September 8, 2005
Transferred 3B-L Dallas McPherson from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased the contract of OF-L Curtis Pride from Salt Lake; recalled RHP Greg Jones from Salt Lake; activated C-R Josh Paul from the 15-day DL. [9/1]
Among this group, there aren't a lot of guys who will play key roles in the Angels' race to put the AL West away as quickly as possible. I suppose there's a question about whether or not Merloni will make the roster as a reserve on the postseason roster, perhaps at Maicer Izturis' expense, since Merloni might also make a nice spot starter for Adam Kennedy at second against a particularly tough lefty. Even that would take a pretty big leap of faith, however, that Merloni might be ready to give them what the Indians got in '04 when he hit .327/.379/.531 against lefties. It'll be up to Mike Scioscia to give him the at-bats to see in September, and with so many bats with justifiable claims on some playing time knocking around on the roster, it probably won't happen.
The other, more interesting possibility is what role Escobar might play on the postseason roster. A former closer, he makes a nice insurance policy in the pen, of course, and he will be working in relief until it's clear that his elbow can take more than an inning or two at a time. But what if he can start? It's another interesting question of how to use the depth they have at their disposal. Clearly, you'd see them using Bartolo Colon and John Lackey, and then... would you bump Paul Byrd or Jarrod Washburn for Escobar? As is, your postseason roster will have Ervin Santana, and he'll have to either get left off of it or bumped into a long relief role.
If you count on those front four starters, the best four relievers (Shields, K-Rod, Yan, and Donnelly), you've got two or three more spots to carry pitchers in. One probably goes to situational lefty Jason Christiansen, which leaves Escobar, Santana, and Kevin Gregg fighting for the final slot or two. I'd probably pick Santana by default, both out of a sense of "dance with the one who brung ya," and because he's got the sort of good stuff you can use anywhere, but also in an emergency start or long relief outing, and that's good enough to keep from having to carry either of the other two. That way, you can find room for someone like Merloni without having to cut any of the other position players. Well, okay, Josh Paul wouldn't make it, but you wouldn't want him to.
Purchased the contract of INF-R Andy Green from Tucson; recalled C-B Koyie Hill and RHP Brian Bruney from Tucson; activated RHP Oscar Villarreal from the 60-day DL; recalled LF-R Scott Hairston from Tucson and placed him on the 60-day DL. [9/2]
Recalled SS-L Stephen Drew from Tennessee (Double-A). [9/3]
Recalled RHP Dustin Nippert from Tennessee (Double-A). [9/4]
Recalled RHP Greg Aquino from Albuquerque. [9/6]
You're already familiar with the usual suspects, since they're just Snakes in new skins. No, the two guys I'm glad to see are about as unlikely a pair of infielders as you could come up with: Drew, the blue chip wunderkind, and Green, the organizational soldier. Green's probably just being rewarded for his tremendous Age 27 season at Tucson, where he hit .343/.422/.587, with an extra-base hit spread of 46 doubles, 13 triples, and 19 home runs. Not so terrible a guy to have around, although he's basically someone who should really only play second or third, and that's hard to put on most rosters that expect their utility infielder to be able to play shortstop. It's sort of a pity, considering that the D-backs aren't one of those teams: if something happened to starting shortstop Royce Clayton--oh, woe--they could push Craig Counsell across the bag from second easily enough, and take their chances with Green at second base instead of putting Alex Cintron in the lineup. Okay, it's a daydream, and I'm not even related to the guy, but you can see how it might at least help you keep scoring runs.
Of course, the other reason it's a daydream is because of the presence of Arizona's shortstop of the future, Stephen Drew. He's been rushed, but they had him signed to a big league contract, so it wasn't like they had all that much choice. Rushed? Well, yes, he did what you'd expect a college star would do in the bandboxes of the California League, plastering pitchers at a .389/.486/.738 clip for a little more than a month, and then struggling against the guys who can actually throw breaking stuff for strikes over the past month at Double-A, hitting only .218/.301/.386. He really shouldn't be up, but I guess it's a way of introducing him to everyone and keeping him in shape before shipping him off to the Arizona Fall League.
There's one other call-up to note, Nippert, because he'll be in the rotation picture for next season. Nippert represents another story of speedy recovery from Tommy John surgery, having gone under the knife in July of '04, and coming back quickly enough to have started eighteen games in Double-A, and pitching effectively enough to discount many concerns that about what used to be an understood year's worth of regaining touch on your pitches. If there's somebody he reminds me of, it's Mike Witt, both because he's huge (6' 7"), and because he relies on a power curve and hard sinker. Like Witt, he's also a bit of string bean, but Witt was up and beating people at a much earlier age than Nippert, pitching for the Angels in strike-shortened '81. Still, the builds and the assortments do get me to thinking, and Witt was really something for most of the '80s. Nippert was dominating at Tennessee this season, allowing only 95 hits in 117.1 IP (only four of which left the yard), while posting a 97-42 strikeout-walk ratio. He also led the Southern League in ERA in slightly more than two months of work. Anyway, this will be a bit of an audition, since the Snakes really only have commitments to Brandon Webb, Russ Ortiz, and Javier Vazquez at the front of the rotation. Nippert might give them the fourth starter that lets them push Admiral Halsey to the fifth slot next season, and Claudio Vargas to the pen.
Ed. Note: An initial report that Stephen Drew was called up posted on ESPN.com proved to be incorrect. We apologize for the confusion this error might have created. Transaction Analysis is reliant on multiple sourcing to get as comprehensive a list of transactions as possible, because MLB does not make a complete daily list of transactions available. As a result, sourcing on individual moves generally comes from one of three news outlets: MLB.com, ESPN.com, and RotoWire. Even then, no one source is complete, so assembly of a list of transactions sometimes involves reference to other sources. Ideally, this scramble for information would be replaced by the official publication of lists of transactions, but this has yet to be done. Again, apologies for the error.
Recalled RHP Anthony Lerew from Richmond. [9/3]
I've pretty much belabored the uses of the guys who are back up over the season's many months, so I know that nobody's surprised when I say I hope Davies gets voted a full playoff share if nothing else, and for the collective sake of Braves fans, I hope Jordan doesn't end up being a broken-down bad joke a la Terry Pendleton in '96, but instead fills a function he might still be able to handle, like pinch-hitting against lefties.
Recalled 1B-L Walter Young from Ottawa; purchased the contract of 2B-B Bernie Castro from Ottawa; recalled RHP Hayden Penn from Bowie (Double-A); released RHP Sidney Ponson for conduct violating terms of his contract. [9/1]
Recalled C-R Eli Whiteside and RHP Aaron Rakers from Ottawa; purchased the contract of INF-R Ed Rogers from Ottawa; recalled LHP John Parrish from Bowie (Double-A), and placed him on the 60-day DL. [9/5]
Activated RHP Daniel Cabrera from the 15-day DL. [9/6]
So, how much of the future is now here? Cabrera's already part of the present, so he doesn't exactly count. Penn's back up after having filled out the rest of his year since his ugly, too-early call-up with a nifty season at Bowie (120 strikeouts in 110.1 IP, against 37 walks, 101 hits, and 11 homeruns allowed). He'll get a September look-see to show that he's better prepared this time around. From among the rest, split-finger specialist Rakers seems to be taken far less seriously than he should be, while the beefy Young is taken far more. I mean, really, how many other minor league first basemen who slug .438 at Age 25 in the minors get taken seriously? I guess we're not allowed to forget that with Rafael Palmeiro in the tent that he's pitched, Achilles-like, to mourn the loss of his Patroclus in a syringe, so instead we're treated to the spectacle of Young's limited prospectdom. Rogers appears to be up for a Viking funeral on his way out of the organization, or at least you have to hope so. I suppose Parrish and Whiteside can be expected to litter rosters someday in the future, hopefully replacing the likes of Gil or Tim Byrdak. Castro's resurrected his career by reminding people that he still has his core pair of skills, speed and some OBP, swiping 41 bases while hitting .315/.364/.382, not enough to threaten Brian Roberts, but enough to either stick on the 40-man roster or become a potentially tasty minor league free agent for a team that could use a second baseman.
But it's Cabrera's return that really afforded the Orioles a Neaglian moment of "high-mindedness," as they decided to use Ponson's latest DUI as a way to save themselves some money, get him out of the rotation, and get that post-tantrum sense of satisfaction for having had their way until the legal bills start mounting up. Still, not to make light of this, however equally guilty they were of pitching badly, and however much that's what really motivated their employers to ditch them, off of the field, Ponson's guilty of something far worse than Denny Neagle was, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Orioles might have a better case. I'd still expect that they'll have to pay Ponson something as part of a negotiated settlement over the money owed to him for the remainder of this season and for 2006, but if Ponson doesn't get in shape and get sober, I suspect it could be his last payday for a while.
Recalled INF-B Alejandro Machado from Pawtucket; purchased the contract of LHP Matt Perisho from Pawtucket; activated RHP Keith Foulke from the 15-day DL; added RHP Chad Harville to the active roster. [9/1]
Recalled LHP Lenny DiNardo from Pawtucket. [9/2]
Activated OF-L Adam Stern from the 15-day DL. [9/5]
Recalled RHP Manny Delcarmen and C-R Kelly Shoppach from Pawtucket. [9/6]
Hail, hail, the gang's all here, as the Red Sox finally have Foulke back in the pen. They're going to ease him back into closing, while relying on Mike Timlin for saves in the meantime, and as he's already given them two decent outings, it looks like their approach to getting Foulke back is going to work out nicely. I guess I'm a little perplexed by the decision to keep someone like Jeremi Gonzalez or Harville available for the postseason roster while not making space on it for Perisho. Not that Perisho's all that, but if something happens to Mike Myers, the Sox would either have to place their trust in DiNardo, or go leftyless in their postseason pen. That's not a slap at DiNardo, who's coming off of a fine season in the PawSox rotation (3.15 ERA, 108.2 IP, 109 hits, seven homeruns, 35 walks, 93 K's), but Perisho did have his situational uses last year. Happily, Myers is fine, and long may that remain the case. I guess I'm left wondering what scenario would leave you with Harville on the postseason roster instead of Delcarmen, though. Even if Wade Miller isn't able to contribute in the postseason, the Sox will still wind up with either Bronson Arroyo or Curt Schilling to push back into the pen in October, again obviating the need for someone like Harville or Gonzalez. As contingency planning goes, they'd have been better off purchasing Perisho's contract a day earlier, because having enough right-handed relief help is the least of their possible problems.
For the curious, Shoppach ended up having a great season in Pawtucket: .253/.352/.507, with 26 homeruns. Yes, he'd look great as a Rockie, but with that trick already pulled, the Sox have a primo bartering chip going forward, someone who should bring them considerably more than Larry frickin' Bigbie in return.
A lot of spare help, but nobody likely to do anything that might make the Sox reconsider their postseason roster. Gload might give Paul Konerko or Carl Everett a day off now and again, and Papo Casanova might do the same for the Widgzynski platoon behind the plate. Bajenaru might get to pitch in a few games where the contest is still in doubt, especially with Dustin Hermanson's back still being a source of concern, but Sanders is wild without being overpowering, so I wouldn't bet on his sticking as a situational lefty anytime soon.
For Borchard, this probably isn't a last chance, but consider what he's done in his last four years at Charlotte:
Year AVG/OBP/SLG K/AB 2002 .272/.349/.498 31.7% 2003 .253/.307/.398 23.7% 2004 .266/.329/.495 22.6% 2005 .263/.335/.480 28.9%To be generous, we're overlooking his awful couple of months in the major leagues last year, and what are you left with? The same guy you had four years ago, just four years older, and a probable lock for a star on the Charlotte Knights' walk of fame, possibly even a retired number when all is said and done. This is a guy who didn't beat out Timo Perez. This might be one last lingering look, to see if he resembles the player they wish he was, and who knows, Kenny Williams may keep on keeping him around, but careers don't get much more stalled than this, and Borchard just turned 26. The experiment in having him cut down his swing didn't take and didn't help.
Recalled LHP Rich Hill from Iowa. [9/2]
Recalled RHP Sergio Mitre from Iowa. [9/3]
Despite his initial struggles, Hill still has a future. Counting his big league work, he's struck out 203 hitters in 143.2 IP, and between his low 90s heat and power curveball, he's exactly the right flavor of home-baked goodness the Cubs should be able to consider for the bottom of the rotation next season. It's sort of a quandary, guesswork-wise: if Dusty Baker survives the winter, and Jim Hendry lets him return Glendon Rusch to the pen, would Hill get a shot? I'd like to think so, but it's an admittedly improbable series of events. Otherwise, Mitre and Koronka are usual suspects doing the usually suspect. I like Soto, since he's up at 22 having hit adequately in Double-A in '04 (.271/.355/.401) and Triple-A in '05 (.253/.357/.342), and he arrives with a good defensive reputation. Still, I wouldn't claim he's ready to unseat Henry Blanco, and Michael Barrett is under contract for two more years. I suspect Soto will get plenty of time next season to add power to his stroke in the PCL.
Activated RHP Josh Hancock from the 60-day DL. [9/1]
Our own Will Carroll has wondered why Freel would be rushed back to play out the string this season, but between his reputation for being a gamer, and the Reds' desperate need to finish well, I guess everyone involved is willing to risk it. As for the pitchers, although Simpson struck out a bunch of guys, he remained wild and hittable, and neither Valentine nor Hancock look like people a good organization would have on their 40-man rosters this winter, but this is the Reds, and I haven't even brought up Jason Standridge yet. In this gaggle of aspiring relievers, the name to remember is Booker's, now that he's made an outstanding recovery from shoulder surgery and logged a good season at Louisville. In 65 IP, he struck out 91 while walking 28, and allowed only 46 hits and two home runs. The Reds being congenitally kooky, they're more enthusiastic about the smaller, jazzercise-sized Todd Coffey, but this year's breakthroughs in the pen weren't guys like Coffey or Ryan Wagner, but were instead Matt Belisle and Brian Shackelford. Although Belisle was a prospect when acquired, eventually you have to think results will start counting towards who gets work.
At least the Reds have an embarassment of actual riches somewhere, though, as Denorfia's promotion highlights that the organization doesn't just have their big four to wonder about any more. Denorfia can cover ground well enough to man center, but his blossoming as a hitter continued this season, as he hit .317 and slugged .526 between Double- and Triple-A, while walking 58 times in 511 ABs. He did just turn 25 in July, so his future really is now. Denorfia's hitting well enough to shed the fourth outfielder tag some have wanted to put on him, so the real question is whether Dan O'Brien can move any of the four up ahead of him just to give him even that opportunity. Better yet, they'd find someone to take Sean Casey off of their hands (and move Adam Dunn to first), although they'd almost certainly have to eat some of the contract they never should have given Casey in order to make the offer palatable.
All sorts of goodness is here to be found, ready to help the Tribe in their quest for the wild card. Rhodes will be on a postseason roster if that happens, since he's among their best performers on a season where they've had seven quality relievers to rely on (eight if you're counting Fernando Cabrera). But perhaps even more important is the call-up of Garko, because of what it portends for the future. Garko hit .303/.384/.498 at Buffalo, very good numbers for someone with less than two months of experience above A-ball coming into the season. Although his defensive work behind the plate leaves something to be desired, the Indians can afford to consider him for first base because of their lack of someone who's earning his keep at the position. After giving Ben Broussard most of three seasons, the most the Indians can say is that they found a nice temp, but with Garko in the offing, the lineup may finally get the right-handed thunderstick it needs to add on to what Jhonny Peralta is already providing. Don't be overly surprised if Broussard gets non-tendered over the winter; at this point, the organization should be more worried about what sort of role it can create to make room for Dubois even with Garko around, because his power might help make up for some of the deficiencies of Casey Blake and Coco Crisp in the outfield corners.
Recalled RHP Zach Day from Colorado Springs. [9/4]
Let's see... is there anyone left who's wondering what comes next? I'm hoping that Hawpe solidifies his claim on the job in right field, and it would be nice if Shealy continued to bop, and thus give the team an idea of whether they can barter with him, or if they attempt finding a taker for Todd Helton without bringing an end to the phonecall. They're excited about Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins, and neither has done anything to encourage the idea that they'd start for anyone but the Rockies. I suppose a few strat players are worried that Barmes might undermine a potentially great card by playing badly now that he's back, but he's really not that different from Holliday or Atkins. I guess there's the excitement of seeing whether Bigbie or Cory Sullivan will be the centerfielder they have to replace this winter. I know, you know, we know that Jorge Piedra is the answer, but he's still leper outcast unclean for sins long since committed. And while I preach 'hate the sin and love the sinner' in this situation, before you ask, no, I am not a Baptist.
Outrighted OF-R Byron Gettis to Toledo. [9/6]
Purchased the contract of RHP Matt Ginter from Toledo. [9/7]
Activated RHP Jim Mecir from the 15-day DL. [9/3]
Recalled SS-R Josh Wilson from Albuquerque. [9/6]
Purchased the contract of RHP Josh Johnson from Carolina (Double-A); designated RHP Travis Smith for assignment. [9/7]
Getting Mecir back couldn't happen soon enough, because he had been the second-best reliever the Fish could boast, but no sooner has that hole been plugged when the left side of their infield completely broke down. Now, admittedly, Mike Lowell broke down months ago, and has simply limped along all year, but also losing Alex Gonzalez (the worthwhile one) couldn't have come at a worse time. So in a quick case of lineup triage, Jack McKeon's made a couple of quick fixes to try to win right now, and more power to him. First, he's rotated Miguel Cabrera over to third base, and while I'm sure Cabrera will have a Bobby Bo moment or two at the hot corner, that can be a good thing as well as bad, because while Bonilla was error-prone, he could flash some range and good anticipation in starting a 5-4-3 double play more often than you might expect. Besides, Cabrera's fielding at third was never really that bad, the Fish just had this Mike Lowell-sized worthwhile player there for a few years. In the breach, McKeon's replacing Lowell in the lineup and Cabrera in the outfield with a platoon of Jeremy Hermida and Jeff Conine, and that should help score a few more runs.
Shortstop sans Gonzalez is a little bit of a more sticky wicket, and while Angels fans might remember their old arguments over whether or not Damion Easley can handle shortstop, it seems a bit too hopeful to try to just get by with him at age 35. So to help patch things up, the organization is again relying on a homegrown talent, or two in this case. Andino is the flashy gloveman and local prep star drafted in the second round of '02, and while I wouldn't call him a blue chip prospect, he's considered a defensive asset, he did make the jump to Double-A as a 21-year old, and he did hit 30 doubles within his overall clip of .269/.324/.357. He's expected to be more of a pinch-runner and defensive replacement for Easley. If Easley really struggles, though, the Fish will turn to Wilson. Wilson also comes in with an excellent defensive rep, and if his season at the plate with the Isotopes wa a bit of a disappointment, he is a shortstop with pop, hitting .257/.323/.435 for Albuquerque. Wilson would make a practical choice, in terms of simply plugging him into the lineup,
Outrighted SS-R Tommy Whiteman to Round Rock; recalled RHP Travis Driskill from Round Rock. [9/1]
Although they're stuck with the likes of Russ Springer or Raul Chavez on their postseason roster, the Astros might still help themselves with guys like Duckworth, Strickland, or Driskill in the pen. The pen remains very much the three-man show, overwhelmingly reliant on Wheeler, Qualls, and Lidge, in that order. In that situation, a guy like Strickland might build on his good month at Round Rock (20 strikeouts in 19 IP) and earn a guaranteed contract for next season. Duckworth's situation is even more dire, since nobody claimed him when they had the chance to get him off of waivers earlier in the season.
I still don't understand why Quintero isn't on the roster instead of Chavez as Brad Ausmus's caddy. Who would you rather start? I know, suppress the instinct to gag or gargle Drano, somebody has to catch for the Astros. So why intentionally select someone you have no reason to believe can do the job, the guy who is clearly the worst of three bad choices? Chavez is 32, he's a career .218/.257/.297 hitter. He slugged .259 in the one year he got a lot of playing time, 2004, so he's a bad bet to top .300 as a slugger. His "productivity" is true to his minor league performance. The Astros know he can't play, that he'd have a hard time fending off Luis Pujols if Pujols tried to walk onto the team before he turns 50. But that's good enough for the Astros, apparently.
Finally, if you're wondering what happened to Whiteman, slugging .303 in Double- and Triple-A in a season where you turn 26 is a bad idea, and it doesn't help when the organization's already worried about your attitude. I don't necessarily think this is the end of Whiteman, but it surely marks a final blow against his prospect status.
Recalled RHP Leo Nunez from Wichita (Double-A); recalled 1B-R Justin Huber from Omaha. [9/1]
Activated RHP Runelvys Hernandez from the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Kyle Snyder and SS-B Andres Blanco from Omaha; purchased the contract of RHP Chris Demaria from Wichita; designated DH-L Calvin Pickering for assignment. [9/6]
Pickering, designated... gods, springtime optimism seems so very long ago, doesn't it? Call me stubborn, but I still think he could go Mike Epstein on the league one year, and then disappear as quickly as Epstein or Bob Hamelin did. It just doesn't look like it'll be for the Royals. For Pickering's sake, I just hope it isn't for a team in Mexico or Korea. Or Moldova.
Otherwise, there isn't a lot to discuss. Nunez has the arm to be an asset in the pen, and perhaps eventually the rotation, but the Royals would have to first demonstrate some sort of ability to manage a young pitcher's career effectively, and they haven't done that since the mid-'80s. I suppose people who wondered if Blanco would ever challenge Angel Berroa for the job at short were wise to do so, it just didn't happen quite how anyone expected, with Berroa's hitting descending to a level at which Blanco's punchlessness becomes less of an issue. If, despite injury, Blanco managed to hit only .254/.331/.351 for Omaha this year, that's just about good enough to erase Berroa, his listless fielding, and his repeatedly unfortunate basepath antics. Unfortunately, this is the Royals, and Berroa's something of a symbol they can't bring themselves to remove, so Blanco's being talked about as the third man in the increasingly hopeless quest to find a second baseman within the organization.
What, what position is 4C-L? No, I'm not saying that Grabowski was the oberst of the Fourth Chevauxlegers; I suppose my fascination with Austrian cavalry is one of those things that, like the French General Staff, I just need to learn to get over. No, what I'm wondering about is whether I can coin a reference for a position, sort of like how John Sickels coined LOOGY to describe Lefty One-Out GuY(s), and which naturally led to ROOGY to describe the Chad Bradfords or Steve Reeds of the world. Now, not being as clever as John, I may just be spinning my wheels here, but to describe Grabowski, I could just call him a 'UT' to call him a utility player, but that's not really appropriate, is it? I mean, when I think of a UT, I think of a guy who can play the middle infield as well as the outfield, say, someone like Bill Almon or Arci Cianfrocco. Grabowski's not that sort of guy, he's more someone you can play in the four corners: first, third, right, and left, and setting aside that he's probably also a better-than-adequate emergency catcher. Maybe it's too specific, or too Grabowski-centric, but I sort of like it.
Now, don't ask me what to call Myrow (or Andy Phillips, for that matter), beyond 'infielder,' even if that's used to describe a reserve infielder who can't play shortstop, and really only notionally plays second or third. It's sort of the Kevin Jordan career path, which in this case means one with lots of wending ways and no particular destination.
The interesting new flavor on the roster is the actual appearance of a Hong-Chih Kuo in working order, something rarely seen anywhere, in any hemisphere. A Taiwanese project/prospect signed by the organization back in '99, Kuo's been healthy enough to pitch 54.1 IP this year between A-ball in Vero Beach and Double-A in Jacksonville, time in which he's justified their ancient curiosity. In that time, Kuo struck out 86, walked 21, and allowed 41 hits. Given that he'd be free to leave after this season if they didn't have him on the 40-man roster, it makes sense for them to take a look and see if he's worth holding onto, or will instead become a particularly interesting minor league free agent.
Mixed in with so much dreck--a Tyner comeback? Really?--or players who share the blame with Ron Gardenhire for presenting Twins fans with one of the worst infields of modern memory, there's one name that everyone should notice: Liriano's. He's the player everyone has asked Terry Ryan about, and he is the player who, say what you will about Ryan's inability to improve this team through trades, he did have the good sense to retain. Between New Britain and Rochester, Liriano posted a 204-50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 167.2 IP, coughing up only ten home runs, and allowing only 126 hits, and only 3.3 runs per nine. Like Mark Langston back in the day, Liriano cooks with heat that gets into the mid-90s, and complements it with a particularly good curveball. Unlike Langston, he's ready for the majors at an even younger age, and with better control. He'll probably be joining Scott Baker at the bottom of what could be the league's best rotation next year.
Don't let that make you think that's all there is, though. Straight from what seems to be the organizational assembly line for delivering quality big league relievers comes Bowyer, yet another hard-throwing hulk. He's up after closing for Rochester this year, allowing a mere 51 hits in 74.1 IP while striking out 96 and walking 40. A 20th round pick out of a Virginia high school in '99, Bowyer serves as a worthwhile reminder that it isn't that picking high school pitchers is a bad idea, but instead that you shouldn't invest too heavily in any one of them, while doing a good job of scouting and having the patience to wait and see what they grow up to be. The Twins just make it look easy, but that's a reflection of their superb player development program.
Strangely, there was a lot less anticipation where Heintz was concerned, but then I'm more the type to douse my fries in the hottest hot sauce available.
Recalled INF-R Andy Phillips, C-R Wil Nieves from Columbus, and LHP Wayne Franklin from Columbus; purchased the contract of RHP Ramiro Mendoza from Columbus; activated OF-B Ruben Sierra from the 15-day DL; transferred RHP Kevin Brown from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/1]
Recalled RHP Jorge DePaula from Columbus. [9/2]
Activated RHP Chien-Ming Wang from the 15-day DL; recalled RHP Scott Proctor and INF-R Felix Escalona from Columbus; purchased the contract of OF-R Mike Vento from Columbus; designated RHP Sam Marsonek for assignment. [9/6]
Unlike past seasons, this is one September where the Yankees will at least have a crowded dugout. It just remains to be seen if Joe Torre will actually use everybody, or consider the newfound bodies a nuisance. There's an equal blend of former Yankees and people who might do them some good, however, so perhaps that will put the old man at ease, however unfortunate they might be that they're not the same people. Sierra will no doubt see some key pinch-hits, and he will equally without doubt be praised for being clutch for every hit he delivers, however rare they may or may not be.
From this list, the only really critical comebacker is Wang, as questions mount about Mike Mussina's availability. As if Jaret Wright's health weren't already a humiliating source of concern, the Yankees are in the improbable situation of having to rely on Wright and Aaron Small, and perhaps in the even more improbable situation of getting by with it. I'm not convinced that Wang's really ready to rejoin the freeform rotation the Yankees have survived with so far, but between Moose's meltdown and Al Leiter's death rattle, they don't have a whole lot of choice but to hope that Wang's rehabbed enough to give them a shot at a win after five innings.
The two people of a prospect-y flavor you may not have noted yet are DePaula and Vento. Actually, it would be a bit strange to call Vento a prospect, since he's 27, and as much as that might be nearing an age at which Torre might notice him, this is more a reward for his having hit .291/.365/.445 for Columbus, a reward gained that might inspire legions of minor league free agents in the future to sign with Columbus instead of their more usual hideyholes, like Durham or Pawtucket. And increasingly, I guess we can't really call De Paula a prospect, not when he gave up 22 homeruns in 116 IP at Columbus, and not when he allowed 4.9 runs per nine IP in Triple-A. He was recovering from having his elbow Tommy John'd, but he'll turn 27 this winter, and it doesn't look like the Yankees are going to have the time or inclination to really trust him with a rotation slot, even if there more reason or less competition.
Purchased the contracts of LHP Tim Hamulack and RHP Shingo Takatsu from Norfolk; recalled LHP Kaz Ishii from Norfolk; designated OF-L Ron Calloway for assignment; transferred OF-R Mike Cameron from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [9/1]
Activated 1B-L Doug Mientkiewicz from the 15-day DL. [9/2]
There's something about having Minky ride in to the lineup's rescue that makes me wonder if Custer would have been cheered by a Domino's delivery just before he got to the point of not having to worry about what a Death Disk does to your arteries. But as desperate as the Mets are for aid in any shape, I suppose they can't be too choosy, even if they don't like mushrooms.
The retreads provide a little more hope over on the pitching staff. I'm always going to be a bit chary when people propose the idea that a completely clueless wild thing might make a nice situational lefty, but that's the Mets' latest bright idea about what to do with Ishii. But situational specialists don't overpower people, they just do their thing against the people they're supposed to work against, and Ishii's infrequent recognition of where the strikezone might be seems to make it more likely that he'll just as easily flub his assignment and put the hitter on first base, simply by virtue of being Kaz Ishii. Points for being optimistic, I guess, but it's the old Brad Pennington problem, all over again. I'm a little more optimistic about Takatsu and Hamulack, although in Takatsu's case, coughing three homeruns in eight Norfolk innings shouldn't be all that reassuring. Still, I harbor some small hope his delivery might fool enough of the people enough of the time to make him an effective ROOGY.
Hamulack has simply had a legitimately excellent season, allowing 1.7 runs in 64 IP between Binghamton and Norfolk, and allowing only 40 hits, a lone homer, 61 strikeouts, and 15 walks. He may not be Kaz Ishii, but then again, why would you want him to be? Assuming the latest Ishii experiment fails as badly as I expect it to, the Mets may have their actually useful lefty reliever right here.
After at least a month of speculation, the A's finally did end up calling up Cruz, rather than leave him in Sacramento to pitch in the Rivercats' postseason. The reason's pretty straightforward, now that Rich Harden has broken down again. Having returned to a starting role in Sacramento, Cruz has certainly managed to renew a sense of optimism about what he might have to offer, no easy feat after his horrendous early performance in Oakland. In a little more than two months in the Rivercats rotation, Cruz pitched 75 innings, allowed only 51 hits and four homeruns, and posted a 90-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If Kirk Saarloos had been cause for alarm earlier in the summer, Cruz may well have been back much sooner, but as is, he's managed to recapture his promise. However, now that he's back, Cruz won't take over for the injured Harden, but will instead assume Joe Kennedy's abandoned long relief role, with Kennedy retaining the fifth slot in the rotation. It's not a bad choice, considering that Kennedy's been a typically effective ex-Rockie hurler. Instead, I'd really give thought to swapping out Saarloos and plugging Cruz into his slot, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards either.
Designated 3B-R Juan Richardson and RHP Clay Condrey for assignment; recalled RHPs Geoff Geary and Pedro Liriano and INF-B Matt Kata from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; purchased the contracts of C-R A.J. Hinch and OF-R Shane Victorino from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [9/1]
Recalled RHP Gavin Floyd from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [9/2]
As the Phillies belt themselves in for this latest push for a postseason slot, they've summoned up people who can help. Geary seems back in gear, having worked out his kinks down in Scranton, while bodies like Liriano, Kata, and Hinch will get sucked into rest-day roles they're qualified for. I suppose Victorino might shine as a pinch runner and defensive replacement, although after hitting .310/.377/.534 for Scranton (including a very Juan Samuel-like spread of 25 doubles, 16 triples, and 18 homeruns), he might be useful for more than just that. If you've forgotten the name, he was picked by the Pads from the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft prior to the '03 season, and didn't stick, going back to the Dodgers, and then joining the Phillies organization as a minor league free agent. Considering that he's a high school pick who played his amateur ball in Hawaii, I can see how he might have had a difficult adjustment to stronger competition on the mainland, but now he's got four years at Double-A or above, and he's only 24. He might only be a heck of a fourth outfielder in the making, but better that than to have to resort to Endy Chavez or something.
The one player whose circumstance is actually somewhat different is Floyd's. Having faltered badly, both in his big league trial in April, and over the full season in Scranton's rotation (allowing 6.8 runs per nine), it takes an enormous amount of confidence for the organization to nevertheless turn to him to help patch up the rotation in Cory Lidle's absence, and with Robinson Tejeda appearing worn out. However, the Phillies haven't forgotten the prospect that they were so enthusiastic about this spring. If he's finally ready to use his power assortment of low 90s heat and a curve in combination, he could be a minor hero in the season's closing weeks.
Fire McClendon, now, for his loyalty to the rented veteran scrubs who got the Pirates to... well, the basement, but the Bucs have a lease on it and don't mind the view, so you can't really blame McClendon or the rented vets, it's part of a master plan. But to fire him right now? I guess I just find the contrast between Pittsburgh and what's happening in Washington right now fascinating. Where Bowden has no owner to answer to and a manager with more joss than he could ever hope to command, Littlefield enjoys a clear responsibility to the organzation, and an equally clear authority over his manager, and if he didn't like what his manager was doing with the lineup card, he had the power to do something about it. It's downright old-fashioned, and if I find McClendon a bit tiresome as a manager for his fascination with pitching changes and pitchouts and the horrors of the intentional walk, he was able to build working platoons and manage a pretty fluid lineup in terms of where to put everyone. Those are virtues that sort of resemble Little Mac's career as a player, both as a platooned hitter and as a part-time outfielder-catcher-first baseman, and I find it a little refreshing that he sees that as a potentially useful way to handle some players. I may not be a huge fan, but I'll be glad to see McClendon resurface, but I'm also glad that the Pirates have moved on.
Although it seems obvious that Jim Leyland will campaign for the job, I'd be happier to see the Pirates stick with Mackanin. Back before the Expos really became Felipe Alou's team, Mackanin was an internal alternative, having first put in several years managing in the Cubs, Reds, and Orioles systems, and gaining a few awards for his work. That got him two years of managing Ottawa for the parent Expos ('95 and '96), followed by four as Montreal's third base coach. He's spent the last five years with the Pirates organizaition, managing from A-ball on up, so he knows a bit about the talent on hand, as well as what's on the way up. I know, every time a guy like this gets the job, I keep wondering if he'll be the next Tom Kelly; stranger things have happened, although there seem to be just as many Moose Stubings in the offing. Still, I can see why the idea would have some attraction. Barring a commitment to Mackanin, I wouldn't mind if they turned to Art Howe, assuming he's ready to go back to being the patient man who helped build up the Astros fifteen years ago. If he's instead decided that he's a celebrity manager, like Leyland, he shouldn't be invited in, lest he become a manager too big for Littlefield to fire if and when the time comes.
Activated C-R Ramon Hernandez from the 15-day DL. [9/2]
The real question here is whether or not Hernandez will play, but it seems really unlikely, leaving the Pads to rely upon Miguel Olivo, Robert Fick, and perhaps Ross should they sneak him onto the postseason roster in the ill-fated Freddy Guzman's roster slot, and conveniently, legally, overlooking Guzman's having been on the 60-day DL after elbow surgery in May. At least Ross was on the 40-man roster, so it isn't illegal in the way that adding K-Rod was for the '02 Angels.
Outside of catching questions, I suppose the gratifying news is that McAnulty vaulted up through Double- and Triple-A this year, slugging .490, but as a 24-year old hitter out of a top college program like Long Beach State, he was supposed to. The Padres will have to sort out what to do with him as they go along; the outfield is crowded at the moment, but Brian Giles is a free agent at season's end. They're stuck with Ryan Klesko through '06, but McAnulty's limitations as an outfielder might not matter; they could always move Xavier Nady to right and put McAnulty at first base, while retaining bit parts like Fick or Mark Sweeney as insurance.
I guess I should take a moment to cheer over Oxspring's promotion, because I bullied Jonah Keri into writing an Oxspring comment for last year's book on just this off chance (and considering he'd been added to the Pads' 40-man). So now he's here, an Aussie nearing 30 with a decent three-pitch assortment, proud owner of a silver medal from the '04 Olympics, and enough talent to fill in as the fifth starter should they get too frustrated with Chan Ho Park and tire of waiting on Jake Peavy or Pedro Astacio. He was reasonably effective in Portland, giving up a run every other inning, and showing good command (125 strikeouts and 42 walks in 160.2 IP). Basically, I cringe every time somebody makes the majors who wasn't in the book that year, so I beg for your indulging me this minor celebration over one of the very last inclusions in the pages of BP 2005.
Purchased the contract of SS-B Ramon Santiago from Tacoma. [9/7]
Recalled OF-B Dan Ortmeier from Norwich (Double-A). [9/4]
Purchased the contract of RHP Matt Kinney from Fresno. [9/6]
Activated RHP Tyler Walker from the 15-day DL. [9/7]
It's the Giants, so it's a pretty interesting mix of sort-of prospects and less-promising retreads, just the way their fans have come to expect. On the prospect side of the ledger, you've got Knoedler and Ortmeier. (Who are those guys, the Omegas? Where's Douglas Niedermeyer?) Repeating Double-A, Ortmeier took a step forward while staying in place, improving to .274/.360/.463 from the .252/.353/.424 rates he generated in '04. Okay, that's not really progress, and since more power was expected after an injury-plagued '04, and all you got was what you'd get from a slight improvement in average, it's a bit of a reach to get really worked up about him. However, the Giants aren't rich in prospects, and Ortmeier hustles, so they're optimistic. Knoedler is still the catcher of the future at the moment, although reaching 25 and not hitting at Fresno sort of takes the sparkle off that particular title. Munter's still a prospect, too, I suppose, although that's another Teuton, and another guy who hasn't really fulfilled expectations, and his elbow's still not sound.
I've stubbornly stood by Kinney for basically forever, so I suppose I shouldn't stop now, and he did strike out 110 men in 114 IP at Fresno. It's the 18 homeruns that sort of take the enthusiasm out of it for me, although that could be a lot of Fresno bandboxery, as much as it might be Kinney's failure to fool people frequently enough. Ramirez also seems impossible to get rid of; it's hard to believe he's still only 28. But in Fresno's tight spaces, he again flashed the athleticism his fans, whoever they might be, appreciate, thwokking 23 taters, stealing 22 bases, and drawing 22 walks, making him some sort of triple threat. It's the .286 OBP that really tells you what you need to know, although he always had a great arm. Guys like this, they always do.
Purchased the contract of LHP Tyler Johnson from Memphis. [9/2]
Recalled RHP Lance Carter from Durham. [9/1]
Not that I expect either of them to be put to good use, but both Munson and Brazelton did reasonably well for the Bulls. In five starts and 29 IP, Brazelton struck out 26 and posted a 3.72 ERA, while Munson hit .282/.347/.532, more than well enough to encourage them to ponder what it was they were doing investing so much faith in Nick Green or Alex Gonzalez. It isn't like Green is significantly younger than Munson, although now that it looks like the Rays have given up on using Cantu at second, for Munson, this season's window at third is now closed.
Recalled C-R Gerald Laird from Oklahoma. [9/1]
It's been a bit of a wasted season for Laird, as he got to spend his summer hitting .306/.377/.569 in the PCL, while Rod Barajas got further plaudits for being Rod Barajas. I'd suggest that if the Rangers wanted to save some money and spend it on pitching or what have you, they'd be better off trading Barajas now that he's on the cusp of being expensive as well as over 30, and turning to Laird. Not that it will cost Laird his shot at the Hall of Fame, but he lost a year of his career, a year in which he was ready for the majors, to his having an option, and to John Hart's lack of initiative and failure to deal from strength earlier this season.
Recalled OF-L Gabe Gross from Syracuse. [9/1]
Griffin hit only .254/.335/.475 at Syracuse, so this may well be his last chance to show something before he has to wonder about whether he'll make the 40-man roster in November, or if he'll instead enter into the uncertain possibilities of minor league free agency. He did bop 30 homeruns, but a non-famous option at DH or first or the outfield just doesn't strike most team's fancies, and the Jays have control of Eric Hinske, Corey Koskie, Frank Catalanotto, and Shea Hillenbrand through 2006. And that's without bringing up that Gross is also trying to push his way in, and with more merit after hitting .300/.383/.444 for the Sky Chiefs. I suppose it's possible that the Jays might flip both Hillenbrand (after offering him arbitration) and Catalanotto to an '06 contender as one-year rentals, and thereby create opportunities for both Gross and Griffin, but the Blue Jays have every reason to consider themselves an '06 contender. At least Griffin is still only 25, and for a team like the Royals or D-Rays, they could do a lot worse.
The name to remember here isn't either Gross or Griffin, though, it's Marcum. Brought up only a month before the Jays would have to add him to their 40-man roster anyway, he's earned the call having successfully made the jump to Double-A at the season's start, and then earning an early promotion to Syracuse. He was less impressive there (17 homeruns in 103.2 IP, with 117 hits allowed), but an overall K:BB rate of 130:28 in 157 IP is pretty sweet. A defensively slick shortstop in college who also worked as a closer while there, there's a chance that Marcum might have much more up-side than even these numbers suggest. Regardless of my opinion, he's obviously earned the spot on the 40-man, and should return to Syracuse next season.
Recalled OF-L Brandon Watson from New Orleans; purchased the contracts of OF-R Kenny Kelly and INF-R Rick Short from New Orleans; purchased the contract of 3B-R Ryan Zimmerman from Harrisburg (Double-A). [9/1]
Recalled RHP Travis Hughes New Orleans; recalled RHP Darrell Rasner from Harrisburg (Double-A); purchased the contract of C-R Keith Osik from New Orleans; transferred RHP Ryan Drese from the 15- to the 60-dal DL. [9/5]
Rasner's in the rotation as the fifth starter, although he'll be on a short leash, as Frank Robinson pulls out the stops to micro-manage this team to ... well, probably just the bragging right of being eliminated in the season's final week, I guess. Rasner may not be all that ready, considering he wasn't especially dominating in the Eastern League this season: a hit per inning pitched reflects an assortment that, for however much command he has, isn't overpowering. Still, a fifth starter with a 96-29 strikeout-walk ratio in 150.1 IP isn't the worst thing to have, not when you've had to employ Drese. And this team wants to do everything it can to win now, from Robby's quick hook with Rasner in his debut, to the sensibility that inspires carrying two different pinch-runners in Watson and Kelly, although maybe that's a case of evaluating contenders for next year's sixth outfielder.
The problem with saying that the Nats want to win at all costs, however, is that it isn't true. The "power struggle" between Jim Bowden and Robinson has taken a turn for the self-spiting, as both men make stands on principle that will hurt the franchise now and into the future. The problem is what to do with this year's top draft choice, Zimmerman. In his enthusiasm, Bowden has decided to try Zimmerman at shortstop in the minor leagues, perhaps to provide an immediate rub-out of Cristian Guzman from everybody's short-term memory. It's a great way to make himself look like Mr. Wizard in this year's draft, even if, on a more practical level, it means that Bowden had to fix a problem he'd created by signing Guzman to a four-year deal nobody else was going to offer the guy. The principles that the GM is bringing to bear are a stated desire to improve the club and a more basic instinct for self-preservation, and both are understandable.
But is Zimmerman ready, and will he play? Having hit .326/.371/.528 at Double-A, it definitely looks like Zimmerman is ready to hit, not just well enough to outhit Guzman or Vinny Castilla, but well enough to add him to the 40-man roster years before they had to. There also seems to be a consensus that Zimmerman can handle third, although perhaps less that he'll be a good shorstop. Unfortunately, Robinson refuses to play him, having already stated that he's content to ride the season to a failed conclusion while playing Bowden's previous masterstrokes, Guzman, Castilla, and now Deivi Cruz to the bitter end. It's the principled, time-honored preference for veteran ballplayers, no matter how much those players may have handicapped you already.
So Zimmerman's arbitration clock has been started because... well, I guess the general manager and the manager didn't really think about that. If Bowden would bring Zimmerman up without first learning whether or not Robinson will play him, that's mismanagement. It isn't like Bowden can fire Robinson over this. Yes, Zimmerman should play, but if he doesn't, the general manager needs to think in terms of the financial repercussions of adding Zimmerman to the 40-man roster now, and wait till after the season to worry about a prospective showdown with Robinson and the question of which of them stays and who goes. If Bowden did know that Robinson wouldn't play Zimmerman, to then put Zimmerman on the roster anyway is simply spiteful, since it handicaps the organization and a potential successor in the GM's chair. If, on the other hand, Robinson agreed to play Zimmerman, and then changed his mind, that's just as irresponsible. I suppose it's possible that Bowden knew Robinson wouldn't play Zimmerman, but put him on the roster anyway to make Robinson the scapegoat in this little drama, but that would make Bowden even more petty than even I've previously been willing to believe. Similarly, if Robinson is using this as a situation to stick Bowden with the responsibility for the failures of the team Bowden built, and make him look weak as well as unfocused, as easily done as it might be, you'd expect better from a professional.
Amidst that acrimony, there are happy notes. Rick Short finally getting a call is a feel-good story, although it took hitting .383/.456/.569 at 32 to get here. Although not an asset at first, second, third, or the outfield, he's certainly no worse than Carlos Baerga, and would make a nice replacement on the roster if he can make the adjustment to pinch-hitting instead of playing regularly. (Now if only the Nats wouldn't play Baerga so often...) And while Rauch seems back soon from having labrum surgery, having both him and Hughes in the pen in September should give the Nats that much more to think about when they assemble next year's bullpen.