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May 25, 2006
Consider these dangerous times if you're a Casey Kotchman fan, because if there's a player who could stake a claim to first base and not let go, it's Cubano import Morales, although he was not having an overwhelmingly sweet intro to the PCL up in Utah (.317/.360/.472), with five home runs and 13 walks in 176 PA. He's been able to sock it to hurlers from both sides of the plate, with more power against lefties. Whoever he hits against, the Angels need all the offensive help they can get, since they rate with the Royals for the least-productive lineup in baseball. Although not seen as a great first baseman, he's looked pretty good so far, and at 23, he's obviously young enough to learn. Of all the Angels' talented hitting prospects, Morales is now the one with the best shot at this year's Rookie of the Year award: he has the opportunity, the motive, the opportunity... well, what else is there?
Placed RHP Hayden Penn on the 15-day DL (appendectomy); recalled LHP Adam Loewen from Bowie (Double-A). [5/22]
Penn's medical emergency means that the Orioles will simply make do with John Halama in the rotation for the time being. That's nothing major--who knows, maybe Halama will be seen as worthwhile to a contender during a shopping spree. I'm more concerned about the thinking behind bringing up Loewen when he has less than two months of experience above A-ball. He's only 21. It would have been more sensible to recall Manon or Eddy Rodriguez, but the problem is that the Orioles aren't too far from touching bottom as far as how far they can stretch their 40-man. Beyond four players already on the 60-day DL, they've got three pitchers on the 15-day DL, and that has a way of eating into your alternatives.
Despite his relative youth (only 22), Loewen's been doing pretty well in his Double-A debut, allowing three runs per nine in 49.2 IP. Certainly, 55 strikeouts in that time sounds pretty tasty, but he hasn't exactly dominated the Eastern League, not when he's allowing almost a hit per inning (46) and more than a walk every other (26). Happily, he's only up to man the pen, and I suppose it's easier to cover teaching points with him from there than if he just drove up to visit Camden Yards on the nights he isn't pitching in Bowie. Still, as ready as the Orioles have been to look at their top prospects this spring, I'd be happier if they'd left Loewen down, instead of risking a big league introduction as disastrous as those of Penn or Jeff Fiorentino last season. Unfortunately, manager Sam Perlozzo is still dithering over what Loewen's up for--starting, relieving, or educational tourism.
The reactivation of Roberts does wonders for the lineup, assuming that he's back at full strength. I guess I'm more prone to pondering why they kept Brandon Fahey up as an infrequently-used utility infielder instead of Rogers. Not that it's a major deal: Fahey bats lefty, plays short and second well enough, and as a 25-year-old former college player, whatever future he has really ought to start now, whereas Rogers is 27 and has no future beyond scrapping his way onto the bottom of somebody's bench. At this point, outrighting Rogers to claim the first semi-living pitcher on waivers would make a good deal of sense.
How very convenient--DiNardo breaks down right before David Wells is due to come off of the DL. The minor inconvenience is that the Red Sox are now lefty-less in the pen, but that's the sort of thing only sissies and Whitey Herzog worry about, right? If they're really in a spot, Mike Timlin can certainly handle lefties, and Riske has a splitter that fools them more often than not. In the meantime, I think we all expect that Van Buren's only up long enough to keep the spot warm for Wells. No sweat; getting jerked is something I suspect his namesake Martin was used to at the hands of Peter Gammo^H^H^H^H^HH... Andrew Jackson.
Purchased the contract of RHP Jeff Nelson from Charlotte (Triple-A); optioned RHP Agustin Montero to Charlotte. [5/23]
Here's the warm-up round for what I think we all expect could be a pennant-minded bullpen pickup. Nelson's frisbee slider might have worked well enough for him to strike out seven in 5.1 Charlotte innings, but four walks suggests that there's still some work to be done, by pitching coach Don Cooper or whoever. But that can be done over time, and even if Nelson breaks down, the objective is to have him prepped for August and beyond, so that he can demonstrate whether or not he has any of his old Yankee playoff mojo or not. If not, it isn't like Montero embarrassed himself. In the meantime, if the club gets frustrated with Nelson or decides to go to twelve pitchers, they have a ready candidate.
At 26, Hannahan's no kid, and hitting .282/.391/.412 in Toledo overstates the sort of stuff he can give the Tigers as a sometime alternative at third or DH. He's not really a platoon hitter, this year or in years previous, but he does at least offer a lefty-hitting alternative to the very similar and similarly right-handed Craig Monroe and Marcus Thames in the lineup. Hannahan also has a reputation for exceptional skill with the glove, which isn't the worst thing to have on your resume, but all things considered, the Tigers would really be better off sticking to having a lefty-hitting outfielder at the top of their deadline deal shopping list. Even after Young comes back, the Tigers would be better off having someone to start in front of Monroe and Thames against particularly overpowering or split-conscious righthanders.
Adaptive re-use is an architectural and (to a lesser extent) a history-minded concept about avoiding sprawl and the same godawful ugly suburban developments that most of us have to live in, but more basically, it's about repurposing something instead of simply tearing down. However overstated Stewart's value was to the team a couple of years ago--who knew so many BBWAA voters smoked crack?--losing him isn't going to derail the team's season. That's already being achieved in other ways. What the Twins can do in his absence is give Kubel everyday play in the lineup, and see if he can help them win now. Playing Kubel daily from here on out wouldn't be running up the white flag; knee problems or no, he's the organization's top ranking hitting prospect, and he was hitting .283/.343/.475 in Rochester. Playing him now isn't about giving up on this season, it can be about figuring out if he can help now, and can be a matter of adapting playing time to re-use it in a way that allows the Twins to also figure out if this means they don't need Lew Ford so much once Stewart returns. The Twins need all the runs they can get, but they don't have to count themselves out only a quarter of the way into the season.
Sheffield's return hopefully reduces Terrence Long to a bench-bound menace, but with Joe Torre, youneverknow. Hopefully, the Yankees won't invest regular starts in Long, but they've started him three times too many already, and he's even got that ex-Met cachet for showing up the bad guys in Shea in case he ever does anything. As long as they keep Melky Cabrera in the lineup at Long's expense, they'll be doing the right thing.
As for calling up Smith, I'm glad he's back up. Like Bean or Scott Proctor, there's something to be said for home-growing a few handy relief arms, and Smith didn't do anything to embarrass himself during his first big league gig. Not that he was asked to do much, but better this than assigning an intern to go find what Felix Heredia is up to. I fret that Smith and Proctor will essentially get put into a junior-league LOOGY-ROOGY tandem for games in which the Yankees don't have leads, but that's better than nothing; if they succeed, perhaps they'll improve Joe Torre's comfort with the relative unknown.
Sold 2B-R Nick Green to the Yankees. [5/24]
Don't get started on those Arnold Johnson conspiracy theories just yet--we're talking Nick Green, after all.
This only sucks if you're an A's or Angels fan. Okay, maybe the Mariners too, given the moribund state of the division. Botts was bashing in the PCL to the tune of .318/.373/.615, and this time, he isn't up to watch, but to take over a goodly chunk of the DH duties now that Phil Nevin has worked his way down to his now-normal scrubby state. Botts was doing damage on both sides of the plate, but against RHPs he was pasting home runs about once every 13 at-bats, and it isn't hard to anticipate what that might mean in a lefty power-friendly park like The Ballpark. The other good thing this does for the Rangers is that as DH platoons go, Botts and Nevin are both able to take the field, with Botts in the outfield corners, and Nevin in those of the infield. With Gary Matthews Jr. marking time in center pending Freddy Guzman's arrival, this really has been a relatively nifty bit of in-season roster management.
Baseball's worst starting pitcher finally gets demoted, and joining him is an also-ineffective Adams. Towers hopefully won't do quite so much damage in Syracuse--with the amount of money invested in him, the Jays have to hope he can get straightened out and come back, because trying to win with Ty Taubenheim and Casey Janssen in the rotation wasn't exactly scripted. Admittedly, that represents an improvement on what Towers was doing for them, but it's probably not the best way of trying to keep up with the Joneses in the AL East.
Replacing Adams at the bottom of the order and playing short every day will be John McDonald. Unfortunately for the Jays, since Raul Tablado amazing flame-out, the organization doesn't boast much depth at short. Although McDonald's about as empty a bat as you'll find in baseball--think McDonald:Mike Benjamin::rice cracker:fresh-baked bread--he does have an outstanding defensive reputation. Now, yes, every hitter counts, and you hate to punt a lineup slot, but if Adams wasn't doing anything for you in any phase of the game, perhaps this is just as well. McDonald wouldn't normally be anything more than a temporary solution, not unless his defense proves so exceptionally inspiring and the rest of the lineup actually delivers so many runs that his outs start looking affordable.
Talk about interesting... thinking about it, I like the move. Dumping El Duque to leave the fifth slot a choice between fellow low-tread vets Russ Ortiz and Kevin Jarvis, and an eventual choice between those two and Dustin Nippert seems pretty bold. There's also the option of swapping in either of the Gonzalezes at Tucson, Enrique or Edgar, both of whom are pitching well, and beyond them, there's Micah Owings at Double-A Tennessee. Basically, the Snakes are flush with interesting young candidates for the rotation, so why bother with an unpredictable old man pitching less than well? Expectations in Arizona were modest, so they can get away with this sort of move without betraying either their chances in the NL West now or into the future.
I'm not sure I'm wild about Julio, considering he's homer-prone and coming to the homer-generating air-conditioned expanse of the BOB, but seeing what he can do is just a minor thrill for the bean-counters, who are no doubt thrilled over a potential savings of close to $2 million if the Mets assume all of El Duque's salary. He's far from irreplaceable if he struggles in purple and teal, since the Snakes could always turn to someone like Jeff Bajenaru or Mike Koplove or more probably give Greg Aquino another shot.
There is no surer reassurance that I am not one of the sharp knives in the drawer, let alone one of the math-y crowd, than the emails Reds fans sent assuring me that Quinton McCracken rates fifth on the club's outfield depth chart, noting that Ken Griffey Jr.'s return from the DL made Ryan Freel the titular Outfielder No. 4. So it relieves me to no small end to announce that this latest move should reduce QMcC yet another step in the ranks, while providing the Reds with an outfield reserve who can hit the ball out of the infield.
Getting Hermida back is all sorts of happy news for the Fish, because it gives the lineup back the third man in its trinity of quality prospects, alongside Hanley Ramirez and Josh Willingham. Andino's departure is straightforward enough--Ramirez was ready to return to the field, eliminating any need to keep around the less-promising homegrown shortstop prospect. But having Hermida back creates opportunities for manager Joe Girardi to see if he'll go back to letting Willingham catch now and again. It would be an easy way to keep getting backup outfielder Joe Borchard starts that might otherwise be wasted on Matt Treanor, and that makes for a good way to at least keep the lineup from becoming that much more scrubby on a regular's rest day. There's also the chance that Borchard will get a real opportunity to win the starting job in center away from Reggie Abercrombie, although there's reasonable suspicion that center isn't a position Borchard could handle on a daily basis.
Optioned RHP Ben Hendrickson to Nashville (Triple-A). [5/21]
Recalled RHP Carlos Villanueva from Huntsville (Double-A). [5/22]
Optioned RHP Chris Demaria to Nashville. [5/24]
Children, come and lend an ear
Horsehide snowflakes fly on high
Upon his Southwest or Greyhound sleigh
Forgive me if you can, Ma Winkelsas, I was feeling especially self-indulgent this morning. He's 32 and on the comeback trail; if you batted an eye, you missed his one appearance with the Braves, and his time on a major league DL with back trouble probably didn't hold my interest for long. Between villes Hunts and Nash, he's pitched a combined 20.2 IP, with 21 Ks, two walks, 18 hits, four runs allowed, and a lone homer. Consider his resurrection an example of the club's new zero-tolerance policy for crummy relief pitching. Or starting pitching. And unless you're Danny Kolb.
Villanueva has had a good run in Double-A despite allowing six home runs 53.2 IP, although he does have a 51-12 strikeout-walk ratio. My problem is that it really seems early, considering he was in A-ball all season last year, and we're talking about a pitcher who heavily relies on a changeup and flyball outs, two things that sound an awful lot like "meat" in the baseball lexicon. As frustrating as Lehr was, and as much as I think Chris Mabeus can pitch in the show, I'm just not sold on the suggestion that Villanueva's ready while Lehr is immediately useless. I know, options came into play, and Lehr might avoid becoming a Royal if he's lucky and gets to go back to Nashville.
Recalled RHP Alay Soler from Binghamton (Double-A); activated 2B-B Anderson Hernandez from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Norfolk (Triple-A); optioned RHP Anderson Garcia to Norfolk. [5/22]
Tip of the cap to Omar Minaya, because he has perhaps found two guys his offense can consistently outscore often enough to keep the Mets' march to a division title on track. The price was right, and the rotation needed fixing, and this is a step up from trying to pick between Jeremi Gonzalez, Jose Lima, and a hole in the head. Ditching Julio for a starter certainly helps reinforce management's argument that Aaron Heilman should be left in the pen.
That said, people charged up about El Duque's return to New York should keep in mind that the ex-famous person has all of three quality starts on the season. One was in PETCO, one against the Pirates, and he's faced the Nats--one of baseball's worst offenses--three times. Yes, he's struck out 52 in 45.2 IP, and that's not a bad thing, and perhaps suggestive that he's going to do really well freed from having to pitch in the BOB. However, even with Shea in his favor, beyond the enfeebled Nats, he'll also be pitching against the Braves and Phillies more often, and those are teams that score runs. But he doesn't have to be the guy who does everything right every October from Big Apple legendry, he just has to be able to offer adequacy as a fourth or fifth starter, and he seems prepped for that, even at forty-something-ish.
One of the other things that bringing in Hernandez does for the team is give it a prospective role model and personal coaching assistant for Soler, a fellow Cuban. Like El Duque, he can get a bit funky mechanically, but he's got a good fastball-slider combo, and at 26-ish, he isn't exactly dewy-eyed and fresh-faced. Having a now-legendary major leaguer who initially starred for Team Castro ought to be the sort of off-field positive that we can't put a number on, but should readily acknowledge as a potentially very good thing in helping Soler make the jump to The Show.
If there's a glum note to strike, it's the dispatch of Hernandez to the Virginia Tidewater, but until Kaz Matsui spontaneously combusts, starts kicking the batboys, or refuses to stand up for the national anthem on Midway's anniversary, the mulish decision to keep him in place at the keystone stands. Hopefully, Hernandez will have a great month at Norfolk, so that if Matsui keeps being Matsui, the Mets might belatedly make a change.
At least when General Howe paid a visit, he didn't set Philly aflame, but I think it's safe to say the house is on fire. But Phillies fans shouldn't entirely lose hope, because the quick Mr. Fix-It solution is going to be to return Ryan Madson to the rotation, and become a little more devout in praying more often than just Easter and Xmas for something besides chocolate and... chocolate? I know, the MRI hasn't said anything horrific about Hamels, but given the combination of the kid's promise, I think we can all hope that he'll be able to bounce back with just rest.
Placed OF-L Jody Gerut on the 15-day DL (patella tendinitis - knee). [5/22]
The Pirates' other contentious outfielder finally squabbled his way into a DL assignment, having insisted for weeks that he needs surgery on his knee, while management asserted he did not. Only now, after six weeks of argument, have the Pirates belatedly accepted that maybe the guy knows his own body. I don't know if this ranks with the medical nonsense practiced in Boston or Philly in the '80s, but it certainly doesn't look all that sensible.
Worrell's combination of combustibility and fragility might make him the bullpen equivalent of francium fluoride, but the Giants should have known to anticipate that in signing him. Happily, they seem to have enough depth to cover for his absence, especially now that Armando Benitez is back off of the DL. However, there's a decent chance that Wilson won't simply fill in for Worrell, but actually supplant him. Eleven baserunners and eleven strikeouts in 12.2 IP in Fresno speak to Wilson's relative readiness, and as much as the Giants have anticipated his development since drafting him out of LSU and cooling their heels while he recovered from Tommy John surgery, he should be worth the wait. He can pump gas in the high 90s, and Big Brother Telecommunications Company Park is always going to be a forgiving place. If he gains Felipe Alou's trust early, he could be up to stay, especially now that the team's cleared out dead weight like Jeff Fassero and Tyler Walker.
Well, as if the rotation wasn't already splattered across the trainer's table like Charles Dance in Alien 3, they get and lose Day, just like that? The only on-staff option is Jon Rauch, as our own Caleb Peiffer noted yesterday. It's that, or a choice like taking another spin with Billy Traber (41 Ks in 44.1 IP at New Orleans), or perhaps Kyle Denney or Shawn Hill. Heck, when you're this hard up, maybe even Rockies castoff Kip Bouknight. Traber and Denney are both pretty interesting in their own rights, so it wouldn't be the worst thing to turn to either. Whatever they do, because of the weak state of the rotation, they're going to need somebody to do what Rauch's already providing as a bridge from the fifth or sixth inning to the seventh or eighth. That might argue for leaving Rauch where he is for the time being, especially with both John Patterson and Pedro Astacio due back in June. If they choose to cut bait on Ramon Ortiz or demote Michael O'Connor, that would be a different situation, but in the meantime, the open rotation slot is a temporary issue, and pushing Rauch into the role should be something more solid than that.
The Nats are hoping that Ramirez is another one of their scrapheap finds. Once a Dominican semi/sorta/kinda prospect for the Astros and more recently the Royals, he seemed to have a knack for starring in winter ball. Still, like a lot of short righthanders, he doesn't catch a lot of breaks, and he does have a good sinker he can get into the low 90s, so maybe he'll be a solid addition to the pen. If he is, it might make a decision to bump Rauch into the rotation that much easier.