praises.
Guthrie will step directly into the rotation, replacing the luckless Durbin. Although you might wonder why Durbin is being handled so roughly, considering he put up 12 shutout innings across two starts before his last two beatings, I think this is a reasonable appreciation of Durbin's long-term value to the organization. They're no longer pushing to keep up with the Twins using a known, occasionally adequate quality in the fifth slot; they're thinking in terms of beating the Twins in 2005, and seeing whether or not Guthrie's part of that program. More power to them.
Recalled LHP Jimmy Gobble from Omaha; placed RHP Scott Sullivan on the 15-day DL (strained lower back), retroactive to 8/26. [8/29]
After an earned punitive assignment to Omaha, Gobble is back for another stint in the rotation, perhaps on the thinking that he couldn't really be any worse than Brian Anderson? This means Jimmy Serrano gets bumped from the rotation, but are either really part of the future? Like so many other young Royals hurlers, Gobble seems adrift, falling well short of expectations. At this point, it's probably more appropriate to worry whether Zack Greinke can be the exception and not the most famous victim of the Curse of Floyd "They think I'll make the difference? I'll show them" Bannister. When you're left wondering whether people you discarded, like Chad Durbin or Glendon Rusch, wouldn't be major improvements on what you have now, something has gone very, very wrong.
Recalled OF-L Bubba Crosby from Columbus; optioned RHP Scott Proctor to Trenton (Double-A). [8/29]
Claimed RHP Brett Evert off of waivers from the Braves, and optioned him to Tacoma. [8/27]
Placed RHP Clint Nageotte on the 15-day DL (lower back spasms); recalled RHP Cha Sung Baek from Tacoma. [8/28]
Hell, the Mariners are doing things like starting Willie Bloomquist at first base, so at this point, they're taking themselves less seriously than anyone else could. To hear Zumsteg tell it, they got everyone's season-ticket moolah already anyways, so they got away with it without any interference from some crazy kids. I guess if there are near-term objectives to be achieved, it's getting Gil Meche into fully working order (and eventually Nageotte, after two weeks to rest his back). They also get to see if people like Bobby Madritsch, George Sherrill and J.J. Putz have a future. I guess that's a warning right there: why do all these guys have names that sound like they're the names of indictable athletic directors from the old Southwest Conference?
Not just any team gets to add two-fifths of its rotation for the stretch drive in August's last week. Park might be the real feel-good story down the stretch, because if he cranks out a few quality starts from here on out, it'll make an enormous difference for the Rangers' push to remain in contention. As for Wasdin, yeah, sure that goes for him too; just don't get your hopes up. Unfortunately, a packed schedule in September means Wasdin's going to have to face the Red Sox and the A's and the Angels. He's claiming new confidence in his fastball, and he beat the Orioles, and that doesn't hurt, but it isn't going to be easy. Given a choice between Wasdin and Erickson, I have to agree, it makes sense to take your chances on the unsure thing.
Outrighted LHP Armando Almanza to Richmond. [8/27]
Placed RHP Kyle Farnsworth on the 15-day DL (stupidity); recalled RHP Todd Wellemeyer from Iowa. [8/28]
Perhaps the only thing that might save Dusty Baker and the Cubs from their formulaic reliance on veteran relievers, halt of elbow and stooped of shoulders, will be these sorts of setbacks. Although a good number of Cubs fans are convinced that getting Kyle Farnsworth off the active roster ranks with finally getting an exorcism, all it took was a particularly abrasive fan that apparently needed to be put in its place with a good kick. Fighting the fan to a draw will cost Farnsworth three weeks or so, probably the best news Cubs fans have gotten since Calvin Schiraldi or Mel Rojas drifted into history.
Considering Dusty Baker's frequent derisiveness on the subject of all things Farnsworth, I really have to wonder if it hadn't gotten to the point where the Cubs were consciously leaving sharp objects in Farnsworth's vicinity, throwing a toaster in the whirlpool, that sort of thing. I say Farnsworth can still pitch, but I think the frustrations of this season have been the sort of thing that ought to inspire a change of scenery to a venue a little more forgiving of a highly-strung reliever with talent.
In the meantime, the real plus here is getting Wellemeyer back in the pen, where's he's likely to continue the good work he's already put in earlier in the season.
Recalled SS-R Chris Barmes from Colorado Springs; optioned RHP Chris Gissell to Colorado Springs. [8/28]
From the implausible suggestions file, one of the justifications one reader proffered for Royce Clayton's continued presence in the everyday lineup was so that he could be showcased for contenders. Now, that might sound reasonable on the face of it, but let's be serious: it's Royce Clayton, and there's nothing nobody doesn't already know about Royce Clayton's uses who could be described as a professional. Okay, I know, that leaves unanswered the question of whether Tampa Bay knows what Clayton has been up to, and perhaps the Rockies, but one of them employs the guy, and the other shouldn't be in the business of dealing for anybody down the stretch, and has one Rey Sanchez too many, anyway. While I'm not a huge believer in Barmes, if he's meant to be next year's starting shortstop, it would be better to see that now, before you go shopping this winter, than it would be to simply pencil him in and treat the hometown crowd to just that much extra Royce Clayton action.
Acquired RHP Dan Wheeler from the Mets in exchange for OF-L Adam Seuss; designated RHP David Weathers for assignment. [8/27]
It's easy to castigate the Astros for this latest lurch, but let's face it, David Weathers wasn't worth much, and whatever the master plan involving Jimy Williams, Richard Hidalgo and a quart of frozen strawberries was, it presumably went out the window with Jimy upon his organizational defenestration. So as long as we're pretending that there's a new slate, however smudgy from being pre-owned, cutting Stormy loose is sensible enough. It just seems interesting that it happened in the context of the Astros' climb back to the general vicinity of the wild-card slot. Yes, I know, catching the Cubs would be a feat, but it would be Cubbly if they blew even finishing second in the division, and not even that might propel Houston past San Diego and San Francisco.
Still, Wheeler is really no better than Weathers at his best. This year, Wheeler has been a situational right-hander, just like Stormy. Like Stormy at his worst, Wheeler on the mound against lefties raises Jumbotron insurance premiums. However, Weathers wasn't getting right-handed hitters out, and he did come over with those expectations that he'd help fix a bullpen broken ever since Octavio Dotel was banished. Considering that Brad Lidge is the only reliever Phil Garner can use with any confidence, there's plenty of opportunity for Titanic deck chair reshuffling.
Assuming they have Stewart's kinks worked out, the Dodgers might actually actively squelch the doom-and-gloom screeching over their certain failure by continuing to win games while also re-building a useful bullpen in-season. I mean, yes, Guillermo Mota is good and all, but Giovanni Carrara and Yhency Brazoban have been useful, and if Stewart is finally healthy after elbow surgery and appendicitis, he can be a significant asset down the stretch. With Edwin Jackson due back shortly, the only thing we have to lose is Buster Olney's credibility now that we're well beyond that day that will live in infamy, July 30, 2004.
Meanwhile, the sky not yet having fallen, I'm thinking on Masao Kida, and beyond cracking wise about the fate of Japanese imports that debut in the Motor City, I wonder if we've learned anything from the fascination with foreign goodies… checking the Mets… nope, I guess not. So, what, in ten years, we're all going to be drooling over a new crop of Dutch prospects? Will fans and writers freak out when the Yankees spend eight big ones to ink Roosterkoop van Sluijterfluss, and then realize how silly it was once van Sluijterfluss turned out to be nothing more than a well-groomed stoner, generally polite, but with appropriately cruel things to say about our beer and chocolate?
Happy as I am to have Ginter back (you can never have too many alternatives to Bill Hall, in my book), one of my most recent affectations is an unhealthy interest in seeing Durrington stick. Why? Well, among my many foibles is wondering about variants for that all-important last man on the bench. Why not one like Durrington, who can play all nine positions and pinch-run, and hit well enough that he's sort of the Lean Cuisine edition of Cesar Tovar? Like that frozen flavored soysynth junk, there's no reason to get silly and go to him every day just because it's been a busy day. It makes sense to me, but with Brooks Kieschnick already here, the issue for the Brewers is how many flavors of 25th-man perfection do you need? And what exactly is the bragging right of having the best collection of 25th men under the sun really worth?
Placed 2B-R Jose Vidro on the 15-day DL (patella tendonitis), retroactive to 8/22; placed RHP Francis Beltran on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis), retroactive to 8/25; recalled RHP Gary Majewski from Edmonton; recalled LHP Scott Downs from Edmonton. [8/26]
Optioned OF-L Ron Calloway to Edmonton; purchased the contract of SS/2B-B Maicer Izturis from Edmonton. [8/27]
Vidro was done weeks ago, but pleasing fantheads, the Expos finally did get him off of the active roster. And although money's in short supply as the 29 co-conspirators get more and more tired of the charade, this is a case where the Expos have a replacement worth calling up. As if Ryan Church wasn't enough to potentially embarrass the Tribe over the Scott Stewart trade, now is also the time to look at Maicer Izturis and see if he's the shortstop of the immediate future. A classic little-man's game hitter in the honest way (he gets on base, none of that Bobby Richardson stuff for him), Izturis hit .338/.428/.423 for Edmonton while being named the PCL's best defensive shortstop. He may not ever garner Orlando Cabrera's plaudits, but he doesn't need to. He should be a better player than your run-of-the-mill filler at short, and a lot better than spending money on the likes of Rey Sanchez or Royce Clayton. Although he'll probably slip over to second base once Alex Gonzalez heals up, there's a very good possibility that he'll give the Expos time to wait on Josh Labandeira at shortstop next year. Izturis is only about to turn 24; if it seems like he's been around forever, it's because he has been, signing with the Tribe at 17 as an amateur out of Venezuela back in 1998. (In their defense, the Tribe's 40-man was crowded this winter. They made mistakes--Tim Laker being one of the worst uses of a spot on a 40-man roster last December--but they were in something of a bind when they made the deal.)
As for the pitching staff, again, this is what the Expos are for, at best: a Quadruple-A testing ground for other people's discards. Downs is still trying to reclaim that prospect status he once enjoyed as a Cub; he'll step into the rotation for as long as it takes to see whether or not Tony Armas can come back. Majewski has been coveted by several over the years, flitting between the Dodger, White Sox and Blue Jay organizations over the years, something more than ballast but short of blue chippery. Now he'll get to showcase that sinker/slider combo everyone's liked. Who knows, maybe he'll wind up actually staying in the organization, should they actually achieve Bud's Ultimate Stadium Shakedown Adventure. (The Expos' new home will have to have a centerfield roller coaster with a corkscrew to shake loose as much change as possible. It'll be symbolic and profitable, and screw the consumer, like all of the highlights of the Selig regime.)
"Why, the Yankees think they're hot stuff, signing Jose Contreras, we'll show them. Two can play at that game."
Recalled RHP Brad Hennessey from Fresno; optioned RHP David Aardsma to Fresno. [8/28]
Like so much of the unfortunate haste to nominate some new mound-bound savior for the Giants this summer, I think it's fair to say that not Aardsma nor Chad Zerbe, nor anyone in between, is canonizable just yet. Consider me a cynic, but I sort of took Dustin Hermanson as a tell that Giants pitching would resemble a Superfund site all summer. It's just another way that underscores how much this team is where it is and what it is because of Barry Bonds. What's the alternative? Bringing back Ryan Jensen? Atlee Hammaker? Bill Laskey? Happily, the next two weeks involve home-and-home series against the Rockies and Snakes, followed by a trip to Milwaukee to spend playing with a Brewers team capsizing into an ignominous end. It might not mean a lot of great baseball, but it will keep the Giants alive down the stretch.
This could affect their draft position. Okay, probably not even that. Frankly, as long as Kline is rested for a late September tune-up, so that he's primed for October, this could actually be helpful for the Cards.
First, they get to add Flores to the 40-man roster, so that's one way they can avoid some of the more obvious roster cheating should somebody get hurt in September, and should they then want Flores to be the guy available to replace him. (Again, in Bud's go-go rules-schmules environment, this might not be that much of a source of concern.) Second, by seeing Flores now, they can make an informed choice about whether it's worth keeping him as a spare lefty in the pen.
Related to that second point, Flores is one of those guys who can actually help. He can spot start, he's effective against lefties, and he's pretty good at keeping the ball in the infield. There are worse guys employed as second lefties, although Ray King isn't one of them. Of course, at this point the Cards go give the 1982 rotation a reunion homestand and start them one turn apiece once rosters expand, and they'd still win the division. What, doesn't anyone else miss John Stuper or Steve Mura? You know, if this was the Phillies, they'd do it for the 1980 team.