Happy Thanksgiving! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume Monday, December 1
July 21, 2005
July 14-19, 2005
Activated CF-L Steve Finley from the 15-day DL. [7/14]
Nothing too spectacular here, just the lineup back at nearly full strength. Chone Figgins will play a lot of third base now that Finley and Cabrera are active, with Maicer Izturis, Juan Rivera and Jeff DaVanon dueling over who gets to play on a day-to-day basis. Rivera's arm and power potential will win out more often than not, I suspect. Rivera is certainly in position to make more of a name for himself, as divisional play will create opportunities for him to hit against some of the notable lefties featured in the rotations of the rivals of los angeles de Los Angeles.
This isn't quite a case of "send out the clowns," since they did just bring Grimsley back in, and his value is dubious at best. Plus, although he was generally pitching in a low-leverage mop-up role, Baldwin did do good work that should, at the very least, get him a nice NRI deal this winter as a free agent.
Reed looked awful as an Oriole, but keep in mind that Lee Mazzilli's propensity to leave him out there to fry as opposed to reserving him for a ROOGY role didn't help. Mazzilli was using an admittedly overly-specialized specialist in ways he couldn't help, which serves as a very minor cautionary tale about the disadvantages of carrying too many situational guys in a bullpen that has to do a lot of work to cover for a rotation that doesn't get into the seventh inning as often as you might like. Jorge Julio's miserable June didn't help matters any, any more than rushing up Hayden Penn in Bedard's place did.
I don't harbor any great hopes for Grimsley, and I suspect that getting Bedard back, coincident with Julio's getting back on track and having Chris Ray up from here on out, will have a lot more to do with the pen's improvement than whatever moxie Grimsley's World Series rings are supposed to add to the mix.
Signed OF-R Gabe Kapler, and placed him on the 15-day DL. [7/15]
Designated LHP Alan Embree for assignment; acquired OF-R Adam Hyzdu from the Padres for RHP Scott Cassidy; acquired INF-R Tony Graffanino from the Royals for OF-B Chip Ambres and LHP Juan Cedeno. [7/19]
Theo Epstein may not have achieved the big move just yet, but pending an omnibus bullpen multi-dimensional super-swap, minor fixes will have to do in the meantime. So Kapler is back from Japan, and will no doubt take over for one of the Adams, Stern or Hyzdu. I definitely like picking up Graffy as part of the patch for Bellhorn's absence, because like Cora, he's more than just a fill-in, he's a pretty handy utility infielder when he isn't covering for this sort of emergency. It beats pressing Hanley Ramirez into action, since he isn't dominating Double-A at the plate (.272/.334/.415, good for a 21-year-old, but not so good that you push him up). The other system solution, Dustin Pedroia, is recovering from a wrist injury suffered at Pawtucket after doing exactly that (.324/.409/.508 at Portland). In the wake of those uncertainties, better to pick up Graffanino for a standard-issue live lefty arm and a minor-league free-agent outfielder, especially since Graffy plus Cora gives you a nice pair of infield reserves for all three spots once Bellhorn comes back and should anything bad happen to Bill Mueller or Edgar Renteria.
What's a little stranger is the decision to just give up on Embree. As bad as he's been, he's been useful much more recently than John Halama has. Since Matt Mantei is out for the year and Keith Foulke may not pitch until the end of August, cutting Embree just exacerbates the Sox's pen problems. Now they're that much more dependent on Curt Schilling panning out as a reliever, and on Chad Bradford being in full operating order. Why keep both Halama and Jeremi Gonzalez as long relievers? Just about nothing that Halama does would be enough to get him onto your postseason roster, while Embree still seems to be fooling some people at the plate some of the time.
Activated LHP Damaso Marte from the 15-day DL. [7/14]
I suspect I'm not alone when it comes to Chicagoans (or in my case, Chicago ex-pats) who will miss Takatsu for his throwing motion. But Bobby Jenks' overpowering heat seems more intoxicating than a four-martini lunch, while Takatsu's virtues seem to have worn thin faster than... well, a week's worth of four-martini lunches. He wasn't fooling right-handers, and lefties had golfed twice as many home runs as singles off of him this year. I can't help but wonder if he's someone like Doug Jones, and better off moving from league to league, so that he keeps the number of people who have gotten a good look at him to a minimum. Certainly, I'll be interested to see what happens if he heads over to the National League.
I guess I'm just concerned about the right-handed relief before you get to Dustin Hermanson now that Takatsu's gone. Luis Vizcaino has had his moments, but he hasn't been that strong, Jenks hasn't actually pitched well yet as much as he's been superficially impressive, and I keep expecting Cliff Politte to stop walking on water like he was Peter Sellers. Or maybe a skitterbug. They've got special powers, donchaknow... sort of like your 2005 edition of Politte. Anyways, at least the rotation is back at full strength.
Recalled RHP Fausto Carmona from Buffalo; optioned RHP Kaz Tadano to Buffalo. [7/17]
Okay, setting aside my frustration that the Indians didn't take Ryan Ludwick more seriously, I love their picking up Dubois to be a right-handed masher. Gerut is useful enough, but he isn't a great player, even now in his prime seasons. The Indians are trying to build a lineup that can brutalize the improving rotations of the AL Central, and they need a righty thumper to balance out lefty bats like Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner. The deal is also a nice bit of salary dumping, while costing the Tribe nothing in terms of talent they can use to win now on their roster. They won't catch the White Sox the way things are going, so it makes sense to instead add the incremental benefits of Dubois' longer arbitration clock, options, and lower cost for the next year or two, while sparing themselves more difficult and expensive decisions involving Gerut's arbitration eligibility this winter. It's a likely offensive gain with economic benefits, and in the Indians' situation, that's as win-win as it gets.
As far as near-term possibilities, Dubois could stick in an outfield corner, or he could DH. In that case, Hafner would move to first base and push Ben Broussard into the benching he's earned. If Dubois goes back to the outfield, that might also help the lineup by forcing the Indians to pick between Casey Blake and Aaron Boone, since that's at least one too many thirtysomething apparatchiks in this lineup. Winner sticks at third base, at least until Brandon Phillips earns a full-time job somewhere in the infield.
Will Carroll has already covered Percival's probable fate, so let's just stick to the repercussions of having lost him. Assuming the Tiggers have some form of contract insurance, I see this as a cloud with an awful lot of silver lining. Not only might they recoup the expense of having spent too much on a player who was never going to be as useful as he was expensive, but losing him even presents Dave Dombrowski with a handy excuse for why winning this year wasn't in the cards. Yes, I guess that means I'm a cynic, but Percival was a bad idea that might have only looked good relative to the Magglio Ordonez signing. Besides, if Kyle Farnsworth thrives in the closer's role that is now his, consider that the karmic equivalent of air-mailing an omelette's-worth of eggs for deposit on Dusty Baker's incredulous noggin. Add in that Fernando Rodney is healthy and is pumping liquid gas from the mound; he seems to have finally started living up to a few years of hype. The Tigers' pen will be fine, and if Percival's experience helped Farnsworth forget his past, perhaps more than fine.
As packages for dumps go, getting Cedeno and Ambres for Graffanino wasn't all bad. Yes, it does only leave the Royals with Super Joe McEwing as their utility infielder, but when you're one of the worst teams in baseball, that isn't the sort of detail you should lose sleep over.
Cedeno is 21 and Dominican and left-handed and in A ball, and pending his making the jump to Double-A someday, that's about as close to an organizational dreamcatcher as you get.
Ambres might make people forget... well, he might remind people of Emil Brown, another journeyman who seems to have finally found a home. But where Brown is already 30, Ambres is a former first-round pick from the Marlins' chain who didn't fit their mold after perhaps resembling Todd Dunwoody too closely, in ways good and bad: moderate power, lots of strikeouts, some speed, some defense. Unlike Dunwoody, Ambres has always shown some ability to get on base. Signed by the Red Sox as a minor-league free agent (pity that Allard Baird didn't do that himself last December), Ambres comes over after having hit .290/.396/.488 in Pawtucket. Still only 24, he's a better use of a lineup slot that Terrence Long is, certainly, but whether or not he sticks will depend as much on how much hope is invested in a guy like Shane Costa, and when Billy Butler is due up, as it will on his own performance.
Optioned 2B-R Luis Rivas to Rochester. [7/16]
Activated 3B/2B-R Michael Cuddyer from the 15-day DL. [7/17]
Whew, that's overdue, as Cuddyer should slip immediately into the lineup at third base. However, there's still the "Juan Castro is a major-league regular" bit of make-believe over at shortstop, which highlights that the Twins are still relying on an infield that does not have an above-average player at second, short or third, even with Cuddyer back and Bret Boone in the fold these days. The White Sox promise that they'll send flowers. Nice ones, as a thank you, or for consolation. YMMV.
Activated RHP Felix Rodriguez from the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); outrighted LHP Darrell May to Columbus; placed DH-B Ruben Sierra on the 15-day DL; recalled INF-R Andy Phillips from Columbus. [7/19]
Talk about the "Go Fish" rotation...as the Yankees just manage to slap together a rotation as the schedule demanded, courtesy of two stalwarts of the World Champs of 1997. Leiter is a reasonable enough solution for one of the final slots, especially with Wang possibly out for the year. Certainly, the irony of adding the man who once decried his team's love for Dave LaPoint back when he himself was a young Yankees prospect and the Bombers were desperate is richer still now that it's Leiter in the LaPoint role. It's still better than trusting games to Redding or May, and Small should only be in the rotation for a turn, or at most two, before Carl Pavano comes off of the DL. Add in the improvement the pen can hope for now that Rodriguez is back, and the Yankees' pitching staff might actually be in pretty good shape for the immediate future. I know, that involves counting on Leiter and Kevin Brown, but there isn't a lot of choice in the matter.
The situation is better amongst the position players as well. Sierra is a limited-use player, and the DH slot's playing time ought to be going to Bernie Williams and Jason Giambi, anyway. Crosby has already gotten a start in center field batting ninth, which I've wished would happen for a while now. It almost all seems to work.
Was mid-July the nadir of the 2005 Yankees season? Arguably, at least for the panic that came with it; the Yankees aren't dead yet, and thanks to some quick (and overdue) problem-solving, they've almost got a full rotation again, they're not playing Tony Womack any more, and they have an adequate solution to their center field problem. The bullpen could use an upgrade, but Rodriguez makes for a nice start there. I'm not going to be surprised if we get something historic out of the next couple of months.
Optioned LHP Ron Flores to Sacramento; outrighted RHP Ryan Glynn to Sacramento. [7/14]
Welcome to Transaction Detritus, which will not become a regularly scheduled feature. Instead, TD is simply something that arises when a move breaks across my submissions, instead of neatly all in one. So as part of the aftermath of the decision to go out and get Joe Kennedy and Jay Witasick from the Rockies, Mssrs. Flores and Glynn get to reacquaint themselves with the subtle benefits of spending time in Sacramento. How many other stadia have a Money Store ziggurat as a neighbor, after all?
If Nomo was a gambit, where the Rays intended to flip him at the deadline or at the least get adequate work every fifth day, and perhaps generate some faint echo of Nomomania among the shuffleboard set, it didn't work on any level. Nomo was as awful as he had been in 2004, when at least he'd had the benefits of Chavez Ravine, and that's without bringing up the time he'd lost to rotator-cuff surgery that season. It does represent a failure, in that the Rays' attempts to bring in veterans to leaven the rotation has completely flopped. Rob Bell was a similar risk as Nomo, a retread worn so thin that you had to wonder where else he might wind up, and he seems just as done, although his issue seems to be some variant of Blassitis, as opposed to age and injury.
Since a gambit involves a sacrifice, what was sacrificed? Roster space, certainly. Jeremi Gonzalez was punted in the meantime, and even if everything had gone badly for him, I think it would have been hard for him to have given up more than seven runs per nine over 19 starts the way Nomo had. Experience, possibly, although it's not so easy to identify who the Rays might have trusted from among their own. John Webb? Dewon Brazelton? Swapping Chad Gaudin for the execrable Kevin Cash certainly didn't help. There's a reason why the Rays are down to a rotation of Mark Hendrickson, Scott Kazmir, Casey Fossum and Seth McClung, where only McClung is homegrown: their home-baked goods seem to be the ones everyone leaves on the table. Doug Waechter is expected to join McClung in the rotation, presumably after he's ready to come off of the DL at some point after this weekend. But will he be jerked around, in the same way that Brazelton has been? Or Jon Switzer? They're guilty of pushing Chris Seddon and Jason Hammel as aggressively as all of these talented arms who came before them, and the way things are going, I wouldn't bet on any of them working out.
In light of that sort of persistent organizational failure, Nomo was a risk, but perhaps one worth taking considering that these are the Devil Fishies, bottom-dwellers factually as well as symbolically, with no place to go but up. But it was also worth giving up on long before this point of the season. The real problem isn't that the Rays can't patch up a rotation, it's that they can't wait, and keep thinking they can fix things up real soon, as long as some of those kids work out now that last winter's crop of vets has already washed out.
Meanwhile, A-Gonz (now the lesser of the two A-Gonzes; it's a more flexible thing than sorting out which Pitt was which) is back, but third base doesn't belong to him any more, as second, third and short belong to Nick Green, Jorge Cantu and Julio Lugo, respectively. A contender looking for a veteran infield reserve might liberate Gonzalez, either as part of a package or in a minor deal. Circumstances may change if it's Lugo who's dealt, but that would put the Rays on the spot. Recently, they've reiterated their commitment to B.J. Upton as a shortstop, but will they stick to that? At least Upton has hit well at Durham (.287/.376/.428), but in Lugo's absence, they would have an opportunity, one that Alex Gonzalez certainly wouldn't do anything with. Hopefully, if Lugo's dealt, they'll have the sense of purpose to put Upton at short and leave him there.
Recalled LHP Erasmo Ramirez from Oklahoma. [7/14]
Optioned OF-B Jason Botts to Oklahoma; recalled LHP C.J. Wilson from Frisco (Double-A). [7/19]
It's been a season of setbacks for Nix, but the Rangers' other problem is that Gary Matthews Jr. hasn't been earning his keep either. In an outfield where Richard Hidalgo has been the biggest disappointment, it's easy to lose sight of the specific flops. It's a problem that can be fixed, and it's one the Rangers should no longer accept.
Just because the team gets lots of runs from their incomparable infield is no reason to continue entrusting playing time to two of these three. Putting David Dellucci in an outfield corner so that someone who might hit (paging Adrian Gonzalez) can get at-bats is something Buck Showalter should do if he wants to keep this team's present meaningful. Admittedly, Dellucci's fragility is an issue, so he might not be able to handle that much work. Even Botts would have been better to have around, after his having hit .296/.387/.550 in the PCL. Even if the Rangers didn't haul up Gonzalez to play at first (moving Mark Teixeira to DH), Botts has minor-league experience in right field, allowing them to leave Teixeira alone while possibly adding a bat. Even with the unfortunate decision to go to 13 pitchers, it isn't like there isn't more play in this roster, and Botts had to go down to make room for an extra arm. Marshall McDougall is rotting at the very bottom of the bench, even less-used than often idle utility infielder Mark DeRosa.
As for Wilson's call-up, it isn't to step into the rotation. At the moment, the Rangers have rediscovered that John Wasdin is the insurance policy you don't want to really have to rely on, not as a starter. He still has his uses as a long reliever, of course, especially on a team that only has two starters you can count on. That might become three if Joaquin Benoit transmogrifies from the team's most effective reliever to an effective starter, but then there's the problem of Kenny Rogers' pending suspension, which might simply kill off any hopes for the wild card right here and now. But now that the Rangers have 13 pitchers, only a very few of them useful, and only one outfielder who can hit, I suspect the breakdown was only a matter of time.
Outrighted RHP Justin Miller to Syracuse. [7/19]
I guess I'm easily surprised, because I'm a little surprised to see Miller clear waivers so easily, especially when there are teams--in straits both good and bad--that can use a utility pitcher. Miller's had a great partial season at Syracuse, and if people are still turning to Travis Smith or John Wasdin, I would have thought Miller might have some value to somebody, especially since he's only 27. Besides, with the Jays probably being one of the franchises you'll find amongst the sellers at the deadline, clearing an extra spot on the 40-man for possible prospect package pickups makes sense.
That isn't to say I can't see why the Jays didn't bump him out of the way. Gaudin a promising project still shaking off the horrors of being young and a Devil Ray, and someone you could find use for in the pen or at the bottom of the rotation. As a regular starter down at Syracuse, he's been dominating, allowing only 87 hits and 21 walks in 101 1/3 IP, and by allowing just five home runs, dispelling concerns that he's gopher-prone. The real question is whether he'll stick, or get bounced back to Syracuse when David Bush gets called up to rejoin the rotation as the actual fifth starter. It might not be Gaudin who goes down; Brandon League has barely pitched since his recall before the All-Star Break, mopping up in one game, while Scott Downs has failed twice over, as a situational lefty and as a long reliever.
Between Stinnett's injury and Chris Snyder's gastrointestinal miseries, the Snakes needed somebody to catch, so they resurrected Hill. He's still not a prospect, and having managed to hit just .265/.363/.444 in Tucson's cozy confines, he didn't exactly re-establish his credentials as one. As a part-timer, however, he has his uses: he's a switch-hitting catcher, after all, and everyone likes those, plus he has a solid defensive rep. I wouldn't be surprised if he takes advantage of this situation to reclaim some portion of the job in Arizona, especially considering how much Snyder has struggled this season.
Snyder shouldn't feel too put out; Andy Allanson got his big opportunity at 24, too, and he couldn't hit well enough to keep a regular job. The Diamondbacks might even take heart: after Allanson flopped, the Tribe went out and traded for Sandy Alomar Jr., which worked, sort of, as far as Alomar giving the Indians two good full seasons in a decade's worth of play.
The Braves' rotation gets almost back to full strength, and they get Chipper back, on top of an offense that may finally be ready to keep up with the Joneses. Jay Powell is a year removed from Tommy John surgery on his elbow, and seems ready to help. All of this, and The Nats' fade seems to have started, too.
If there's one thing to grump about, it's Davies' demotion, but Jorge Sosa has more than earned his keep in the rotation, and somebody had to go. If Davies is prepped for a return engagement, and gets regular work in Richmond in the meantime, well, that's the cost of doing business when you suddenly appear to have starting pitching coming out of your ears. Davies is their best young starter, and he's gotten a serious trial during a season the Braves are contending, somewhat like Andruw Jones did in '96. How many perennially winning franchises keep finding ways to do that sort of thing with their best prospects?
Okay, there is also the question of who to play where. Chipper is resuming his duties at third base, and that puts Wilson Betemit on the bench. There's still the question of whether the Braves have a corner outfielder on whom they can rely. Kelly Johnson is cooling off, Ryan Langerhans just doesn't look like he's going to be more than the new Pat Sheridan, and why is Jeff Francoeur up if he's here to watch those two play? I like all three of them, so perhaps the Braves will make do with them (plus Brian Jordan when he's healed up). Like Davies, Francoeur and Johnson are getting work on a contender but in relatively low-pressure roles. It's a way to win and keep winning, even allowing for normal turnover.
Certainly now that Adam LaRoche has gotten his slugging percentage up towards .500, the lineup seems prepped to score regardless of what happens in the outfield. I simply hope that they don't settle for struggling outfielders, lest they wind up where the Rangers are, costing themselves runs. Nothing, not even the Braves winning the NL East, is guaranteed.
Placed OF-L Adam Greenberg on the 15-day DL (concussion), retroactive to 7/10; recalled OF-L Ben Grieve from Iowa. [7/15]
Optioned OF-L Ben Grieve to Iowa. [7/19]
It's not a huge deal, but I really like what it does for both teams. First, this wasn't a prospect-for-veteran deal, not when Gerut is 27 and Dubois is 26. More properly, it was an exchange that gave the Cubs a possible solution for their outfield needs, an everyday player with patience enough to spot in the leadoff slot and who can play the field well enough to be left alone out there. Gerut is not a decisively better player than Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Todd Hollandsworth are, but he does help, while Dubois wasn't going to get the chance to. Gerut is more likely to retain Baker's trust than Dubois was (or to regain it, in Corey Patterson's case).
If Patterson does get back into favor, Baker can have Gerut and Jeromy Burnitz flanking him, while getting Hollandsworth and Hairston back into reserve roles. Yes, everyone besides Hairston bats left-handed, but other than Hollandsworth, none of them really need a platoon partner that badly, and maybe spot-starting against lefties is the niche that Matt Murton will get to fill for the time being.
Near-term usage patterns aside, does this help get the Cubs closer to winning the wild card? I'd say "yes," and while I like Dubois, barring Jim Hendry working up the nerve to fire Dusty, it's the GM's job to do what he can to win. This is a win-now roster under a win-now manager; breaking in Dubois just wasn't going to be part of the program, and until Patterson made it back, the Cubs needed an outfielder that their manager was comfortable using. Mission accomplished, at least for the time being. Dusty's pretty fickle, after all.
Outrighted OF-R Jason Romano to Louisville. [7/14]
Purchased the contracts of RHP David Cortes and OF-R Ryan Spilborghs from Colorado Springs. [7/15]
Outrighted LHP Bobby Seay to Colorado Springs. [7/17]
Activated RHP Jose Acevedo from the 15-day DL. [7/18]
Activated OF-R Matt Holliday from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-R Ryan Spilborghs to Colorado Springs. [7/19]
I'm trying to suppress my excitement for what having Holliday means for the Rox. Ugh. As it now stands, Holliday's back in left field, Cory Sullivan is temping in center with all of the value you might expect from such, and Eric Byrnes is in right field. How much longer is Brad Hawpe on the DL?
Should the Rockies not be able to flip Byrnes for something that will help them well into the future, I wonder if they can even move either Dustan Mohr or Jorge Piedra. Mohr has hit so poorly that he's simply releasable, or at most waiver-deal bait for teams that don't get outfield help at the deadline. Piedra is probably still tarred by the performance-enhancing substance brush, and seeing as most people have overlooked his prospectdom, including his parent organization, I'm not hopeful there either.
Traded LHP Al Leiter and cash to the Yankees for a PTBNL. [7/16]
Recalled RHP John Riedling from Albuquerque; optioned RHP Chris Resop to Carolina (Double-A). [7/17]
I can't say I'm heartbroken over the decision to make Leiter go away. Despite his having been a member of the '97 world champs, he's left town before, so it isn't like the Fish have lost another Mr. Marlin, not like Jeff Conine at any rate. He was easily the worst starter the rotation had at its disposal, and when you've been outpitched by Scuffy Moehler, you've earned your way out of town.
Optioned RHP Ezequiel Astacio to Round Rock; recalled LHP Wandy Rodriguez from Corpus Christi (Double-A). [7/19]
This might seem terribly unfair, since Astacio did well in the first game of Tuesday's doubleheader, but Rodriguez was slotted to start the second game regardless. It's Wandy who's expected to be the fifth starter, and he did pretty well on Tuesday. Since the Astros can't be too sure of their status as a contender, nor can they have any certainty about whether they could get value for Andy Pettitte as long as his elbow's soundness is as dubious as their contention status, the time when Astacio and Rodriguez will both be looked at as possibilities for your 2006 Astros rotation will have to be put off until Houston gets some clarity on both scores.
Activated SS-B Cesar Izturis from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Franquelis Osoria to Las Vegas. [7/15]
Outrighted OF-L Jason Grabowski to Las Vegas. [7/17]
Activated LHP Wilson Alvarez from the 15-day DL. [7/18]
Izturis' return highlights the Dodgers' newfound depth concerns, as they have to sort out who to play in the infield as well as the outfield, at least in the absence of the obvious stars. Mexican import Oscar Robles, utility infielder Antonio Perez and minor- league veteran Mike Edwards all have their uses, but they can't all play third base at once, which is why the Dodgers are pondering adding Perez to the outfield jumble.
Happily, at least the outfield will be less jumbled if Milton Bradley is reactivated this weekend, leaving a crowd of Jayson Werth, Ricky Ledee, Perez, Edwards, Jason Repko and Chin-Feng Chen squabbling over playing time in the corners. I'm guessing that Chen is the one who goes down when Bradley returns, but given that we're talking about a random jumble of limbs and abilities, I don't envy Jim Tracy's job of sorting them out. Werth has been inconsistent, although the best of the lot, so he'll probably remain a regular for the time being. I'm disappointed that Grabowski didn't take advantage of the situation, but it looks like he survived any waiver claiming, so he'll no doubt be back when some of the rest become equally exasperating.
Alvarez is in the pen to stay, and perhaps only for situational or late-inning work, since there's lingering concern about his durability. That replaces the recent loss of Kelly Wunsch, but still leaves the team hoping that it can get by with Giovanni Cabrera, let alone Scott Erickson's recent shockingly useful month or so.
Eveland's been propelled into a relief role after a tremendous little season as a starter, winning 10 games, posting a 2.81 ERA, and striking out 98 hitters in 109 innings to go with his 96 hits and 38 walks allowed. Add in that he only gave up four home runs, and this looks like a case of the Brewers protecting an interesting arm by lessening his workload, while also giving him a taste of the majors to see where he fits in for 2006. A 2003 draft pick, he was going to have to be added to the 40-man after the season regardless, and since he's 21, why let him labor for the greater glory of Huntsville? Hopefully, life in the big leagues will help him keep focused on his conditioning, since that's been a sore spot already. I know, Wisconsin is not known for being a place where people treat their bodies as temples, but there's nothing wrong with hoping, right?
Optioned LHP Royce Ring to Norfolk; designated 1B/OF-L Brian Daubach for assignment; activated 1B-L Doug Mientkiewicz from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Juan Padilla from Norfolk. [7/15]
My thoughts on Minky's value are pretty thoroughly on record, but I don't care how many times people conjure up the Keith Hernandez comparisons, I keep thinking in terms of Mike Squires and the at-bats the Mets are giving away. It does sort of fit with the team's infield theme, since it boils down to David Wright and three guys who shouldn't be starting.
The cooler move is the decision to call up Padilla. Generally ignored during his six years in the Twins' system due to his lack of velocity, he never really struggled during his career as a minor-league reliever. Admittedly, relief work is easier to find, and easier still to get good help for it, but Padilla's been consistently good. Bounced from a crowded Twins organization--and then having made the mistake of going to the Yankees last year--Padilla may finally get a chance here. It isn't like Danny Graves has been any more successful than so many other fixer-upper projects the Mets have taken on in the last year or two.
Placed RHP Geoff Geary on the 15-day DL (eye), retroactive to 7/9; purchased the contract of infielder Danny Sandoval from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [7/16]
I'm happy to see Sandoval up, since he's the sort of player who any Bill Almon fan could warm up to: a shortstop who can play all over the diamond, a minor-league veteran in his ninth year as a pro, and a guy who can hit well enough and run well enough to make it as an infield reserve. But he's also up because somebody had to be, since Tomas Perez is more of a pinch-hitter than an infielder and Ramon Martinez is an infielder who can't really play short. As a result, having Sandoval up as Jimmy Rollins' caddy might make sense on a bench already cluttered with those two guys plus Endy Chavez.
A little more significant is losing Geary, because the pen is beginning to go to pieces. Beyond the daily drag of the Billy Wagner watch, grinding through the constant speculation that has become a death watch for all of Ed Wade's hopes and dreams, the other relievers haven't been all that special lately. Sinc his reactivation, Tim Worrell has been awful; Ugueth Urbina is challenging people, but only to see how far they can hit the ball; Rheal Cormier only seems to be himself on the road; and Ryan Madson hasn't been as sharp in the last month. Situational beasty Aaron Fultz is having a great year, but that's only slightly better than sending your punter to the Pro Bowl in football. Ideally, Geary's bruised and battered orb will heal up and he'll be back, but when he does return, it might be to replace a departing Wagner, and not one of the bench scrubeenies.
Returned OF/1B-R Craig Wilson to the 15-day DL; recalled OF-L Chris Duffy from Indianapolis. [7/17]
As bad a break as this is for Wilson, it isn't all bad news for the Bucs, even if it becomes close to impossible to deal Wilson barring a waiver miracle next month. (There's always the winter meetings.) But with Wilson out of the fold, beyond creating some momentary job security for Daryle Ward at first, the Pirates have moved Jason Bay to left field for the time being so that Duffy can take over in center. That in turn buries Tike Redman on the bench. (Redman can take pleasure in the knowledge that even if you can't make it in Pittsburgh, there's always the Bronx. What is it again that gets said about if you can make it in New York?) That makes sense: Redman is 28, and he's never going to turn into a good everyday player, while Duffy's already 25, and whatever future he has is right now. Better to find out now if Duffy can handle the job, or if he's just the next Tike Redman.
Add that to the increasing frequency with which they're starting Ryan Doumit behind the plate, and this is a team doing a great job of auditioning next year's Pirates. Even with Wilson hurt, Ward isn't safe, not with Brad Eldred on the way up on the strength of his slugging .869 in Double-A and now .553 in Indianapolis this year. Next up, though, is probably a Nate McLouth call-up after the Bucs move Matt Lawton. Could the Pirates really run out of places to start supersub Rob Mackowiak? I certainly hope not.
Activated INF-R Mark Loretta from the 60-day DL and 1B-R Phil Nevin from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Clay Hensley from Portland; placed RHP Rudy Seanez on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 7/8; optioned OF-R Ben Johnson to Portland; released LHP Dennys Reyes and RHP Miguel Asencio outright. [7/18]
This looks like the point from which the Pads put the division away, and not just because all of their rivals seem to be coming apart at the seams. Nevin slides back into his role as the everyday first baseman, which is simple enough, although the Pads have gotten considerable benefit from playing Mark Sweeney, something they can continue to exploit by spotting Sweeney with starts at first or in an outfield corner.
Loretta's return makes for a more interesting dilemma, especially with Sean Burroughs continuing to do so very little to help at the plate. However, it isn't like Eric Young has done all that much since his reactivation at second base, and Damian Jackson is a utilityman who also has to fulfill some outfield responsibilities. A jumbled platoon might work, where Loretta plays second against right-handers, third against lefties, and Burroughs and Young platoon offensively while playing their respective positions. Or they could just platoon Jackson with Burroughs outright, and leave Young on the bench; Young's request to avoid playing in the outfield again sort of handicaps the Pads' range of options with him. As long as subsequent formulas don't involve Geoff Blum in your regularly scheduled lineup, it's a step up.
Equally interesting is the decision to shake up the pen. Not that Reyes had been earning his keep, because it isn't like he's ever going to have enough command to make a manager comfortable in anything other than a long relief and spot-starting role. And anybody who has Rudy Seanez knows he's what you get when you fix the Six Million Dollar Man using balsa wood. So instead, the Pads skipped past the reliability issues of both, and instead brought up Hensley in a more traditional young starter in long relief set-up. Hopefully, no hall monitors are quacking over his positive substance test and suspension this spring, since he's subsequently pitched even better in the PCL this year than he did in Double-A in 2004: 63 hits and 22 walks allowed in 90 1/3 IP stretched over 15 games, with 71 strikeouts and a 2.99 ERA. Hensley can both handle the long relief tasks as they arise, and potentially step into the rotation if Pedro Astacio doesn't get his act together before Adam Eaton is able to come off of the DL, whether that's in early August or later. With Paul Quantrill thriving since his arrival in San Diego, the Pads might have their pen patched and set for a nice stretch run, with the added benefit that they might already be auditioning an alternative to Astacio for the fifth slot.
Recalled OF-L Adam Shabala from Fresno; transferred the option of RHP Jeremy Accardo from San Jose (A-ball) to Fresno. [7/14]
Optioned LHP Jack Taschner to Fresno. [7/17]
Recalled RHP Kevin Correia from San Jose. [7/18]
Placed OF-R Reggie Sanders on the 15-day DL (fractured fibula); purchased the contract of OF-L John Rodriguez from Memphis. [7/18]
Not that Reggie Sanders is chopped liver, but losing him until some time close to Labor Day should have almost no effect on the Cardinals' divisonal dominance. In his absence, John Mabry, So Taguchi, and even Rodriguez will fill in for him effectively enough.
The sleeper here is Rodriguez, an organizational soldier in the Yankees system for most of his career. Rodriguez seemed to have a promising future ahead of him in 2001, when he slugged .537 in Double-A. As with a few too many Yankees farmhands, something went wrong on his way up the ladder, as his previous solid plate judgment deteriorated that year, and then he struggled while repeating Double-A in '02, struggled again in Columbus in '03, and then had a great year in '04, hitting .294/.382/.542. At that point he got out of Dodge, because as we all know, the Yankees don't need a guy who can play center field, let alone one who might hit a little. At 27, he's not just a survivor, and given that he could help the Cardinals right now as a spare part, it's sort of amusing to think whether or not the Yankees flubbed a shot at having a kid from the Bronx (where Rodriguez played his high-school ball before being signed as a free agent in 1996) in center in 2005. Would keeping Melky Cabrera out of The Baseball Encyclopedia have been too high a price to pay?
Outrighted OF-L Matt Cepicky to New Orleans. [7/14]
... thereby making room for the recently acquired Mr. Wilson. And no, the Nats aren't quickly cranking out any ticket promos featuring Preston in the mean old man role, and Jim Bowden as the cowlicked kid and all-around transaction menace.