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May 30, 2006

Transaction Analysis

May 25-29

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Jered Weaver from Salt Lake (Triple-A); designated RHP Esteban Yan for assignment. [5/26]

It didn't happen overnight, but the Angels are now in the happy situation of having a Weaver plus a spare, and they can that much more easily absorb the loss of Bartolo Colon. Jeff's kid brother Jered was clearly ready after striking out 78 in 63 Triple-A innings, with only 48 hits and nine walks allowed. Past concerns about his big-fly issues seem answered by his allowing only four bombs. He may not impress the speed gun, but he seems to have made the case for his extended holdout and his value as a prospect.

This will create the uncomfortable question of what happens should Jered continue to pitch well enough to stick once Colon returns. Swap in Jered for Jeff? But that's a nice problem to have, and who's to say the elder won't earn his keep in the next couple of weeks? If he does that before Colon comes back, and nobody gets injured in the meantime, it isn't like Ervin Santana hasn't pitched out of the pen before.

Past regrets are plenty, of course. The money spent on Hector Carrasco is this much more obviously a bit of December largesse, but a pen with long relievers like Carrasco and Kevin Gregg both in it is one that doesn't need to worry about using its defined-role relievers very far outside of Mike Scioscia's proscribed purposes. As for Yan, if there's a market for Jeremi Gonzalez or David Williams, I think Bill Stoneman shouldn't have any problem swinging a deal if such is his wish. If Yan has a beef even after being a beneficiary of Angel generosity ($2.25 million over two years may not sound like much, but he's not much of a commodity), it's that he's been a bit better than Brendan Donnelly, but Donnelly's rep for being a solid ROOGY type as well as a live-action exhibit of the franchise's former cleverness in finding relievers from out-of-the-way places.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Activated LHP David Wells from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-R Dustan Mohr to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [5/26]

Activated CF-B Coco Crisp from 15-day DL; recalled RHP Manny Delcarmen from Pawtucket; placed RHP Mike Timlin (strained shoulder, retroactive to 5/26) and OF-R Wily Mo Pena (wrist) on the 15-day DL. [5/28]

Concepts like forward and back imply direction, and right now, this doesn't seem to imply that the Red Sox are headed anywhere in particular as much as they're subject to the odd spin of Transactions Twister. Not having Pena or Mohr leaves the team with Willie Harris as its lone outfield reserve, and although the Sox could have done something about that by bringing Mohr back instead of recalling Delcarmen, they've elected not to. That's sensible enough--Crisp will play center on a daily basis, so if Harris is reduced to pinch-running for Manny Ramirez or playing in emergencies, that's not all bad. Pena's injury isn't seen as anything really significant, so the team's depth shouldn't be seriously affected for any length of time.

The more uncomfortable contortion involves simultaneously losing Timlin and getting Jumbo Wells back, sort of. The Large Target got pegged in the knee in his first start back, and will miss his next turn, but the pen's already short its most reliable guy. Somebody's going to have to start tomorrow's game, but can this team afford a pen start, perhaps leading off with Delcarmen or Jermaine Van Buren? I don't think they can, not when Matt Clement's ability to get beyond the fifth inning--should you even want him to--is so much in doubt. That said, Delcarmen does give them a quality reliever who should make up well enough for Timlin. It isn't the optionable kids who have been the problem, or even the oft-flogged Keith Foulke, but instead the veteran trio of Julian Tavarez, Rudy Seanez, and z-free David Riske.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Released RHP Matt Mantei from his contract at Toledo (Triple-A). [5/25]

Placed LHP Mike Maroth on the 15-day DL (elbow soreness); recalled RHP Chris Spurling from Toledo. [5/26]

The good news about Maroth is that it apears to be just soreness, and nothing that requires surgery, only rest. That being the case, perhaps the larger issue isn't what Roman Colon does in the two or three starts he'll draw in Maroth's absence, it's seeing if Spurling does something that puts him ahead of Jason Grilli in the bullpen pecking order. I know, it's probably less interesting than following the narwhal Olympics on ESPN27, but Spurling did well with inherited runners, while Grilli offers the ability to go long and mop up. I'm curious to see which Jim Leyland might favor if Spurling does something while he's around, because he initially surprised people by picking Grilli out of camp.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Optioned RHP Leo Nunez to Omaha (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Bobby Keppel from Omaha. [5/25]

Acquired RHP Seth Etherton from the Padres for a PTBNL or cash. [5/27]

Optioned RHP Runelvys Hernandez to Omaha. [5/28]

Activated CF-L David DeJesus from the 15-day DL; optioned OF-L Aaron Guiel to Omaha; purchased the contract of RHP Seth Etherton; outrighted RHP Brian Bass to Wichita (Double-A). [5/29]

The really good news is that the one player worth the price of admission is back to lead off and play center field every day, and that's the sort of thing that should do no end of good in the lineup and for the pitchers on balls in play in the outfield. The somewhat lesser good news is that the search for adequacy has provided the Royals with another adequate pitcher. That's not to speak too highly of Etherton, but it's better to get him at this price than overpay to bring in the similarly once-promising Scott Elarton, and matching Hernandez's nine home runs allowed in 32.2 IP would take some doing.

They also seem worked up about taking a spin with Keppel in the rotation, although he's sort of like Mike Wood, someone you don't really want to count on as anything more than a fifth starter, perhaps including having him in the pen. There is something sort of sad about how either of them are the kinds of pitchers that you'd expect an organization to be able to home-grow, except as a guy like Bass demonstrates, the Royals can't even achieve that--Bass earned his demotion off of the 40-man roster after getting knocked around at Omaha, calling into question whether he's even a "throws four pitches for strikes" guy. Keppel's a discard from the Mets, and if he's supposed to be over the shoulder troubles of his past, allowing more than a hit per inning while striking out only a man every two is no way to encourage that opinion.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Recalled C-B Koyie Hill from Columbus (Triple-A); optioned LHP Matt Smith to Columbus; transferred RHP Tanyon Sturtze from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/26]

Third lefty in the pen or third catcher on the bench, take your pick. It's sort of like choosing between philately and numismatics: it's a choice, you can invest all sorts of time in it, do lots of lots of homework, and it's almost 100% guaranteed to not impress girls. However, with Jorge Posada having hamstring problems, there's definitely some utility to having Hill around, because if the Yankees had to start Kelly Stinnett every day for a week, that might not work out all that well. Hill wasn't hitting at Columbus, badly enough (.136/.194/.212) to fire up a "Draft Chris Turner!" movement, but having him up allows the Yankees the tactical possibilities of pinch-hitting or -running for Stinnett late in a game they don't want to use Posada in.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Recalled RHP Matt Roney from Sacramento (Triple-A); optioned RHP Santiago Casilla to Sacramento. [5/28]

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Placed LHP Casey Fossum on the 15-day DL (strained groin); recalled RHP James Shields from Durham (Triple-A). [5/27]

I guess I don't see this as a bad thing if you're the D-Rays. Fossum's injury isn't of the career-ending variety, and his ability to contribute doesn't seem to be in question. So his absence, however brief, creates a cameo for Shields, a very good thing since he's coming off of an outstanding first two months in Durham: ten starts, 61.1 IP, 64 Ks, 60 hits, six walks, and three home runs. You don't want to use a word like junkballer to talk about a 24-year-old, but he throws two breaking pitches for strikes, a good change, while also fooling some of the people some of the time with a fastball that can nose over 90. If you're a D-Rays fan tired of seeing Seth McClung or Doug Waechter get smacked around every fifth day, then the idea of Shields getting an audition that might put him ahead of either once Fossum returns has to be something to root for. Besides a fourth-place finish, of course.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Activated 2B-R Ian Kinsler from the 15-day DL; designated OF-B Adrian Brown for assignment; optioned RHP Robinson Tejeda to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [5/25]

Recalled RHP Wes Littleton from Frisco (Double-A). [5/26]

Optioned RHP Wes Littleton to Frisco; recalled LHP John Rheinecker from Oklahoma. [5/29]

All of which boils down to three things:

  1. Rheinecker's probably your fifth starter for a month after torching Seattle last night. Kevin Millwood and the Sidekicks isn't the name of a local jazz band, it's actually a pretty cool low-rent rotation after the headliner. Rheinecker wasn't seen as a top prospect in the A's chain, and after losing most of last season to a finger injury, it almost seemed to slip people's minds that he'd been an effective rotation regular in Sacramento the year before. Nobody should mistake him for a top prospect now, but guys who throw strikes, take the ball every fifth day, and get a quality start every other time out or so can end up making a lot of money in this game. There's no indication that Rheinecker can't do well enough in front of a good bullpen and a solid offense. I've sung the praises of the organization on this score already, and if discovering that Tejeda isn't part of the answer this year is a small disappointment, there's nothing that keeps him from being part of the solution next year.

  2. Rookie or no, second base belongs to Kinsler, no matter how fond of D'Angelo Jimenez Buck Showalter might be. Those of us who thought Kinsler had a great shot at being the Rookie of the Year may now feel appropriately warm and tingly about their wisdom and foresight.

  3. The nonsense involving Mark DeRosa, outfielder, finds a new incarnation. Like a lot of second basemen who hit just enough and show just enough positional flexibility, DeRosa's being turned into a supersub rover type, and I suppose that's okay if it spares Brad Wilkerson the occasional indignity of facing the league's toughtest lefties, but at some point, the Rangers are going to learn that a hot start is not the same thing as a new level of ability. Eventually, hot hands go cold, and they go colder for some more than others.

The other little item to note is that the team's sticking with Little Sarge as an everyday center fielder and discarding his notional backup, Brown. That's a good thing, in that it affords the Rangers the roster space to keep both Jason Botts and Phil Nevin, which, as I touched on last week, is a pretty cool thing in terms of having a DH platoon that can also help you defensively. If you're going to platoon at DH, you pretty much have to have that sort of flexibility, but it's to the Rangers' credit that they're the ones who have made it so.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Signed INF-R Edgardo Alfonzo to a minor league contract. [5/25]

Purchased the contract of INF-B Luis Figueroa and recalled LHP Brian Tallet from Syracuse (Triple-A). [5/26]

Placed 2B/SS-R John McDonald on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of INF-R Edgardo Alfonzo from New Hampshire (Double-A); transferred RHP A.J. Burnett from the 15- to the 60-day DL, retroactive to 4/22. [5/29]

The initial plan to give Alfonzo an audition went by the way after McDonald broke down--now he's up to play second while Aaron Hill takes over at short in McDonald's absence. I don't see much reason to believe that Alfonzo will do all that well at second, and there's even less indication that he'll hit, so I expect this to work out even worse than the expedient experiment to make Garth Iorg the everyday second baseman in 1987 did. Figueroa's in his early thirties with a modest minor league track record, so he's not an alternative. If there's a silver lining to hope for, it's that Hill might pan out at shortstop, because if he did, that might make it easier for the team to push Russ Adams across the keystone to second, where he might work out defensively. It's a strange case where an injury might help the team and the players involved adapt to a better setup, one they might have all rejected if circumstances hadn't changed.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Optioned RHP Casey Daigle to Tucson (Triple-A); recalled RHP Enrique Gonzalez from Tucson. [5/26]

Gonzalez was pitching well in his first spin through the PCL, posting a 2.24 ERA while allowing 61 hits in 60.1 IP (only two home runs), with a 35:14 K:BB ratio. Despite the modest strikeout totals, he can dial it up into the mid-90s. The problem is a reputed lack of a consistent secondary out pitch on top of all that much movement on his fastball. Stuck in an '80s mindset the way I am, that would seem like a prescription for trying the splitter, a la Dave Stewart or Mike Scott. However, the kid won't be 24 for another six weeks or so, and manager Bob Melvin seemed happy with his off-speed stuff. That relative youth wouldn't inform you that the little Venezuelan is in his eighth season in the system. He had the benefit of not really getting top prospect billing until his second-half breakthrough in the Cal League in 2004, which got him back into a starting role and seemed to have temporarily set aside concerns that he might not be durable enough for a big league rotation. Now, he might just manage to stick, or at the very least retard Russ Ortiz's attempt to sabotage the Snakes' season.

The only frustrating element of this is that the decision to bring up Gonzalez trails the club's purchase of Kevin Jarvis. Jarvis can't be optioned, so moving him involves designating him for assignment, at which point he probably becomes staff ace of the Royals. Rather than let that happen, the Snakes optioned Daigle down despite his decent work. This was perhaps less about simple performance and more about making sure that they retained their rights to everyone, but I'd be surprised if Arizona keeps both Jarvis and Jason Grimsley all summer.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Announced that RHP Travis Smith declined his assignment to Richmond (Triple-A), and has become a free agent. [5/26]

Placed C-L Brian McCann on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle), retroactive to 5/24; activated LHP Horacio Ramirez from the 15-day DL. [5/27]

As expected, the Braves tipped Ramirez into the rotation, where he's seen as the third man, ahead of both Jorge Sosa and John Thomson. After a hot start, Thomson's been worthless for a month, while Sosa's got back-to-back quality starts (against the Marlins and in PETCO) to brag about. Suffice to say this isn't the Braves rotation of old. Unfortunately, the loose part to be used to make space for Ramirez was McCann instead of Brayan Pena. It's particularly frustrating since they might have gotten him back sooner than the end of next week, except that they used him to pinch-hit on the 23rd, when they were already anticipating making a retroactive DL assignment going back to the 21st. It shouldn't kill them, but it's a minor nuisance.

As for Smith, who does he think he is, rejecting his assignment? Bloody peasant. But on second thought, keep in mind this is a time when people are trading for Seth Etherton and Jeremi Gonzalez, and you might understand why it's not quite so easy to keep some people down on the farm once they've gotten a taste of big-city living.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Purchased the contract of UT-L Tony Womack from Iowa (Triple-A); optioned INF-R Ryan Theriot to Iowa; transferred RHP Mark Prior from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/26]

Recalled RHP Jae Kuk Ryu from Iowa; optioned RHP Michael Wuertz to Iowa. [5/28]

Recalled RHP David Aardsma from Iowa; optioned RHP Jae Kuk Ryu to Iowa. [5/29]

What can you say about the pitching staff? Aside from observing that Dusty Baker's apparently constant ability to be surprised that nobody's Bob Gibson on Day One, it nonetheless appears that the answer in this situation is keep looking at guys for a week or an outing and making up your pitching staff du jour on that basis. Since his recall, Wuertz had pitched one bad inning. Unfortunately, it was his only inning, so he's gone. In his place, Aardsma might get a second inning, since his first one was good. Both men were pitching well in the minors, so I really have to wonder, is this any way to run a pitching staff? Predictably, now that the commitment to Ryu lasted its lone game, the Cubs are back to having Glendon Rusch in the rotation. That could last until whenever it is that Prior returns, but wouldn't that have made sense in the first place? Why call up Ryu if a bad first start is enough to convince you to send him down? At what point does scouting or real performance analysis come into decision-making?

Cubs fans don't have a lot to be happy about, so they might make the mistake of rushing to Womack's defense, pointing out his nifty 4-for-6 debut. They might even say something about how Womack will play with more confidence for Dusty Baker. Call me old-fashioned, but confident and bad is still bad. Worse yet, in a sense this is seen as the solution for their losing Derrek Lee, because Womack's going to be plugged into the second base job left open by Todd Walker's shift to first base to replace Lee. I know, we'd be comparing apples to orange rinds if comparing Lee to Womack, but the sad thing is that the Cubs just couldn't satisfy themselves with either Jerry Hairston Jr. or Neifi Perez instead. What sort of team carries five second basemen--Walker and four interchangeably bad non-Walkers--and nobody who can hit well enough to be a useful option at first, even after losing Lee?

CINCINNATI REDS
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Acquired RHP Robert Manuel from the Mets for LHP Dave Williams and cash. [5/25]

Activated LHP Kent Mercker from the 15-day DL; traded OF-R Cody Ross to the Marlins for cash or a PTBNL. [5/26]

Converting Ross into cash or a PTBNL is a tidy enough return on a waiver claim, but I'd rather have kept him and discarded the execrable Quinton McCracken.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Placed C-R Danny Ardoin on the 15-day DL (strained knee), retroactive to 5/25; recalled C-B J.D. Closser from Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [5/26]

Placed INF-R Luis Gonzalez on the 15-day DL (wrist inflammation); recalled OF-R Ryan Spilborghs from Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [5/28]

For the Rockies, consider this a case of doubling their pleasure, as they're temporarily without their two worst players, and discovering fun with fungibility. Losing Gonzalez isn't really a loss--he's never going to be appreciably better than the discards (Jamey Carroll and Jason Smith) who have beaten him out at second. Losing Ardoin only advances the organization's timetable to sort out whether or not Closser can finally push past the three dwarfs otherwise clogging up the depth chart at catcher, because Ardoin, Miguel Ojeda, and Yorvit Torrealba are all pretty interchangeably less-than-mediocre. Closser was hitting well in Colorado Springs (.299/.381/.467), but he really has to answer the club's questions about his glovework, since the concept of an offense/defense job-sharing arrangement seems a bit too close to particle physics. So Closser has to prove he's the complete package, or it's back to Colorado Springs. Nevertheless, it's an opportunity, for him and for the organization, and if they wind up with an improved catching situation sooner than expected, they can thank Jose Cruz Jr. for his takeout slide of Ardoin at home plate last week.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned OF-R Chris Aguila to Albuquerque (Triple-A); acquired OF-R Cody Ross from the Reds for a PTBNL or cash; transferred RHP Sergio Mitre from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/26]

Activated RHP Franklyn German from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Renyel Pinto to Albuquerque. [5/29]

Ross joins Joe Borchard and Reggie Abercrombie as potential answers to the team's hunt for a center fielder, and as such, makes a nice enough addition. Just as Borchard erased Eric Reed, Ross is significantly better than Aguila, and Larry Beinfest's willingness to nab them off of the wires instead of getting too hung up on people who made the team in spring training is admirable. Abercrombie, Borchard, and Ross might sound like a distinguished-sounding old-money law firm, but for each man, the future is now, and there's only the job in center for them to fight for. Abercrombie seems to have one good game per week, while Borchard mashes an equally occasional home run, so if Ross strings together a few consecutive good days, even two of them, he could end up becoming the new favorite.

In other good news, Pinto did well in his first go-round, tossing four shutout innings before making way for German. In returning to the Isotopes, he should be moving back into the rotation, which is why he isn't sticking around to contribute to an otherwise floundering pen. To their credit, the Fish don't seem overly worked up over not having a lefty for situational relief work, preferring instead to see what these guys can do.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Mentioned that C-R Pat Borders retired. [5/27]

Purchased the contract of OF-R Matt Kemp from Jacksonville (Double-A); optioned RHP Lance Carter to Las Vegas (Triple-A). [5/28]

J.D. Drew's sore shoulder created the opportunity, but Kemp was hitting very well at Jacksonville, .335/.408/.542, and had successfully swiped eleven sacks in 14 attempts. Since they're already enjoying some good work from Andre Ethier and Willy Aybar, why not take an early peek at another one of the kids? Carter had allowed five hits and three runs in a pair of innings since his recall from a previous punitive assignment ten days before, so he hadn't really won his way back into anyone's good grace. So, while I've bashed Grady Little and Ned Colletti in the past, and while it's worth noting that it probably took injuries and not just a recognition of merit to create these opportunities, the kids are getting to play, and perhaps creating a realization that digging up another old man doesn't have to be the answer.

Besides, I'm also impressed that the Dodgers have come down to eleven pitchers when one of them is Odalis Perez, but there again, the Dodgers are making do with the situation, and pitching him because the alternative is eating a lot of cash. I do wonder if anyone would fight their trying to outright him to Vegas to get some regular work, but I suspect Perez would balk at the suggestion.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Outrighted RHP Justin Lehr to Nashville (Triple-A). [5/25]

Acquired RHP Jeremi Gonzalez from the Mets for RHP Mike Adams. [5/26]

Optioned RHP Carlos Villanueva to Huntsville (Double-A). [5/27]

I tend to get overly cranky with some teams over some moves, because after they demonstrate that they have a good sense of what they're doing, I get a wee bit frustrated with time-wasting mistakes. Take trading for Gonzalez as an example. There's little or no reason to expect him to be any more fortunate as a fixer-upper solution to the club's rotation problems, so discarding a genuine hard thrower like Adams to get this most saccharine of quick fixes is actually pretty bitter. Why couldn't it have been Danny Kolb? He helped the Mets by pitching for the Braves last year, it seems natural that they should want to return the favor. Basically, there's nothing that Gonzalez can do that Lehr couldn't do, or perhaps even Ben Hendrickson. At least in the cases of Lehr or Hendrickson, they might actually improve, whereas you get a more certain result with Gonzalez. At least Gonzalez is only here to provide insurance in case Dana Eveland or tonight's experiment with Jorge de la Rosa don't pan out.

NEW YORK METS
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Acquired LHP Dave Williams from the Reds for RHP Robert Manuel and cash, and assigned Williams to Norfolk (Triple-A); designated RHP Jeremi Gonzalez for assignment. [5/25]

Acquired RHP Mike Adams from the Brewers for RHP Jeremi Gonzalez. [5/26]

I guess when you have a problem you only belatedly recognize, you don't just address it, you address it with prejudice. I like the decision to get Williams as that extra bit of insurance well enough, although I question the need to give the Reds something beyond cash. Credit Wayne Krivsky for getting something extra out of Omar Minaya. However, to Minaya's credit, he then managed to get something for his fait accompli discard of Gonzalez, picking up a hard-throwing reliever from the Brewers for the definition of a replacement-level starter. Adams has had his problems making the jump to The Show, but qualities like 'big' and 'throws really hard' are worth shopping for, and if all Adams needed was a change of scenery, this could turn into a major steal.

To put it another way, if you were offered El Duque, Williams, and Adams for Gonzalez, Manuel, Jorge Julio, and cash, you'd probably take it. Minaya got that swap in three separate deals, providing himself with an adequate solution to his rotation woes, an insurance policy that should keep the team Lima-free in most scenarios, and a reliever who might actually be useful enough to allow them to someday move Aaron Heilman to the rotation should they so wish.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Optioned OF-R Chris Roberson to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [5/26]

Activated CF-R Aaron Rowand from 15-day DL. [5/27]

Placed RHP Jon Lieber on 15-day DL (strained groin); recalled RHP Brian Sanches from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; activated C-R Mike Lieberthal from 15-day DL optioned C-R Carlos Ruiz to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/29]

Like some last bit of Skylab, it seems like there's no end to the amount of stuff that can crash and burn in the Phillies season. Getting Lieberthal and Rowand back are two kinds of good, but the twin flops of Ruiz and Roberson in their places doesn't bode too well for the team's capacity to fix long-term problems at center or behind the plate. And now, losing Lieber? That wasn't part of the master plan, but winding up with retreads like Sanches or Clay Condrey in the pen probably wasn't either. Sanches was throwing well in the Barons' pen a second time around (23 Ks in 21.2 IP, with four walks), but he's not a flamethrower, and he won't fix the rotation. There is some additional good news in that Randy Wolf is getting stretched out in extended spring training, but you're still looking at the All-Star break as the general vicinity for his return. In the meantime, they're left with a delicate balance between necessity and patience, as they ponder how quickly to farm out Cole Hamels for a rehab assignment, and whether or not to wishcast Lieber into full operating condition sooner rather than later.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Activated 1B-L Sean Casey from the 15-day DL; optioned UT-R Mike Edwards to Indianapolis (Triple-A). [5/29]

That's the sound of help on the way. Not a bugle, not a hymn, not something bawdy, and certainly nothing inspiring. No, what the Pirates can look forward to is the sound of a cleanly-pasted single a day, courtesy of the ex-worthwhile ex-famous ex-Red. That's neat, of course, and apparently the stuff of season ticket sales to hear some tell it, but it more basically may mean a lot less Craig Wilson, because nobody wants to point out that Jeromy Burnitz seems to be moving beyond 'browning' to well into 'extra crispy.' That's a disgraceful turn of events, in no small part because the Pirates postured as if this season was going to be about turning things around. Like a lot of packaging, you weren't supposed to look too closely at the ingredients on the side of the box. Now they're faced with a clear choice between playing the better player and trying to win games, or trying to play the guys they touted as examples of their new commitment to winning. If the organization really wants to demonstrate that commitment, there's no faster path than playing Wilson and seeing if Burnitz can be peddled to some other place, but instead, there's the conventional abdication of responsibility, and the fashionable avoidance of change in the face of realities on the ground, because willful blindness is seen as courageous leadership, and devil take the results. Funny thing that, though, if the game's supposed to be about winning.

In the meantime, if the rightfully angry fans in Steel Town decide they've had enough of a commitment to a poorly thought-out promise, throw Littlefield and McClatchy and Casey into the same canvas bag like a sack of unwanted cats, and toss the lot of them into the Ohio River, what sound will they make?

[Plink]

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Sent RHP Seth Etherton to the Royals for a PTBNL or cash. [5/27]

Activated C-B Rob Bowen from the 15-day DL; optioned 1B/OF-L Paul McAnulty to Portland (Triple-A). [5/28]

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Recalled 1B-L Travis Ishikawa from Connecticut (Double-A); optioned OF-B Dan Ortmeier to Fresno (Triple-A); optioned RHP Scott Munterto Connecticut. [5/25]

Purchased the contract of LHP Jonathan Sanchez from Connecticut. [5/26]

Ishikawa wasn't hitting in Double-A (.256/.320/.410), so his promotion seems a bit of a surprise, except that with Lance Niekro out, it looks as if the team is taking the opportunity to give him a real taste of the majors. That won't last, of course, but it's indicative of a greater willingness to actually look at some of the kids, and there's perhaps no stronger indication of that than the team's bringing up Sanchez. They moved him into the Connecticut pen at the end of last month because they were already recognizing that a lefty who can change speeds, one with sharp breaking stuff, and one who can deliver consistent low-90s heat can probably help you right now. All told, he'd struck out 46 in his 31.1 innings, and that's a level he'd been jumped up to, skipping High-A after spending last season in the Sally League. A lot of the staff is already homegrown, and this is just the latest source of encouragement, but now that he's the club's second lefty in the pen, he might be here for the duration.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Activated RHP Sidney Ponson from 15-day DL; optioned 1B/OF-L Chris Duncan to Memphis (Triple-A). [5/27]

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Placed OF-R Alex Escobar on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled RHP Saul Rivera from New Orleans (Triple-A). [5/23]

Activated C-L Brian Schneider from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Felix Rodriguez on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis), retroactive to 5/20. [5/26]

Placed RF-R Jose Guillen on the 15-day DL (hamstring); outrighted C-R Wiki Gonzalez to New Orleans; purchased the contracts of RHP Shawn Hill and OF-R Mike Vento from New Orleans; transferred RHP Zach Day from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/27]

Hill has gone straight into the rotation after doing good work at Double- and Triple-A. Across eight starts in Harrisburg and one in the Big Easy, he'd tossed 49.1 IP, with 31:6 K:BB ratio and a lone homer allowed. Treat that last tidbit as a reminder that he owns a pretty nifty sinker, and now that he's back from missing all of 2005 recovering from having his elbow Tommy John'd, it looks like it came back with him off of the surgeon's table. He also has some pretty solid off-speed stuff, and he did make it up briefly in 2004, so there's a very real possibility that he could stick by season's end. Day looks like he could be done for the year, depending on whether or not he opts for surgery on his shoulder, and even if John Patterson is due back soon, and Pedro Astacio by the end of June, it's been the sort of year where no end of things are going wrong. With all sorts of contenders, real or imagined, looking for another starter, Jim Bowden would do well to deal undesirables like Tony Armas Jr. or Ramon Ortiz for any return, and all the more so if Hill does well.

Escobar dutifully followed his career track by breaking down after two starts, only to be followed by the increasingly rickety Guillen. Nats fans wondering where Ryan Church is can take solace that he's a wrong-way Zephyr, having blown from Harrisburg in a southwesterly direction, and landing in New Orleans. That's how you've wound up with an outfield that has Vento in some sort of sad-sack platoon with the lead-footed Daryle Ward in right. Vento's already 28 and in his fifth year above A-ball, so he's not a prospect, and may not even be much of a find, but he's got line-drive power and decent plate coverage, and that could make him a nifty enough reserve if he strikes the team's fancy.

Finally, there's the situation behind the plate, where Schneider will only drive Frank Robinson to tears if he keeps hitting the way he has. I don't know why anybody would get worked up over pulling Matt Le Croy mid-inning to try to win the game (and indeed winning it), or why anybody hasn't noted that the Astros didn't really score all that well considering they were so busy stealing bases. I suspect it's the contemporary brand of whiny-sensitive machismo, where there's a lot of overblown concern with hurting people's feelings, and not enough focus on tactics. This isn't Robinson's first emotional breakdown on the job, and it probably won't be the last. It remains to be seen if the new management goes for moist-yet-proud, but coming on top of a too-easy fascination with the likes of Brandon Watson, it doesn't speak well of the manager. Being afraid of hurting your player's feelings while managing the team is admirable in Little League, but it's a little out of place at the highest level.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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