Happy Thanksgiving! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume Monday, December 1
March 17, 2006
Reassigned RHP David Austen, SS-R Brandon Wood, and C-Rs Bobby Wilson and Michael Collins to their minor league camp. [3/15]
Two items here of note. First, that the twin demotions of Wilson and Collins reflect on the Angels' organizational catching depth, which in turn may have contributed (sensibly) to Bill Stoneman's decision to play hardball in his negotiations with Ben Molina. Not that I'm a believer when it comes to Jeff Mathis, but Mike Napoli isn't merely interesting, he might make it up this year, and beyond those two, you've got Wilson and Collins. Wilson's bubble might burst this summer; although he'll only be 23, he's making the jump from the hitter-comforting Cal League to Double-A. Collins turns 22 a couple of days after Bastille Day, and if he's in Rancho Cucamonga this summer, chances are that he's going to unmysteriously start showing up in people's prospect lists.
Second, there's the demotion of Wood, nipping in the bud any suggestion that he might be ready for the majors straight from A-ball. Not that it was a serious likelihood in the first place. However disappointing last season was, the Angels do want to take another look at Dallas McPherson, and it isn't like Orlando Cabrera will be vacating shortstop any time soon. Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar haven't embarrassed themselves in camp either, so Wood's better off seeing if he can put the hurt on the Texas League first, and then taking things from there.
Optioned LHP Franklyn Gracesqui to their minor league camp. [3/14]
Gracesqui didn't show anything like his past velocity, and it seemed to be a particular source of frustration to the team, perhaps especially because he's on the 40-man roster. His demotion might herald that he won't be around for long, perhaps getting outrighted to make room for an NRI like John Halama.
Optioned RHP Charlie Haeger, 2B/SS-R Pedro Lopez, 1B-L Casey Rogowski, and C-R Chris Stewart to Charlotte (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Lance Broadway and LHP Ray Liotta to their minor league camp. [3/14]
For several of these guys, there was never any question of whether or not they would stick, just whether or not they would leave a calling card that might make Ozzie and Kenny think about their last-minute choices in-season. On that score, Stewart had a good camp, and Rogowski did not, so the Sox might feel better about their lot if anything happens to either A.J. Pierzynski or Chris Widger, while Rogowski won't threaten Ross Gload anytime soon. Similarly, Haeger had an awful spring (20 baserunners and 19 runs allowed in 5.2 IP), and Broadway wasn't much better. Liotta's camp was like Stewart's: good enough to keep himself on the club's radar if the circumstance of a temporary injury replacement arises, and a potential fall-back if the club decides both that they need a second lefty in the pen, and that guys like Javier Lopez aren't the answer. (Armando Almanza and Stephen Randolph have pretty much already taken themselves out of consideration.)
Optioned RHPs Jake Dittler, Edward Mujica, and Brian Slocum, and LHP Jason Stanford to Buffalo (Triple-A); optioned 1B-L Michael Aubrey and LHP Rafael Perez to Akron (Double-A); reassigned C-R Javi Herrera, and LHPs Tony Sipp and Jeremy Sowers to their minor league camp. [3/15]
Optioned RHP Kazahito Tadano to Buffalo (Triple-A); optioned OF-L Brad Snyder to Akron (Double-A); reassigned C-R Armando Camacaro, OF-R Todd Donovan, 2B/3B-L Jake Gautreau and 2B/OF-L Joe Inglett to their minor league camp. [3/16]
There were some early expectations that someone like Inglett might stick as last man on the bench, and although he didn't embarrass himself, camp has seen a great fight arise between two infielders playing for their professional lives, Ramon Vazquez and Brandon Phillips. Phillips is trying to reclaim some portion of his former promise, while Vazquez is simply trying to hang on before he turns 30, and has to start fending off the ghost of Francis 7. From among the pitchers, we will see more of guys like Mujica and Tadano, and Sipp had an excellent camp, earning serious consideration for later on this summer. It doesn't get played up all that much while "name" prospects like Jeremy Guthrie struggle to make the jump to the major leagues, but the Tribe has interesting young pitching talent coming out of their collective ears.
Optioned RHP Kyle Sleeth to Lakeland (A-ball). [3/13]
Signed RHP Luke Hudson to a minor league contract with a spring training NRI; optioned 2B-R Donnie Murphy and RHP Brian Bass to Omaha (Triple-A); optioned SS-R Angel Sanchez and LHP Juan Cedeno to Wichita (Double-A); reassigned 1B-L Chris Richard, C-R Adam Donachie, and RHPs Luis Cota and Ryan Baerlocher to their minor league camp. [3/13]
Murphy's shot at the second base job died as soon as the Royals got the great idea of giving the paying public a Grudz, so none of these demotions really affect any of the position fights going on in camp. Come to think of it, there really aren't that many position fights in the Royals camp, which probably underscores the nature of the problem. The pitching staff is still a free-for-all, but nobody with a shot got demoted in this round, meaning that it's still a free-for-all that manager Buddy Bell and pitching coach Bob McClure have to sort out. There haven't been a lot of happy stories: Mike Wood looks like he'll stick in the rotation, and Leo Nunez is having a good camp, and Joe Nelson might sneak in, but after that, it's slim pickings.
Optioned RHPs J.D. Durbin and Pat Neshek, and OF-L Alex Romero to Rochester (Triple-A); optioned LHPs Errol Simonitsch, Justin Jones, and Jose Mijares, RHP Adam Harben to New Britain (Double-A); reassigned UT-R Tommy Watkins, OF-L Denard Span, OF-R Kevin West, and C-L Kyle Phillips to their minor league camp. [3/14]
So, for those of you keeping score, Durbin is officially out of the running for the fifth starter spot, not that he was really ever in it. The next "loser" will be Boof Bonser, because as we already know, this is a fight between Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker, where the Twins can't really lose, whichever one they pick. I would have liked to have seen Romero get a longer look, but the Twins seem comfortable with their daring to dream of big bouncebacks from Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford. A good lefty bat from among their outfield reserves would be handy, but if Romero isn't going to play, it's just as well that he get the playing time in Rochester. West was out of the running from the get-go with his knee injury, so the horror of the Twins' situation is that Ruben Sierra or Jason Tyner might stick. That'll get the White Sox and the Tribe quakin' in their cleats. Ay-up.
Optioned RHP Renee Cortez and LHPs Travis Blackley and Cesar Jimenez to Tacoma (Triple-A); optioned RHPs Yorman Bazardo and Marcos Carvajal, 2B/SS-B Oswaldo Navarro and OF-R Wladimir Balentien to San Antonio (Double-A); reassigned LHP Lindsay Gulin, C-R Andy Dominique, and INF-R Rayon Lampe to their minor league camp; released RHP Jeff Heaverlo. [3/15]
Optioned LHPs Jon Switzer and Chris Seddon, RHPs Jamie Shields and Brian Stokes, 1B-R Wes Bankston, SS-R B.J. Upton, C-R Shawn Riggans, and OF-R Delmon Young to Durham (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Travis Driskill, C-R Ryan Christianson, 2B-L Fernando Cortez, DH-L Kevin Witt, OF-B Elijah Dukes, and OF-R Darnell McDonald to their minor league camp. [3/16]
While you might worry about how sending down Young, Dukes, and Upton all at once might lead to open mutiny, this is the new, potentially competent Devil Rays management team, so everyone should give each other the benefit of the doubt. All three, and Bankston, will be in a position to claim big league jobs before the summer's out, so a lot depends on how well they take the news and punish opponents in the International League. Seddon's demotion might seem similarly disappointing, particularly for those hoping to avoid the initial indignity of paying to watch Wayne Franklin, but if Seddon shines in Durham, he won't be gone for long. It says a lot about how this year's camp is going that beyond Franklin, journeymen like Jason Childers and Justin Miller might stick in the bullpen, but let's face it, the D-Rays are still very much an expansion team in some regards. One gifted with a potentially superb farm system, to be sure, but so too were the Mariners in the mid-80s, and that didn't really work out all that well as much as it lead to much of their homegrown talent getting redistributed around the league willy-nilly. If the new management avoids getting frustrated, this won't turn out like that, but it is a danger.
Received Rule 5 pick RHP Jamie Vermilyea back from the Red Sox. [3/14]
Signed RHP Roy Halladay to a three-year, $40 million contract extension through 2010. [3/16]
If it's Jays camp, you might have to worry about the contact high you'll get from all the buzzing endorphins, big money, and warm fuzzies going around. But can you blame Doc for wanting to keep up with the Burnetts or the Ryans? Snark aside though, this matters, especially on a symbolic level, in that Halladay was one of the first name players to sign off on J.P. Ricciardi's program, and this underscores the extent to which he's still happy to be here. The next five years should be very interesting, because between the Red Sox not really making any forward progress, and the Yankees seemingly teetering on the brink of a hyperexpenses-driven crash, the possibilities for a major shakeup in the standings might seem promising. But as I've kvetched this winter, and as James Click's chapter on the Blue Jays reflects, Toronto hasn't picked up all that many runs, and their staff will have to be significantly better for them to live up to this spring's inflated expectations. If this particularly expensive sandcastle in the sky collapses, expect more damage than just a simple dust storm.
No real surprises. Young's recovering from his broken hand, but has a very good opportunity to make it up before September roster expansion if nothing goes seriously amiss in Tucson. On the pitching side of the slate, Murphy and Slaten probably weren't serious contenders for either of the lefty relief jobs that might be carved out of the Snake pen's possibilities. The favorites still seem to be Terry Mulholland and Randy Choate, although Brad Halsey's beginning to lose his fight for the fifth slot against Claudio Vargas, and might instead wind up in the pen. Since both Choate and Mulholland are NRIs, next week's roster juggling could get interesting. A couple of slots might open up if they outright or trade the option-less Koyie Hill, and if Jason Grimsley gets released. Beyond that, you're left wondering if anyone's hurt badly enough to be plausibly placed on the 60-day DL, or if they'll risk designating a dead-end prospect like Scott Hairston for assignment.
Optioned RHP Brad Baker and 1B-L Scott Thorman to Richmond (Triple-A); optioned SS-B Luis Hernandez, 2B-R Martin Prado, and OF-R Josh Burrus to Mississippi (Double-A); optioned RHP Jose Ascanio to Myrtle Beach (A-ball); reassigned RHP Kevin Barry, C-R Clint Sammons, and 2B-R Jonathan Schuerholz to their minor league camp. [3/15]
No shockers, although from Baker's demotion, you can infer that things are going well with some of the Braves' other young bullpen options. Certainly, Joey Devine is having a great camp (15 Ks in 8 IP), and Lance Cormier is living up to the expectations he generated with last season's excellent first half with Arizona. Less happy are some of the other guys gunning for their last chance, guys like Mike Remlinger or Wes Obermueller. Still holding on are guys like Chad Paronto and Scott Mullen. Kevin Barry didn't earn consideration right now, but he did have his moments, and should be in the bullpen mix later on this summer if anyone else spontaneously combusts on the mound.
Optioned RHP Carlos Marmol and 3B-L Scott Moore to West Tenn (Double-A); reassigned RHP Brian Boehringer, LHP Carmen Pignatiello, 1B/OF-R Brandon Sing, SS/OF-L Buck Coats, and OF-L Adam Greenberg to their minor league camp. [3/14]
Wow, Dusty cut somebody over 30 this early in camp? Can he do that? I'm a little more disappointed that neither Sing nor Greenberg got serious consideration, but everyone expected that they wouldn't, not while Dusty faves like Marquis Grissom might do some live-action decaying for the paying customers. To be fair, Mike Restovich is having a good camp, and Angel Pagan is tickling everyone's fancy, so there are alternatives to letting the Grissom Death Ride and Farewell Tour clutter up the Cubs' 2006 season. It just remains to be seen if Dusty Baker can work up the nerve to short-circuit that particular marketing campaign, and just about everything about his past managerial practice indicates that he cannot.
Exactly what the Reds need, another infield spare, and one who takes up 40-man roster space. I'm not sure what the goal is here; like Frank Menechino, Kata isn't a utility infielder who can really play short all that well for any length of time, and he hasn't demonstrated any pronounced ability with the bat outside of Arizona's air-conditioned bandbox. Admittedly, Menechino is having a bad camp, but if the club would do the sensible thing and make Ryan Freel the starter at second and Tony Womack a reserve infielder and pinch-runner, keeping in mind that they also already have Rich Aurilia on the bench, then they might have the space to carry a guy like Earl Snyder to use as a right-handed pinch-hitter and backup in the infield corners. Or they could even carry a third catcher (even if it would be Dane Sardinha) so that manager Jerry Narron might feel more comfortable pinch-hitting or pinch-running for that day's starting catcher without having to play whichever one of Jason LaRue or Javier Valentin isn't playing that day. Even a twelfth pitcher might be more useful than a third infield reserve, and I say that despite my feeling that the very concept of a twelfth pitcher is noxious. If you're asking yourself whether or not you need Matt Kata or Frank Menechino, I'd suggest that you're not asking the right question.
Optioned RHPs Manuel Corpas, Mike Esposito, Ubaldo Jimenez, Juan Morillo, Ramon Ramirez, and Eduardo Sierra, 2B-R Jayson Nix, and OF-L Jeff Salazar to their minor league camp; reassigned RHPs Jim Miller, Sandy Nin, and Judd Songster, LHPs Justin Hampson and Zack Parker, C-R Chris Iannetta, and SS-R Troy Tulowitzki to their minor league camp. [3/14]
With this many demotions from among the kids, the pitching seems to be shaking out. There are still twenty guys who could plausibly make this pitching staff, and even after you ink in the front three spots of the rotation (Jason Jennings, Jeff Francis, and Aaron Cook, you've got four or five contenders for the final two slots: Josh Fogg, Zach Day, Sunny Kim, Miguel Asencio, and Byung-Hyun Kim. The only reason Kim's on the 'maybe' list is his lack of work at the WBC, which, if not an injury, indicates that internationalist rigmarole isn't doing the Rockies any favors in terms of getting their rotation sorted out for games that count. Asencio's had a nice camp in his brief work, so if he's fully rehabbed from past injury, he could surprise people by making it at the back end of the staff.
The bullpen could be partially manned by some of the losers from the rotation fight, because beyond Brian Fuentes, Ray King, and Mike DeJean, there might be as many as four jobs up for grabs. Jose Mesa is probably locked into one, and Nate Field has pitched well enough from among the NRIs to earn another. But then things get interesting. David Cortes, Scott Dohmann and Jaime Cerda are all on the 40-man, but Cortes has barely pitched in camp, Dohmann hasn't pitched all that well, and Cerda is being pressed by Tom Martin for a second lefty role. Both Cerda and Martin are issuing a lot more walks than you'd like (six apiece, in 5.2 and 6.2 IP, respectively), but this is the Rockies. Then you get into veterans hoping to catch a break, guys like Keiichi Yabu, Bret Prinz, and Jose Acevedo. Relying on any of them probably won't turn out any better than relying on Mesa, but they're still in the running. The relative quality (or lack of it) among this crowd is why I wouldn't be surprised if someone like one of the Kims or Asencio sticks in the pen.
Elsewhere, from among the demotions, the guy you shouldn't hold out huge expectations for is Salazar, who might have to have his elbow Tommy John'd. Nix isn't making progress, but both Iannetta and Tulowitzki are names to remember, since each might push his way up to a September cup of coffee if they have good enough seasons or partial seasons at Double-A.
Optioned LHP Adam Bostick, RHPs Anibal Sanchez and Scott Tyler to Carolina (Double-A); optioned LHP Renyel Pinto to Albuquerque (Triple-A); optioned RHPs Jesus Delgado, Harvey Garcia, and Jose Garcia to Jupiter (A-ball). [3/15]
If there's a surprise, it's that Sanchez and Pinto both earned their demotions already. I'm not sure that being held back for the second wave of this season's Li'l Lisa's Fish Slurry experience should be a source of reassurance or not. But in defense of the schoolmasters, Sanchez was hurt, struggling through shoulder tendinitis, and he's not really that far removed from A-ball to start off with. It is perhaps more surprising that Pinto's already out of the running, but he wasn't going to start, and I can understand the desire to put him in the Isotopes' rotation while other people get the right for initial chewing up at the major league level.
Optioned RHP Chris Demaria, LHP Dana Eveland, and OF-L Tony Gwynn Jr. to Nashville (Triple-A); optioned 2B-L Hernan Iribarren to Brevard County (A-ball); reassigned LHP Wilfredo Rodriguez to their minor league camp. [3/16]
Initially, you might be genuinely surprised to see Eveland get sent down already, but 27 baserunners in eight innings, and one strikeout, pretty much earns a guy a punitive/early shipping out. Demaria did well, but the Brewers want to sort through the veteran help and see who sticks. On that score, there have been a few surprises, as knuckleballer Jared Fernandez and Jose Capellan are doing some good stuff, while Dan Kolb continues look as cooked as he's looked the previous season and a half. Among the kids, Dennis Sarfate is having a nice camp, but seems unlikely to stick, while Ben Hendrickson's case of the yips doesn't seem to be getting any better (eight walks and no strikeouts in 7.2 innings). Elsewhere, it wasn't like Gwynn was going to push into the battle between Gabe Gross, Nelson Cruz, and Corey Hart for a top outfield reserve role, and with Cruz and Hart both cranking, the guy who's on the spot is Gross.
Reassigned RHPs Anderson Garcia, Alay Soler, and Tim Lavigne, and LHP Mike Venafro to their minor league camp. [3/16]
Optioned OF-L Michael Bourn and LHP Daniel Haigwood to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A); optioned RHPs Scott Mathieson and Zack Segovia to Reading (Double-A); reassigned C-R John Vanden Berg, C-B Jason Jaramillo, LHPs Gio Gonzalez and Matt White, and RHPs Aaron Myette and Jeremy Cummings to their minor league camp. [3/14]
Not a surprising demotion in the lot. Bourn and Kroeger were never going to be in the running for a reserve spot in the outfield, especially with Shane Victorino getting every consideration for the job, and with veteran journeymen Peter Bergeron and Chris Roberson both having outstanding camps. Bergeron? Roberson? I know that it seems like Roberson has been in the organization forever and a day, but he was actually only picked in 2001, and won't turn 27 until August. If he disappointed early expectations of prospectdom, he's done pretty well at the plate in each of the last two seasons (.307/.371/.473 at Reading in '04, .311/.365/.465 in Scranton last year). He might yet stick. For Bergeron, at 28, the hopes have to simply be that he can earn a job as the fifth outfielder, pinch-running and perhaps making people forget about his status as one of the more remarkable busts in recent memory.
Optioned RHP Jonah Bayliss and LHP Mike Johnston to Indianapolis (Triple-A); optioned RHP Josh Sharpless, SS-B Javier Guzman, and 2B-R Craig Stansberry to Altoona (Double-A); reassigned RHP Matt Peterson and OF-R Andrew McCutchen to their minor league camp. [3/13]
Reassigned C-L Steve Lerud to their minor league camp. [3/15]
It's a sign of McCutchen's favor in the organization that he got this much time in camp, which can also be treated as a sotto voce expression on how much of a future you can reasonably expect from marginal prospects like Chris Duffy or Nate McLouth. Similarly, Rajai Davis is getting all sorts of playing time, underscoring the extent to which the Bucs have plenty of potential options to man center field with for the time being, even if none of them boasts any particular star power. Otherwise, Guzman and Stansberry got little more than passing glances in camp, but they're both worth following this summer, Guzman to see if he starts hitting for power at Double-A, and Stansberry to see if does anything more than hit for power at Double-A. If either is to have a future with the organization, they're going to have to.
Among the pitchers, neither Sharpless or Peterson did too badly in camp, but the long list of alternatives pretty much guaranteed that they'd be among those getting short shrift in the early going. Peterson still has a lot to prove at Double-A, however, and if Sharpless is going to imitate Matt Capps' heady rise, he might have to wait for Capps to come back down again. These are all nice problems to have, and one of the products of having a new manager in town is that different people might suddenly find themselves in favor, courtesy of making a good first impression. So guys like McLouth or Davis, even a journeyman like Brandon Duckworth get opportunities they might not have on somebody else's watch. To my mind, that's always one of the fun things about having a new manager checking out his new team. I think we'll end up surprised by some of Jim Tracy's choices.
Released 2B/3B-B Bobby Hill unconditionally. [3/15]
And just like that, the Pads' second base battle was down to the two people we expected it to be from the get-go: Mark Bellhorn versus Josh Barfield, both power sources for the position, one with a productive past and one with a productive future, and either one likely to help the Padres score some runs. If there's a difference, it's that Bellhorn might draw more walks, but Barfield will definitely provide better defense, and considering that it is Barfield's bat that's making the noise in camp, I suspect that Bellhorn might have to settle for a reserve role, keeping Geoff Blum company on the bench. Manager Bruce Bochy uses that unit to good effect, so it's not such a lousy fate. In the meantime, the Pads would open up with a slick-fielding combo on the deuce with Barfield across the bag from Khalil Greene, and with Mike Cameron in center, Petco might be that much more difficult a place in which to score some runs for the road team.
As for Hill, this isn't the end of the world. Dan Uggla might be the starting second baseman du jour in Miami, but it doesn't have to stay that way. It isn't like Uggla's going to win any accolades with his glovework, and maybe Hill adds some veteran moxie. Or something... I'm trying to stay positive here.
Two prospects and four journeymen arms, all of whom should end up at Memphis this summer. If there's a guy in the group I have no use for, it's Neal, but the rest could all conceivably be useful. Pitchers like Riedling are the kinds of guys that Dave Duncan fixes, and Voyles looked pretty sharp. But right now, Duncan's trying to work some magic with Jeff Nelson and Alan Benes, and seems to be getting something out of Bryan Falkenborg and "not good enough for Cincy" Josh Hancock. That makes for a pretty interesting list of possibilities for this season's Cal Eldred resurrection or Al Reyes-style discovery. Meanwhile, Hanson and Ryan both offer the club the novel experience of homegrown replacements who can play in case something bad happens to either Scott Rolen or David Eckstein. Basically, a more target-rich environment in Cards camp this spring, a credit to an active winter from GM Walt Jocketty.