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June 6, 2006

Transaction Analysis

June 1-5

by Christina Kahrl

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Placed OF-L Jay Gibbons on the 15-day DL (hip, knee), retroactive to 5/27. [6/2]

Recalled INF-R Ed Rogers from Ottawa (Triple-A). [6/3]

Activated RHP Daniel Cabrera from the 15-day DL; designated C-R Raul Chavez for assignment. [6/5]

Losing Gibbons isn't quite the disaster it once was, but that's because Corey Patterson is providing some amount of lefty sock in the lineup. But it does keep the Orioles' lineup left with mostly-hopeless choices, where there's the almost daily question of which two of Luis Matos, Jeff Conine, or Kevin Millar to play, or whether or not the team should triple its self-hobbling fun by interrupting the education of Nick Markakis so that all three can play. Yes, you've really got something when Markakis' rough introduction to the major leagues is the highlight of that group, but the Orioles are trying to do something with their feeble assortment of choices by spotting Brendan Fahey and Rogers in the outfield. As ideas go, this is about as effective as adding turnips to the menu at your Yummy McNasty greasepit of choice: yes, it's different, but not really better, and telling people that you'll someday have something much better and entirely different, but possibly with flexible turnips, doesn't really inspire consumer confidence.

Cabrera's return coincides with the sluggardly decision to take Bruce Chen out of the rotation for a start, allowing the organization to stretch the experiment of "Exactly how unready is Adam Loewen, anyway?" out at least one more swing through the rotation. With five walks in five innings in his first start back, Cabrera doesn't seem to have picked up any additional command during his time away, so hopes that he's going to be magically Mazzonified into a quality starter remain premature for the time being.

Meanwhile, given their past antipathy, Chen might not mind spending his days in the pen, remote from Leo Mazzone, and Loewen might eventually demonstrate a capacity to give up less than two baserunners or a run per inning. Happily, the Orioles do seem intent on leaving Loewen in a starting role, but they're going to be better off seeing if they can get Chen back on track. To give Chen his prop (singular), he did post his first quality start of the year two starts ago, and after eight bad gigs, that has to be seen as something hopeful, but for the time being, he's been reduced to trying to argue that he's top dog in the "DIscredited VEteran Lefty" in the pen (DIVEL), or second pup to John Halama.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Placed RHP Jeff Nelson on the 15-day DL (ulnar neuritis), retroactive to 6/3; recalled RHP Agustin Montero from Charlotte (Triple-A). [6/4]

You can't say the Sox didn't test Nelson's limits, working him on back-to-back days twice, and asking him to pitch four times in seven days. I'd call that a decent bit of tire-kicking to see if Nelson's really fully operable, or if he'll just wind up being operationable yet again. Moral ambiguities of relying on a guilty PED fiend like Montero aside, he should be fine for a second go-round. Meanwhile, the Sox might be sensibly more cautious about how quickly they bring Nelson back, because if he can regain any element of his command to frisbee a few wicked sliders in August, September, and October, he'll be an asset.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Optioned RHP Chris Spurling to Toledo (Triple-A). [6/4]

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Recalled 3B-L Mark Teahen from Omaha (Triple-A); optioned SS/2B-B Andres Blanco to Omaha. [6/3]

Optioned RHP Seth Etherton to Omaha; recalled RHP Leonel Nunez from Omaha. [6/5]

Take these both as positive signs that there's a new sheriff in town (and one with the good sense not to say any such thing). It's hard not to be sympathetic to Etherton, because he's managed to get his career started back up again after nearly losing it to shoulder injuries, but let's face it, if you can't cut the mustard here, you can't make it on pickle relish alone to be a major league starter. The Royals haven't named a new fifth man in his absence, but there's no need to hurry. Teahen had no problem hitting in Omaha, pasting PCL pitchers at a .380/.500/.658 clip in 24 games, and I can see this as a case of seeing if there's ever going to be a player named Teahen or not. Alex Gordon might have to wait till September or next spring, but in the meantime, Dayton Moore would be better off sorting out who has value on the 40-man, and that involves looking at Teahen and getting a complete, day-in/day-out impression of Angel Berroa. Consider it an immersion experience, as Moore squeezes into a few weeks or months what the last couple of years have been like to Royals fans.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Optioned RHP Scott Baker to Rochester (Triple-A). [6/1]

Recalled 1B/3B-B Terry Tiffee from Rochester. [6/2]

It figures that the Twins would make a pair of moves to solve a pair of problems, and wind up solving neither. Tiffee doesn't really offer the team much of a solution to any of its problems. A contact hitter with little patience, he doesn't hit well enough to provide a reasonable claimant for the open DH slot, and doesn't play third effectively enough to really offer a regular alternative to Tony Batista at the hot corner. Spotting Batista with Tiffee now and again can't hurt, of course, but it's another example of making do from among the lousy options Terry Ryan restricted himself to this winter. Ideally, you might hope that Mike Cuddyer would move back to third, with Jason Kubel taking over in right, but that's probably too obvious an acknowledgment that the team flubbed the left side of the infield.

The rotation situation is a little more ticklish, because the Twins understandably want to see if they can make Carlos Silva useful again if they're going to entertain any hope of peddling him by the deadline. With Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano both doing well in the rotation, Scott Baker was the one pushed out of the nest. Ideally, the Twins won't let this devolve into a cuckoo situation, preferring Silva for too long over its own hatchlings, but Baker was the kid who'd pitched badly, and a couple of spins through the Rochester rotation won't hurt. If Silva's pitching for somebody else in August, and the Twins wind up with all three of their young hurlers in the rotation by season's end, it will have worked out for the best.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Returned RF-R Gary Sheffield to the 15-day DL (wrist), retroactive to 5/30; purchased the contract of OF-R Kevin Thompson from Columbus (Triple-A). [6/1]

Placed RHP Darrell Rasner on the 15-day DL (shoulder discomfort); recalled LHP Matt Smith from Columbus. [6/3]

Sheffield's season may very well be over. Everyone's hoping that a "heal thyself" approach might prevent a season-ending surgery and keep Sheffield in the club's playoff plans, but it appears to be a slender possibility. This radically alters the Yankees' outfield situation, because with Hideki Matsui already laid low, you're left with a sort of grim recognition that, yes, Melky Cabrera is probably the team's second-best player in the outfield, and more plaintive questions over how much Terrence Long is toxic to a lineup. (Hmmm, could this add up to a consulting gig for Allard Baird? Inquiring minds want to know.) Least-likely among their solutions will be their turning to either Kevin Reese (who's back in Columbus) or Thompson.

Although Thompson wasn't doing all bad as a Clipper, hitting .288/.380/.453, he's going to have to get past Long and Bernie Williams if he's going to get much playing time, and that seems sadly unlikely. However, keep in mind that's a ripple effect of a relatively good thing, which is Joe Torre's recently-discovered trust in Andy Phillips. With Phillips getting starts at first and DH, that lowers the likelihood that Torre will have some underling write in both Long's and Williams' names on the same lineup card. You can count on Yankees fans to continue baying for an outfielder, any outfielder, but "discovering" Phillips represents one bit of silver lining, and if the organization had the nerve to just alternate Williams and Thompson in right, things wouldn't be quite as dire as you might think.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Placed 2B-R Mark Ellis on the 15-day DL (broken thumb), retroactive to 5/31; recalled C-R Jeremy Brown from Sacramento (Triple-A). [6/1]

Optioned LHP Ron Flores to Sacramento. [6/3]

Activated RHP Rich Harden from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Jeremy Brown and RHP Matt Roney to Sacramento. [6/4]

How smart is Oakland after all? Losing Ellis isn't only insignificant if you were expecting him to repeat last season's performance this year--it's a particularly hard blow when it appears that the default selection for replacing him is Marco Scutaro. You might hope that Antonio Perez would get a look, but as the coldest of all cold Opening Day roster players marooned in a usage pattern one step above Torre-fied and one below "Neglected," the notion might not pop up in Ken Macha's mental menu. So a bad lineup gets worse, and it's likely to stay that way.

Perhaps we have to call this the Curse of Dick Green, because second base remains the organization's historically ill-fated position. Green's refusal to play for Charlie Finley at any price may just as well have been accompanied with a hex that forced fans to endure Tony Phillips' perpetual injury concerns, Brent Gates' ruined wrist, or ever having to watch the immortal Shooty Babbitt, but it seems like Ellis is just as snakebit as everyone else the team has turned to in the decades since Green's departure for a Finley-free lifestyle.

Brown and Roney got sent back down to Sacto in anticipation of the returns of Jay Witasick and Milton Bradley from the DL today, and I'll touch on that in greater length in our next installment..

TEXAS RANGERS
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Purchased the contract of RHP John Wasdin; optioned LHP C.J. Wilson to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [6/1]

It was only a matter of time, but the suggestion of a Rangers' staff without its Wasdin is like a magazine without a breathless Paris Hilton interview--"I like champagne-brand champagne. It says so on the bottle." "She can read!" With Wasdin, it might be a matter of his deathless ability to throw strikes, and his zen-like unflappability in the face of another bad day, courtesy of his junk and that right-field jet stream in The Mallpark. He was doing his usual thing in Oklahoma, striking out 61 and walking 17 in 58 frames, with an impressive 2.17 ERA masking a bossload of of unearned runs; he was actually allowing 3.6 runs per nine. You can probably expect him to do what he always has as a utility pitcher--sometimes mopping up, sometimes making a spot start, and perhaps filching the occasional save.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Placed RHP Scott Williamson on the 15-day DL (elbow soreness); recalled RHP Carlos Marmol from West Tenn (Double-A). [6/4]

Williamson's elbow soreness doesn't seem to be of the long-term variety, so it's expected that he'll be back after the minimum, but the pen was short-handed, and this is being treated as another opportunity to take a quick peek at one of the system's better arms. Marmol was dominant in Double-A, striking out 67 in 58 IP across 11 starts (against 25 walks), allowing only 42 hits and one home run. In The Show, he's expected to only pitch out of the pen, and the caprices of Cub roster management may well make his cameo especially brief. Perhaps Dusty Baker might conjure memories of another former catcher who blossomed as a reliever on his watch--Felix Rodriguez. Like a young Rodriguez, Marmol throws a good low-90s fastball, and given the results, it looks like his work on his off-speed and breaking stuff has generated benefits.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Optioned RHP Justin Germano to Louisville (Triple-A). [6/5]

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Activated C-R Yorvit Torrealba from the 15-day DL; optioned C-R Miguel Ojeda to Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [6/2]

Designated RHP Sun-Woo Kim and INF-L Jason Smith for assignment; recalled RHP Scott Dohmann and 2B/SS-L Omar Quintanilla from Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [6/3]

Nothing like a losing streak to fire up a crusading zeal for roster improvment. Frankly, both Kim and Smith are easily-replaced journeymen, so ditching them both doesn't really matter much in the grand scheme of things. There's good reason for the team to be interested in sorting out whether or not Dohmann and Quintanilla are going to stick on the 40-man roster. Dohmann lost his spot to Kim's return from the DL, but Kim's pitching in the last eleven days made it easy to reverse the decision. Dohmann isn't a kid at 28, so if he's going to stick, there's no time like the present. Quintanilla was not hitting well at Colorado Springs, only .286/.354/.381 in a nice hitter's park, but he is only 24, and if he can play both short and second, his hitting lefty might make him a nifty alternative to Jamey Carroll at second while giving the Rockies a solid alternative to Clint Barmes. It all represents improvement over their past fascination with Luis Gonzalez.

Salvation can find many forms, but while a catching platoon of Torrealba and J.D. Closser might not represent a reversal of fortune, it probably is the best-case alignment of the club's in-house catching alternatives for the time being. Torrealba's not the prospect some Giants fans briefly pretended him to be, but he's a good receiver and six weeks shy of his 28th birthday, and as a catch-and-throw alternative to Closser, gives the Rockies a decent job-sharing arrangement behind the plate. To a certain extent, all of those options--Closser and Torrealba, Danny Ardoin or Ojeda--are all basically fighting for one job, because eventually Chris Iannetta will be up, probably to stay. That might happen sooner than roster September expansion if Iannetta continues to hit at a .317/.414/.600 clip in Double-A.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Activated RHP Carlos Martinez from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of LHP Taylor Tankersley from Carolina (Double-A); designated RHPs Todd Wellemeyer and Franklyn German for assignment. [6/2]

The Marlins are a good example of the freedom you have if you can avoid having any major financial commitments to the mediocre and well-traveled. German has yet to pitch since being reactivated from the DL, and given his poor performance in the early going, he may well slip through waivers. Wellemeyer might not slip through quite as easily, but again, the Fish can afford to take the risk, since both pitchers were other people's castoffs, and were not counted among the organization's premium pitching prospects (homegrown or imported). If there's a message here, beyond the acknowledgment that performance matters, consider it pointed at the equally ineffective Matt Herges, and perhaps eventually Scuffy Moehler. I don't think it's inconceivable that we'll see them field a pitching staff in September entirely made up of people who have shown up on prospect lists, and that's kind of cool, almost the exact opposite of what the original Marlins staff of 1993--a solid collection of journeymen, vets, and expansion draft picks--was built around.

Martinez is back and dialing it up into the low to mid 90s, so he should be an asset if he gets regular work. Another one of the team's home-grown goodies, Tankersley seems to have undergone a successful conversion to relief work. He's up having tossed 28.1 IP, allowing 25 baserunners while striking out 40. That's not really that remarkable, since we're talking about somebody who was pitching at a big-college program, Alabama, two years ago. He's not overpowering, but he's not a powder-puff lefty either, and might well turn into a significant asset as a reliever.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Chris Sampson from Round Rock (Triple-A); optioned LHP Mike Gallo to Round Rock; transferred 1B-R Jeff Bagwell from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/2]

The strange case of Mike Gallo--major league pitcher?--never seems to achieve any kind of lasting resolution, but that's because no matter how often they make him one, the Astros keep rediscovering that Gallo just isn't a consistent or even occasionally effective situational lefty. With Trever Miller doing a plausibly survivable job in the role, and the club's frequent experience of doing without a lefty reliever altogether, Gallo was suitably doomed to demotion.

Having figured out that a pitcher who does nothing well isn't the best use of a roster spot, the Astros made the refreshing change to Sampson. He was doing well in Round Rock, tossing ten starts, logging 61.1 IP, allowing 3.4 runs per nine and boasting a nice 35-5 strikeout-walk ratio. Brooks Kieschnick junkies might also note that Sampson was hitting .522, with only four strikeouts in 23 at-bats. This shouldn't be a huge surprise: when he was drafted by the Astros in 1999, Sampson was a shortstop out of Texas Tech. He didn't do that badly for a future pitcher at the plate in his single season down in Auburn as a shortstop, drawing walks and stealing bases at a 21-of-26 clip. Utility pitcher and pinch-runner? That would be sort of cool. Now 28, he's in his fourth year of pitching in the system, and came into this season with a 4-1 career strikeout-walk ratio. You wouldn't think the team would need a second long relief option behind Dave Borkowski, but the rotation's looking pretty frayed with Roy Oswalt's health in doubt and Wandy Rodriguez's clay feet showing up a few weeks after the rest of him did this season.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Placed 2B-R Jeff Kent on the 15-day DL (sprained wrist); recalled LF-R Joel Guzman from Las Vegas (Triple-A). [6/1]

Optioned LHP Tim Hamulack to Las Vegas; recalled LHP Hong-Chih Kuo from Las Vegas. [6/4]

You might think that losing Kent on top of already losing Bill Mueller means a return to last season's rash of injuries, but this year's team is well-positioned to handle the losses. Admittedly, Kent's bat won't be easily replaced, not if the plan is to have his lineup slot filled by Guzman. Guzman wasn't doing much damage at Vegas, hitting only .291/.346/.418, and our own Kevin Goldstein has already done a good job of documenting what's wrong with the big kid.

Nevertheless, the Dodgers are electing to press him into action at third, where he'll alternate with Willy Aybar and Olmedo Saenz. Aybar's also going to be a major part of the committee that's manning second in Kent's place, alternating with Ramon Martinez and perhaps Oscar Robles. Having already gotten good work from Aybar, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp in the outfield, and Russell Martin behind the plate, the Dodgers seem well-positioned to handle the departure of another fragile veteran. Mueller's gone for another month by the look of things, but Kent might respond well to a couple of weeks off, which would put Aybar back at third and Guzman in the PCL once he comes back to the keystone.

I'm less sanguine about exchanging Hamulack for Kuo, but that's just because I'm enthusiastic about Kuo's ability to be something more than a situational clown. If he shows better command, he'll do more than just stick, he could become one of the club's best relievers.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Outrighted RHP Chris Mabeus to Nashville (Triple-A); optioned LHP Dana Eveland to Nashville; purchased the contracts of LHP Zack Jackson and RHP Allan Simpson from Nashville; transferred RHP Rick Helling from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [6/3]

Simpson's just the latest warm body to be cycled through one of the non-Danny Kolb, touchable bullpen roster spots, and likely to learn what everyone else has before him, which is that where that roster merry-go-round is concerned, Kolb keeps his chair and never has to dance.

Perhaps Kolb is profiting from the club's greatest concern, which is putting together a rotation. Jackson is up as the latest sometime solution to the problem. Arguably the steal of the Lyle Overbay deal with the Blue Jays, he was doing okay as a Sound, allowing 3.6 runs per nine, but putting up only a 39-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 57 IP. A strikethrower from his days in Triple-A, he's got a good assortment and better-than-average velocity for a lefty, so if that works better than Eveland's overpowering but wild fastball, score one for the command fiends.

I'm not really happy about this turn of events, considering the Brewers are mulling whether or not to start Jackson or Jeremi Gonzalez--remember kids, a hole in the head is not an option. Eveland's five-start trial really wasn't a legitimate shot, and considering the club's got the Jackson v. Gonzalez debate to resolve in one slot, and situational washout Jorge de la Rosa futzing around in another, this looks more like roster solutions by Otis Campbell than a coherent plan for either developing talent or keep the team's fading postseason hopes alive. Helling might bring an end to some aspect of this madness, but he's two rehab starts away from being activated.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Optioned RHP Gavin Floyd to Scranton/Wilkes Barre (Triple-A). [6/2]

There was a happy synchronicity for the Phillies, in that once they'd plugged Eude Brito to replace Jon Lieber on the double-quick, they also recognized they'd be getting Cole Hamels back from the DL in time to take Floyd's next turn, at which point it was worth getting punitive and deservedly dropping Floyd a rung down for his miserable first two months. Giving up 23 runs in his last four starts (18.2 IP) no doubt cinched things, so Floyd can work on getting back on track while the team gets to see if Brito's generally good fastball is enough to keep him in the rotation.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Placed C-B Ryan Doumit on the 15-day DL (reinjured hamstring); UT-R Yurendell De Caster from Indianapolis. [6/5]

Doumit's re-injury is a bit frustrating, but it does keep things simple behind the plate. It's pretty clearly becoming Ronny Paulino's job to lose (reducing Humberto Cota to a backup role he's well-suited for). Ideally, the Pirates will be able to get Doumit healthy and then start using him as the sweetener in deadline deals to dump veteran junk like Sean Casey and Jeromy Burnitz, and get somebody else's blue chipper for their trouble. De Caster wasn't hitting at Indy, so it isn't like Jose Hernandez should start losing sleep.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Placed C-R Mike Matheny on the 15-day DL (concussion), retroactive to 6/1; recalled C-R Eliezer Alfonzo from Connecticut (Double-A). [6/2]

Optioned 2B-R Kevin Frandsen to Fresno. [6/5]

Alfonzo's arrival highlights the team's lack of options. He flopped at Fresno at season's start, and had to re-do an assignment at Double-A, where he also wasn't hitting. When you're 27, already suspended for PED use, and not hitting all too well, your opportunities start depending on the occasional injury and not your purported ability. This really was a miserable choice as far as finding a replacement for Matheny, but when the alternatives include Todd Greene and Justin Knoedler, perhaps this is the product of having one of the most durable catchers in baseball. Unfortunately, even a player as universally respected for his toughness as Matheny can be broken.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Purchased the contract of OF-L Timo Perez from Memphis (Triple-A); optioned RHP Anthony Reyes to Memphis. [6/2]

Placed 1B-R Albert Pujols on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); recalled OF/1B-L Chris Duncan from Memphis. [6/4]

Pujols may be out a month or six weeks, and that on top of the Rocket's re-launching really alters the landscape where contention in the Central Division is concerned. This is a particularly bad break for the Cardinals because of the timing. We're weeks away from the decisions to cut bait on veteran chums that the non-contenders finally come to around the trading deadline, so Walt Jocketty won't be easily able to fix this problem with some quick raiding of the game's weaker sisters. How can the club fix this obvious problem? Duncan might provide some sock, but he's almost as brutal in left as he is at first, and being Klesko-level bi-awful at the two positions leaves the Cardinals with an outfield of ... who? El Timo? Tito Landrum, anybody?

Best-case scenarios would have to involve Edmonds getting back out to center from his current restrictions to first base, with Duncan perhaps muffing throws instead of flies in his place at first, John Rodriguez playing regularly or platooning in one corner, and some combination of platoon work and spot starts for the dreck. The dreck makes the need to keep both Edmonds and Rodriguez healthy pretty desperate--Juan Encarnacion and Larry Bigbie both look like the bad ideas they were identified as this winter, and "Me" So Taguchi resembles nothing better than a fourth outfielder. At least Taguchi can handle center in Edmonds' outfield absence, which happily limits the amount of time that might go to Encarnacion or Bigbie, but it's an ugly situation, and one that Jocketty will be hard-pressed to solve at this point in the season.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Placed RHP Santiago Ramirez on the 15-day DL (strained elbow). [6/2]

Recalled INF-R Brendan Harris from New Orleans (Triple-A). [6/3]

The infield isn't quite the disaster that the outfield has become, so you might think that Harris won't get much more playing time this time around than he did during the last. However, Jose Vidro's knee remains a problem, and if he finally broke down or if the club acknowledged his serious problems on the deuce, Harris might finally get some playing time. Also, Ryan Zimmerman is struggling with some back trouble, so the likelihood of a few spot starts for Harris seems pretty good.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

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