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June 30, 2005
A simple switch at the bottom of the bench, as there are already five outfielders to keep busy with playing time. Dallas McPherson is nursing a strained hamstring, so it makes sense to bring Quinlan back and have an alternative on the bench at third base other than putting Chone Figgins there on an everyday basis, especially since Figgins is sort of needed for spot duty in center field while Steve Finley is on the DL.
Assuming Guillen is really back, this is great for the club's lineup. As nice as it was to get Omar Infante off to a little hot streak, the emphasis should be on little: his OBP for June is .228, and he's still stuck in an awful season. Guillen's hamstring will bear watching, so Infante will no doubt get a few at-bats in spot starts in the weeks to come. Meanwhile, with Guillen in the middle of the order and Placido Polanco at the front of it, plus the benefits of the exchange of Carlos Pena for Chris Shelton, the Tigers might bash their way from being a middle-of-the-pack offense to one of the league's best. If there's a nagging concern, it's that I think the Tigers have to ask themselves if it was worth it to add Giarratano to the 40-man a season earlier than they had to, but we won't know if his otherwise meaningless introduction to the big leagues will carry any additional penalty for several years.
No, the Yankees don't suddenly have faith in their farm system. Reese was only up because Joe Torre was scampering about Bosworth Field, offering his kingdom for an outfielder, any outfielder. It's a pity that Reese won't be taken more seriously than that, but beyond sadistically noting that this is the team that's paying Tony Womack for his ineffable Womackerie, this isn't an organization that really notices a farmhand who smacked 70+ extra-base hits last season. So Womack played center field, Reese barely played at all, and the problems remain much the same.
Announced that RHP Tim Harikkala cleared waivers and refused an outright assignment to Sacramento. [6/24]
The Mariners' misfortunes behind the plate remind me of a season the Rangers had to endure, back in the mid-80s. Sure, they had Don Slaught, but Sluggo had trouble staying healthy enough to play regularly, so the Rangers from 1984-86 had to cycle through Ned Yost, Marv Foley, Orlando Mercado, Donnie Scott, Darrell Porter, Glenn Brummer… in such a crowd, it wasn't hard for them to lose track of a young Mike Stanley or Chad Kreuter, and it took the arrival of Ivan Rodriguez to settle things.
Olivo's back, not because he won back the organization's confidence during his punitive assignment to Tacoma, but because Rivera clearly isn't ready. Olivo has to endure the even more humiliating assignment of playing caddy to Pat Borders, a guy who struggled to cleanly catch breaking stuff ten years ago, and whose offensive contributions can be measured in the number of electrolytes he makes the opposing defense burn by retiring him in his at-bats. That's frustrating, but Olivo's been frustrating to the organization, and this wasn't the way anybody expected things to wind up. Ideally, Olivo will start hitting well enough to send an organizational creepy-crawly like Borders skittering back under his rock, instead of basking on it.
Activated LHP Trever Miller from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Tim Corcoran to Durham. [6/28]
There's stuff like amongst this lot of moves. Getting McClung and Miller back will help the staff, although this week's master plan involves McClung being a starter and Brazelton a reliever. McClung's assortment is good enough, and his Tommy John surgery is a distant enough memory that it might work. It certainly makes more sense than trying to beat people with Hideo Nomo. But the Brazelton move seems like another shenanigan where the organization doesn't know what to do, having accumulated so much ill will over so many failures that this seems to be a relationship that cannot be repaired.
Also interesting is summoning Munson. He's re-gilded his slugger's rep at Durham by hitting .283/.343/.531 there. Not only does he give the team an alternative at either infield corner, but he might also get meaningful platoon time at DH (with Eduardo Perez, no doubt) on a team where Jonny Gomes might move into an outfield corner so that Aubrey Huff could move to first base. The problem is really Travis Lee and minimizing the amount of playing time they give to him, so any combination that involves Munson or Huff anywhere on the diamond, and Lee off of it, is a step in the right direction. Then they might start looking at what a last-place team is doing playing Damon Hollins on an everyday basis.
Activated RHP Joaquin Benoit from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Gerald Laird back to Oklahoma. [6/28]
The Snakes' ability to contend in the NL West is a slippery enough issue as is, so it isn't like their offense can afford to lose its best everyday player in one of the league's weakest lineups (only Colorado and Houston rank as clearly worse). Gonzo's been the best hitter as measured by just about every meaningful interpretive metric, VORP, MLVr, or Equivalent Average).
Of course, notice that I said "everyday," because I'm sure somebody else has noticed that the numbers being generated by their first base job-sharing arrangement, Chony Cracy. That's not a porn star's name, but Tony Clark and Chad Tracy. It isn't strictly a platoon arrangement (although Melvin has said that Tracy won't be seeing many more lefties from here on out, Clark has been starting against right-handers as well) and with Gonzo gone, Tracy's getting time as their primary stopgap in left field. Since he's also effectively the team's only candidate to replace Troy Glaus at third base for any length of time, the Snakes are effectively in a position where a couple of key injuries can be solved by getting Clark more playing time. Since he seems well-suited to bop in the bandbox that Arizona calls home, it's not all bad, but the team still can't afford to lose Gonzalez for any significant length of time. If the alternative is playing Terrero or Quinton McCracken, can you blame them for being concerned?
Marte didn't have that much of an opportunity to win the job at third, but considering how well Wilson Betemit has been doing, and Marte's age and relative inexperience, it's an understandable choice. In light of the Braves' ruined rotation, they had to pull somebody out of somewhere to fill their need for a starter, and what better answer to that than Colon? He's a risk, in that he's flopped in the pens of both Atlanta and Richmond before doing well in a couple of starts at Double-A, and then shutting down the Orioles on June 25. His minor-league career has been all over the place: unintimidating young starter to last year's full conversion to relief work, semi-adequate strikeout rates, and now this season. I guess he fits in with the current KLAW rotation, Kids Learning At Work, so you have to figure the Braves are desperate to actually see Tim Hudson back within two weeks, Mike Hampton within two fortnights, and John Thomson within two months. But in the meantime, it's a 13-pitcher staff, and if that seems crazed, keep in mind that the rotation's "sure things" are last year's closer and Horacio Ramirez, who's lost significant time to major surgeries on both his elbow and shoulder in his young career.
As for Marte, three extra-base hits in a 7-for-35 stint is a nice hint of the power I think we all reasonably expect from him once he sticks. He doesn't have a lot left to learn in Richmond, so the Braves still have a nice problem on their hands. Once Marte's up to stay, what with Marcus Giles shining at second and Betemit earning his keep, it won't be easy to sort out what sort of playing time arrangements Bobby Cox will come up with, especially once Chipper Jones is reactivated. Kelly Johnson and Brian McCann both seem to have gotten their bearings, so if nothing else, John Schuerholz has plenty of options if he decides to go shopping, regardless of whether he decides to be a buyer or a seller. The Braves could deal veteran help to acquire the pitching they need, or they could move their less-promising prospects, like Adam LaRoche or Ryan Langerhans or even Betemit, and still end up contending because of the quality of their depth.
Activated RHP Mark Prior from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Rich Hill to Iowa. [6/26]
Prior and Wood have both come back this week, which is good news right there, but beyond that, there's also the boon of the Cubs' decision to keep Jerome Williams in the rotation. Less promising is the decision to send Sergio Mitre to the pen, instead of back to Iowa, but Glendon Rusch has been bumped in the club's fast-stepping Roster Reel before, and will still make for a good long reliever until one of the famous guys breaks down again. Can Prior hold up this time around? It's the question that, along with Kerry Wood's status, defines the Cubs' season, and will tell us whether they have a prayer of staying in the wild-card hunt, let alone making the Cardinals notice the standings.
Novoa can take note from Wellemeyer's fate, in case he's forgotten his own. When it comes to running a bullpen within an organization loaded with live (and occasionally all healthy) arms, Dusty Baker likes to observe Voltaire's comment in Candide on the sorry fate of Admiral Byng: "it is a good thing to kill an admiral from time to time, to encourage the others." The problem is that, unlike the Admiralty's ability to find other admirals, the speed with which Dusty seems to flash hot and cold on his various relievers might just generate a cadre of Kyle Farnsworths, embittered talents who struggle in Dusty's pressurized Snuggly realm, earn their banishments to parts elsewhere, and live happily ever after.
I'm shocked, shocked, that Enrique Wilson proved inadequate. Cedeno's torrid hitting in Iowa the month-plus he's been back down is enough to remind people that he's only 22 and has a future. Sadly, right now that future involves sitting behind the slow putrefaction of Neifi Perez, from hero to heel, but apparently Dusty hasn't noticed Neifi's return to Neifidom since his enchanted April.
Recalled 2B/SS-B Rainer Olmedo from Louisville. [6/28]
Narrating this Reds season has been a little like trying to give a blow-by-blow about your basic five-year-old playing with the toy cars he likes smashing together. There's a combination of destruction, impulsiveness and random misfortune that seems to add up to busy senselessness. Nevertheless, there's a bit of a method here. Olmedo was ahead of Bergolla in the organization's queue for a utility infield slot, and having missed time to injury, has been given his spot in line back.
The question is why think of the two of these guys in those terms? Rich Aurilia in any role is one of their less explicable attachments. Admittedly, it comes on the heels of losing Freel, but there's no silver lining to be mined out of that cloud. Better they look at Olmedo for a stretch, and see if he can be more useful than Aurilia, who looks pretty execrable in all phases of the game at this point.
And why haul up Encarnacion if he isn't going to get to play? I didn't think the Reds needed another witness to a disaster, although perhaps some local notary public is being a bit of a stickler. Having hit .287/.366/.496 as a 22-year-old in Triple-A at Louisville this season, Encarnacion should have a future, but Dan O'Brien seems content with keeping Joe Randa instead of doing everything he can to move the rented vet. The good news is that this will allow Bergolla to go back to playing every day, which he needs if he's going to pan out.
Finally, Romano is simply up to play center while Ken Griffey Jr. recovers from the flu. Slowing down at 26, he's never going to grow up to be a solid regular anywhere, and now that he's hung up his infield gloves, he's been reduced to a fifth-outfielder wannabe.
Having temporarily fulfilled their interleague obligations, the Rox weren't about to quit on Todd Helton and plug Shealy in for keeps in the absence of DH at-bats. Besides, Helton's even shown signs of life of late. So instead, the Rox can count that as a small blessing, on top of the virtue of having some variety in their middle infield now that Miles is back. Not that Miles, Desi Relaford or the wrong Luis Gonzalez can do much more than successfully fill their roster slots and keep second and short covered, but when you've been reduced to being a subsistence franchise, you live off of every incremental positive, however slight.
Optioned RHP Randy Messenger to Albuquerque; recalled RHP Chris Resop from Carolina. [6/28]
It's kind of hard to get worked up about Dillon's dispatch, although I would have thought somebody would snag off of waivers a guy who'd slugged better than .660 in the minors last year, and who can play anywhere but catcher, short, and center. But keep in mind, they called up Willingham for games in which they needed a DH, and then didn't use him, and Jack McKeon has been pretty determined to avoid using his bench beyond reserves Jeff Conine and Damion Easley. So none of this means much, beyond service time served for both Dillon and Willingham.
The happier news is the arrival of Scott Olsen, not to be confused with former Fish Kevin Olsen. Even if it's a temporary fill for the slot that Josh Beckett has left empty, Olsen's earned his shot after a nifty introduction to Double-A this season: 75 hits, seven home runs and 27 walks allowed in 80 1/3 innings, with 94 strikeouts. Olsen's only 21, but with a power assortment (plus-90s heat and a crackling slider), as long as he's managed carefully, he may not need all that much more minor-league experience. Once Beckett returns, the Marlins would have to decide if Olsen should stick in the rotation ahead of Scuffy Moehler, or if they want to do something about Al Leiter's struggles. The division is tight enough as is, and the Fish need to do something to shake up a team where the offense is struggling and the rotation may not be entirely safe to bet on in the second half.
Finally, if you haven't heard of Resop, he's the latest edition of the converted position player turned hurler, making the show in only his second full season of pitching as a pro. He had been expected to be an outfielder when picked out of a Florida high school in the fourth round of the 2001 draft, but he struggled at the plate, the Marlins put him on the mound and made him a reliever, and voila, they have a strike-throwing reliever. Given that he was closing in his first season at Double-A, you're still talking about a guy with less than a hundred professional innings thrown, so I wouldn't get my hopes up for the time being.
Recalled OF-R Cody Ross from Las Vegas; optioned LHP Derek Thompson to Las Vegas. [6/24]
Okay, I have to admit, I really don't get it. Thompson was effective in the rotation, and short one Gagne, the pen needs all the help it can get. Spending the month in the pen, Scott Erickson didn't give this team four innings through June 28 over that time. Why keep him? Why not bump Elmer Dessens to the pen and leave Thompson where he was? Having Ross up to help give Jim Tracy a full collection of bats in DH games, that we get. But why continue to protect Erickson, a player who's watching so many games he should be asked to buy a season-ticket package, and who you have no more incentive to put into a game than you do Joe Shlabotnik?
Cirillo's been much better than anyone expected, so this might seem surprising to have to admit that it's a bit of a blow, but keep in mind that Russ Branyan should be back off of the DL in another week or so, and Bill Hall and Wes Helms can fill in more than adequately enough in the meantime. Indeed, with this sort of depth, the Brewers could move Helms or Branyan easily enough at the deadline. (Cirillo won't be back until after it passes, but he's the sort of guy who should be available in a waiver deal in August.) There are several contenders that need help at first or third, and all three guys are only signed through the end of this season.
Meanwhile, Durrington is back, and I remain enthusiastic for him, not because he's that good, but because he could be spotted at eight positions easily enough, he can pinch-run a bit, and he's even patient enough at the plate to not be an embarrassment. There are worse last men on big-league benches around the game.
Outrighted RHP Manny Aybar to Norfolk. [6/24]
Calling up Offerman isn't especially offensive in itself; if guys like Carlos Baerga or Lenny Harris can keep getting breaks because they're theoretically infielders and because they've convincingly adapted themselves to the odd rigors of pinch-hitting, then there's usually roster space somewhere in the game for somebody like that. And who knows, if Olmedo Saenz can come back this well, maybe everyone will get into the spirit of the thing and the Designated Pinch-Hitter will make a comeback as a more common career path.
No, the bigger fish that might be too big to deep-fry is the question of what the Mets want to do at first base now that Minky's broken down. Set aside that this merciful development spares the Mets more Minky at the plate. In a couple of games since, Brian Daubach seems to have inspired something in Willie Randolph, which leaves Victor Diaz on the bench, and Randolph speculating about his also using this situation as a way to get Marlon Anderson or Chris Woodward into the lineup. Such spin-doctoring aside, this is another one of those decisions, like sticking with the Kazuhisa Ishii project over Aaron Heilman, where not only do results not matter, but there's nothing that resembles a plan or a realization of where the Mets should be next month, let alone next year. It's enough to remind a person of those grim times when Garry Templeton was spot-starting at first base in 1991. I mean, Ishii had a quality start this month, and he beat the Reds last month; Daubach had a good-looking at-bat or two.
Some problems just don't get solved, not because the team is trying to turn a weakness into a strength, but because there isn't enough horse sense to identify that there's a problem in the first place. Call it organizational tail-chasing, just not in the sense of this being Steve Phillips' former organization.
Placed LHP Mike Gonzalez on the 15-day DL (sprained knee); recalled LHP Mike Johnston from Indianapolis. [6/23]
Optioned LHP Mike Johnston to Indianapolis; recalled RHP Ian Snell from Indianapolis. [6/25]
Placed LHP Oliver Perez on the 15-day DL (broken toe); recalled OF-L Nate McLouth from Indianapolis. [6/28]
Don't bother reading anything into McLouth's promotion; he won't be on the roster for as much as a week's worth of games, and considering he's hitting .306/.383/.435, he hasn't exactly laid to rest questions of whether or not he's a classic tweener just yet. The Bucs are currently getting by with a sort of platoon between Tike Redman and Freddy Sanchez, with Rob Mackowiak flitting from third to center and back again as Lloyd McClendon's whims dictate. Since Redman's reclaimed adequacy under this set-up, you can't say it hasn't worked, although it would be interesting to see if McLouth could handle center, and if there'd be any benefit to simply leaving Mackowiak alone at third.
Another thing that may work well on McClendon's watch might be the planned usage pattern for Snell. After a half-season in Indy's rotation, Snell is going to be a middle reliever for the Bucs for the rest of the year, with an eye on moving him back to starter for next season's Pirates team. McClendon talked about how that worked for the Orioles back in the day, and it smacked of a sensibility that nobody had really expected to hear from Little Mac. Snell had problems with the long ball in Triple-A, allowing 13 in 93 innings, but with a 90/21 strikeout-to-walk ratio and just 72 hits allowed, there's plenty to like. Not overpowering, Snell can still get his heat into the low 90s, and that plus his command had me pretty excited about him when I wrote the Pirates chapter for this year's book.
The real challenge will be this weekend, when McClendon will have to decide whether or not to stick with his decision when Perez's slot comes up this weekend. Will he make Snell part of a pen start, will he simply give the start to Snell, or will somebody else get called up? Perez is expected to miss as much as a month, so it isn't like the Pirates can just wing it. Zach Duke might make the most sense to get the call, since he's been dominant down at Indy, posting a 2.92 ERA, winning a dozen games, allowing a hit per inning in 108 IP, with a 66-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But don't overlook Tom Gorzelanny, who's gotten sharper as the season's progressed and he's put elbow woes behind him.
So let's see if I have this straight: Nevin's down, so the infield is now Mark Sweeney at first, Geoff Blum or Damian Jackson at second, and Sean Burroughs doing his best Ken Oberkfell impression over at third. And this team's in first?
Normally, I'd suggest that the best fix would be to get Ryan Klesko out of left and deposit him at first, just so that the Pads could play Johnson (.299/.385/.551 at Portland, including 17 home runs) or Dave Roberts in the outfield. Unfortunately, Klesko's about as uninspired and uninspiring wearing leather as Orrin Hatch. As long as Sweeney gets on base at a .400 clip or better, why take the risk? It's a shame for Johnson, of course, since he's probably ready, but the one thing this team doesn't have a shortage of is outfielders, especially now that Xavier Nady seems to be coming into his own.
Claimed OF-L Alex Sanchez off of waivers from Devil Rays. [6/23]
Optioned OF-L Adam Shabala to Fresno. [6/24]
Outrighted RHP Brandon Puffer to Fresno; recalled RHP Jeremy Accardo from Fresno. [6/28]
There's no better way to say your season is broken than to wind up with Sanchez. He can't really play an outfield position, he runs, but runs into outs often enough to exasperate the people who care about the practical aspects of speed, and are less hung up on superficially gaudy steal totals. He can paste a wormkiller now and again, which I suppose is a virtue if your grass is long and you need a baserunner who can motor to first. Ideally, he won't take any time from Jason Ellison, and it seems like the more likely victim will be Todd Linden who doesn't merit much consideration himself, except that the Giants should play him to see if they want him on their 40-man in the winter to come. They should already know that they don't want Sanchez, whose career seems to coincide with one team's disaster season after another.
Recalled LHP Carmen Cali from Memphis; placed LHP Randy Flores on the 15-day DL; activated OF-B Roger Cedeno from the 15-day DL, and designated him for assignment; optioned 3B-R Scott Seabol to Memphis. [6/24]
Recalled INF-R Hector Luna from Memphis. [6/25]
A strange exchange. Not between the lefties; Cali can pitch, and the Cards will be fine giving him a look-see as their second lefty in the pen. No, I'm a little more perplexed by the decision to exchange Luna for Seabol. Not that Seabol is going to get to play all that much now that Scott Rolen is back, but the Cards didn't need a backup to back up reserve infielder Abraham Nunez, and if you're worried about where your third shortstop is, you're worrying about the wrong sorts of things. Seabol makes for a better source of power on a bench that doesn't have much, and he's a solid enough choice to spot-start at either infield corner on a team where Rolen in particular has been known to wear down physically.