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April 12, 2007

Transaction of the Day

Roster Reviews of the Easts

by Christina Kahrl


IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Optioned RHP Sean Tracey to Norfolk (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Steve Green and Andy Mitchell, C-R Eli Whiteside, C/OF-R J.R. House, 1B/3B-S Terry Tiffee, 1B/3B-R Mike Cervenak, UT-S Cesar Crespo, OF-R Jon Knott, and OF-S Ruddy Yan to their minor league camp; acquired C-R Alberto Castillo from the Red Sox for OF-L Cory Keylor. [3/27]
Optioned OF-L Adam Stern to Norfolk (Triple-A); reassigned C-R Alberto Castillo and RHP Paul Shuey to their minor league camp. [3/28]
Placed OF-R Jay Payton and RHP Sendy Rleal on the 15-day DL; outrighted RHP Todd Williams to Norfolk. [4/1]
Purchased the contract of C-R Alberto Castillo from Norfolk; optioned LHP Brian Burres to Norfolk. [4/2]
Placed C-R Ramon Hernandez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/31; recalled LHP Kurt Birkins from Norfolk. [4/8]

Roster Shape: 12 position players, 13 pitchers, and nothing resembling a clue. I don't which pitcher I'd get rid of first-the third lefty, or the still-lifeless Scott Williamson. How about both, and put together a real team instead of an elaborate overcompensation gesture for last year's bullpen problems?

Surprises and Disappointments: Losing Ramon Hernandez was obviously disappointing. Not that Keylor's a prospect, but why do you trade for the definitive lousy backup catcher? Castillo's among the worst plateblockers in the game, and the Twins took advantage of his newness to his latest team and humiliated him in his first start. Offensively, he's a decisive zero. What's the point of trading for someone who doesn't know your pitchers, and has no other value? Why not just purchase the contract of J.R. House, to give them an alternative to Paul Bako who can hit? At least he's caught the pitchers on this staff all spring, and while he's no Mike Stanley in the making, he's more dangerous than the Paul Bakos or the Alberto Castillos of the world. Basically, what's more humiliating-that the Orioles felt they needed Alberto Castillo, or that they knew where to find him?People on the downslope towards harmlessness are here in profusion.

New Developments: I don't think Hernandez's super slo-mo move to the DL qualifies as new.

Cool Tactical Options? Between Chris Gomez playing all four infield positions, and Aubrey Huff all four corners, and Freddy Bynum everywhere but first and third, the Orioles could make a truly inspiring number of position switches in-game. On the other hand, this ends up coming with consequences-Gomez is your platoon first baseman? Bynum's a fun little player, a guy who play short or center, and pinch-run, but when that versatility inspires an eight-man pen, he becomes a sort of handmaiden to a very bad idea. If the Orioles had a bench, I guess they could interchangeably use their almost equally useless catchers, and pinch-hit aggressively for them. But then that might require a third catcher, which actually be a lot more useful in Hernandez's absence than an eighth reliever. Yes, even if it was Eli Whiteside.

If you think Steve Trachsel's a slow worker, just remember that it can get worse-they could pull him after 19 outs, and use one reliever for each of the last eight. Not that it's likely to happen, but were I Czarina in Bud's place, I'd suspend the manager for a week if it did, as well as refund the tickets of anyone who forgot to bring guides-for sustenance, because let's face it, you may start wondering if you may never get home around the fifth pitching change.

Is This Really Going to Work? The rotation is the thing to watch, because of the three kids who seem to be rounding into shape on Mazzone's watch, but also because it'll be worthwhile to see if he can resurrect Jaret Wright. And I'm a self-described Trachsel fan, so you know I think they'll be entertaining once every five days. I sort of like the outfield-I'd like to see both Corey Patterson and Nick Markakis build off their 2006 seasons, and there's a scientific curiosity to seeing how well or badly Jay Gibbons handles thundering around out there in left. It's got to be better than watching Kevin Millar try to play any position, doesn't it?

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned RHPs Manny Delcarmen and Craig Hansen to Pawtucket (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Bryan Corey to their minor league camp; acquired OF-L Cory Keylor from the Orioles for C-R Alberto Castillo. [3/27]
Placed RHPs Matt Clement and Mike Timlin and LHP Jon Lester on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/23. [3/28]
Claimed RHP J.D. Durbin off of waivers from the Diamondbacks. [4/8]
Activated RHP Mike Timlin from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Javier Lopez to Pawtucket; designated RHP J.D. Durbin for assignment. [4/10]

Roster Shape: 13 position players, 12 pitchers, and the nicely-played risk with nabbing Durbin and seeing if he'll finally pass through waivers and be able to take up a minor league assignment, or if there's one more team with a spot on the 40-man they're willing to clear to see if he's ever going to ever get turned around.

Surprises and Disappointments: Maybe I'm still laboring with an unhealthy amount of faith in some of the younger arms, but I'm disappointed that neither Manny Delcarmen nor Craig Hansen earned jobs in camp. The Sox couldn't really bring either of them up after watching them both spontaneously combust during spring training, and added to the sudden understandable lack of enthusiasm for the Pineiro-as-closer project, there was a virtual shower of scales falling from the Red Sox' eyes where their bullpen was concerned (complete with nervous behavior).

Tavarez in the fifth slot seems to be a guaranteed vehicle for disappointment-has everyone so quickly forgotten that four of his six starts weren't good? I would rather they take their chances on someone like Hideki Okajima or Devern Hansack while waiting to see how things go with Jon Lester's slow recovery, but I guess the positive of putting Tavarez in the rotation is that it makes it almost impossible to reach either of the incentives (65 appearances in 2007, or 125 appearances combined in 2006-2007) that would guarantee his 2008 option. I guess I just like the notion of putting Lester into a rotation where the other four starters are righthanders who are entirely unlike one another, but all good things to those who wait.

New Developments: Lopez's going down might be a matter of convenience (he's optionable), but he put three of the seven lefty hitters he faced on base, and that's generally not what you want from a situational guy. I'd probably have kept Lopez instead of J.C. Romero, but the Sox want to see what Romero can do, and they can always flip that around if Romero continues to struggle. More happily, between Kyle Snyder and Okajima, the club has a nice right-lefty tandem capable of handling long relief assignments. I asked aloud about where have all the mop-up men gone on Monday, but lookee here, the Red Sox have Snyder. The problem is that they've oversold Snyder as all that and the proverbial a bag of chips-perhaps not as badly as they have Julian Tavarez or Joel Pineiro, but there's something downright frantic about how some segments of Red Sox Nation gets frothed up about the most unlikely sorts. By comparison, Yankee fans only granted warm bodies like Jason Grimsley or Tanyon Sturtze a sort of perfunctory enthusiasm.

Cool Tactical Options? Eric Hinske's a good insurance policy in all four corners (plus DH), but if Mike Lowell drops off as steeply as I think he will, Hinske could wind up getting sucked into a lot of work at the hot corner (or first, if the Sox prefer playing Kevin Youkilis at third in the circumstance of Lowell's decline and fall), especially if Terry Francona makes a point of avoiding playing David Ortiz at first. Although the club doesn't have a backup center fielder (they know they can go find him at Pawtucket), Wily Mo Pena's readily available for spot starts in either outfield corner. I guess there's also the ability to spot-start Alex Cora for Dustin Pedroia against tough right-handers.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Optioned OF-L Kevin Reese and OF-R Kevin Thompson to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Triple-A). [3/27]
Outrighted 1B-R Andy Phillips to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; reassigned INF-R Chris Basak to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; released C-R Todd Pratt; optioned RHPs Colter Bean and Chris Britton to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [3/30]
Released LHP Ron Villone and C-S Ben Davis; reassigned C-R Jason Brown to Trenton (Double-A); placed RHPs Chien-Ming Wang, Jose Veras, and Humberto Sanchez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/23, and RHP Jeff Karstens on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/26. [3/31]
Signed LHP Ron Villone to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [4/4]
Placed OF-L Hideki Matsui on the 15-day DL; recalled OF-R Kevin Thompson from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [4/8]

Roster Shape: 13 position players, 12 pitchers, and nobody named Bernie Williams.

Surprises and Disappointments: The disappointment is winding up with both Wang and Karstens on the DL, putting the Bombers in the unexpected predicament of having to rely on Carl Pavano, let alone use Darrell Rasner. Still, they're really only one starter down in terms of slots-losing Karstens only means they just lost their first choice to replace Wang, and Wang's only out until the end of the month. It's an inconvenience, but it's not the end of the world.

From the happier variety of surprises, Josh Phelps won a share of the first base job; I'd expect that if Doug Mientkiewicz's inability doesn't inspire team president Randy Levine to dive uninvited into team operations and sign Travis Lee or trade for Jeff Conine, Phelps might actually have a chance to earn some larger share of the playing time at first. It wouldn't be the worse solution for this lineup-sort of like the years where they were winning with Moose Skowron playing first and batting low in the order, the rest of the team can plate plenty of runs, and Phelps only has to be a solid contributor, not a star-caliber first baseman.

New Developments: Mike Mussina's hammy barked. While that only contributes to the more and more urgent questioning over when does Philip Hughes get here, it looks like it won't necessitate a DL move. It wouldn't be the worst idea to give Hughes a taste of big league action, anticipating that he'd be going down no matter what; they can always bring him back once Carl Pavano implodes, and the limited test-run might help take the edge off his really stepping into the rotation.

Cool Tactical Options? Generally frowned on here. There's a first base platoon-for the Yankees, that's a big deal. They go for muscle-minded directness over more supple roster manipulation. It hasn't hurt them during the regular season, just the last few Octobers.

You Really Shouldn't Care: ... but Jay Jaffe and I both saw our picks for Yankee backup backstop go down, as Torre surprised us all by picking Wil Nieves. That's the risk when you're left pondering the relative virtues of Nieves, Raul Chavez, or Pratt.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Outrighted RHP Scott Dohmann to Durham (Triple-A); optioned RHP Tim Corcoran and LHP J.P. Howell to Durham. [3/28]
Released RHP Dan Miceli. [3/29]
Optioned RHPs Seth McClung and Chad Orvella to Durham; assigned 1B-L Carlos Pena to their minor league camp. [3/30]
Optioned INF-R Jorge Cantu and C-R Shawn Riggans to Durham; reassigned C-S Raul Casanova, OF-R Dustan Mohr, and INF-R Jorge Velandia to their minor league camp; placed 4C-S Greg Norton on the 15-day DL (knee). [3/31]
Purchased the contracts of RHPs Gary Glover and Al Reyes from Durham; signed 1B-L Carlos Pena to a major league contract, adding him to the active roster; transfered LHP Jon Switzer from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/1]

Roster Shape: 13 position players, 12 pitchers

Surprises and Disappointments: Just about everything about this team could be seen as surprising-B.J. Upton at second base? Jonny Gomes on the bench? Jorge Cantu a Durham Bull? Elijah Dukes up and starting in center field? And what's going to happen once Rocco Baldelli is healthy enough to play in the outfield? Will Gomes start getting DH time? Or will Dukes have decisively won a job for himself by then, making Gomes readily available in trade? The great thing about having this much talent is that you can understand and defend their choices; it just remains to be seen whether or not they're committed to their good ideas coming out of camp, or if they will vacillate should anyone struggle.

As far as disappointments, I'm probably more willing to second-guess the decision to send down J.P. Howell and entrust Edwin Jackson with a rotation spot than I am about Cantu's fall from grace. Still, there's a lot of faith here that they will finally get Jackson ironed out, and if it works, they can always bring Howell back up once somebody else doesn't work out.

While I'm sad to see Norton break down, I'm happy to see fellow Chicago refugee Brendan Harris break camp with the team. He's being asked to be the primary backup for Ben Zobrist at short, which won't be easy for him, but Harris does offer a little more pop than Zobrist than your usual utility infielder.

Cool Tactical Options? Ty Wiggington, rover? It's sort of cool if he can play second well enough to make him a non-shortstop infield supersub (I have my doubts), but the idea that he's going to play nearly regularly at first base is a wee bit goofy. It's up to Carlos Pena to hit his way into more of a platoon, and while has the ability, he's disappointed people before.

Is This Really Going to Work? The bullpen that Joe Maddon broke camp with is particularly interesting. There are only two holdovers (Shawn Camp and Ruddy Lugo), former Cubs prospect Jae-Kuk Ryu, organizational soldier Brian Stokes, and three different flavors of retread. Al Reyes has gotten plenty of attention as a nice retread who might stick in the closer's role once he proves durable enough to handle pitching on consecutive days as he recovers from his October '05 Tommy John operation. Then there's Gary Glover, someone I've always liked as he's knocked around through a half-dozen organizations. Back from a relatively disappointing season spent with Yomiuri in the Japanese Leagues, he's won the job as the club's long reliever. And lastly there's Juan Salas, a position player conversion project who's made the jump to moundsman and shown an overpowering fastball.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Reassigned OF-L Jeff Duncan to their minor league camp. [3/26]
Outrighted LHP Brian Tallet to Syracuse (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Geremi Gonzalez to their minor league camp. [3/29]
Designated RHP Francisco Rosario for assignment; purchased the contracts of RHPs Josh Towers and Victor Zambrano and 1B/OF-L Matt Stairs; placed RHP John Thomson and LHP Davis Romero on the 15-day DL; reassigned C-R Sal Fasano to their minor league camp. [3/31]
Sold RHP Francisco Rosario to the Phillies. [4/5]

Roster Shape: 13 hitters and 12 pitchers, including all three of their options at shortstop but nobody you could really rely upon as an outfield reserve.

Surprises and Disappointments: The comebacks of Zambrano and Towers have to be considered a couple of surprises, to be sure. Towers winning the fifth spot in the rotation was already pretty remarkable, since he'd become something of a white elephant after washing out last season. But he still has the same virtues he's always had, throwing strikes and relying heavily on his defense, and that's not the worst couple of qualities in a fifth starter. If he tanks, they only have this year to run on the prematurely munificent contract they gave him, and nobody's likely to claim him on waivers this time around either (he passed through last year with nary a claim). Zambrano, I'm not really sold on, since he showed a lack of real control in camp, but he's coming back from elbow surgery and trying to live down the huge mistake the Mets made in dealing for him. If Zambrano winds up being an adequate mop-up man, that's still something, but in a pen crowded with younger guys looking to start and also available for middle relief work, he could be crowded out.

Keeping both Royce Clayton and John McDonald, as well as veteran infielder Jason Smith... what's the goal there? To have enough warm bodies to play short that John Gibbons can afford to take a page from the Dick Williams playbook and pinch-hit Stairs (or Smith) for his shortstops once a game if he so chooses? That's actually not the worst idea, but it's a lot easier to manage with 14 position players.

Cool Tactical Options? It's sort of cool that both Casey Janssen and Shaun Marcum stuck in sort of classic Weaver middle relief roles; you have to expect they'll both be watching Towers' and Tomo Ohka's starts with a bit of self-interest.

Is This Really Going to Work? The absence of a backup outfielder is sort of goofy, but if Vernon Wells had to come out of a game (for example), they could push either Alex Rios or Reed Johnson over into center and finish the game with Smith or Stairs in a corner. And then make a phonecall to Syracuse, because they basically can't afford an injury to an outfielder that costs them anything more than a day or two. That's where they might option out an extra pitcher to bring up a suddenly-necessary reserve, a gambit the Angels have employed to good effect in recent seasons.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Placed LHP Mike Hampton, RHP Tanyon Sturtze, and 2B/2B-B Willy Aybar on the 15-day DL; optioned RHPs Kyle Davies and Peter Moylan and 2B-R Martin Prado to Richmond (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Buddy Carlyle, LHP Steve Colyer, C-R Corky Miller, OF-L Doug Clark, 2B/SS-R Yunel Escobar, and UT-L Willie Harris to their minor league camp. [3/30]
Placed RHP Lance Cormier on 15-day DL (strained triceps), retroactive to 3/31; recalled RHP Kyle Davies from Richmond. [4/4]

Roster Shape: 13 position players, 12 pitchers, but nevertheless, there's platooning, tactical weapons, and a pen which should handily be able to take up any slack from the back end of the rotation.

Surprises and Disappointments: I'm personally disappointed to see Moylan go down, because he had a good camp (12 baserunners and 11 Ks in a dozen frames), but that's my bias in favor of side-armers talking. Since I figure Tyler Yates or Chad Paronto could go pumpkin on us (second- or third-tier relievers have tremendous squash potential), so I expect the Aussie to be back. The Braves have plenty of depth in the pen should anybody wash out; I'm even more enthusiastic about the possibilities of seeing Phil Stockman make it back up if/when he's healed up.

New Developments: The Hampton meltdown was something the Braves were already coping with, but really, when did that last matter? Finding somebody better than Hampton has been (as opposed to who he used to be) isn't that much of a challenge, and it seemed like Cormier had dibs on the slot after a good camp. However, I like Davies' long-term prospects much better than Cormier's so this exchange in the fourth slot of the rotation isn't really a surprise, a disappointment, or a setback. It's just a different scenario.

Cool Tactical Options? Bless Bobby Cox, he managed to build a lineup with two platoons while still carrying seven relievers. How many managers can pull that off? As a result, in any individual game, the bench has whichever first baseman isn't starting between Craig Wilson or Scott Thorman, and either Ryan Langerhans or Matt Diaz from the platoon in left. Wilson and Thorman can both be flipped over to the outfield as needed, and so can second baseman Kelly Johnson. Technically, you can even consider the Braves to have a semi/sorta platoon at second between Johnson and his right-handed counterpart (and probable frequent defensive replacement) Chris Woodward. And while Woodward's not much of a guy to put a sting in the ball, having a backup infielder beyond primary pinch-runner Pete Orr gives Cox the full spread as far as his tactical menu, and courtesy of Brandon Isleib, we know he likes that.

Is This Really Going to Work? Kelly Johnson's conversion to second base was the most interesting thing to ponder about this team all spring, and it looks like it's going to work well enough, although I still worry about how often he may end up muffing the deuce. Still, he's replacing Marcus Giles afield, not Bill Mazeroski, and in the rotation, there's really only Tim Hudson as far as a groundballer who might kvetch over the differences. However, if Johnson has some ugly patches, the Braves have a strong enough lineup to potentially punt a lineup slot and go with a defensive-minded choice at second base during Hudson's starts.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Released RHPs Felix Rodriguez and Mike Koplove and OF-L Alex Sanchez; optioned CF-L Eric Reed to Albuquerque (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Roy Corcoran, C-R Paul Hoover, and UT-S Zach Sorensen to their minor league camp. [3/28]
Placed RHPs Josh Johnson, Jose Garcia, Logan Kensing, and Carlos Martinez on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/23; traded 1B-R Jason Stokes to the Athletics for C-L John Baker. [3/30]
Purchased the contracts of CF-L Alejandro De Aza from Carolina (Double-A), and RHP Lee Gardner and INF-R Jason Wood from Albuquerque. [4/1]
Placed RHP Ricky Nolasco on the 15-day DL (elbow); purchased the contract of RHP Rick Vanden Hurk from Carolina. [4/9]
Optioned RHP Lee Gardner to Albuquerque. [4/11]

Roster Shape: 13-12, and not a one of them is Alex Sanchez, while a 37-year-old minor league veteran (Wood) is. That's just a little proof of a basic rightness of the order of things. On the other hand, this team isn't really the collection of kids you might think it is. On the bench, there are guys like Wood and Aaron Boone, and other spare parts like Matt Treanor, Alfredo Amezaga, and Joe Borchard aren't spring chickens. In the pen, new "kids" like Henry Owens and Matt Lindstrom are 28 and 27 this year. It's easy to just see Miguel Cabrera, Hanley Ramirez, and Anibal Sanchez,and think this is a kiddie corps, but it isn't-Larry Beinfest has instead surrounded his core talent with some mid-career professionals. It's not a good thing or a bad thing.

Surprises and Disappointments: De Aza winning the job in center, and vanquishing his various rivals in what initially looked like a contest to determine the tallest midget in the circus. But that's not entirely fair to De Aza-he's not just another slap-and-dash water bug, instead showing a good line-drive bat, although one with little or no power. He is fast, and that's not a bad thing, and that speed makes him an even more effective outfielder; he's a good on his routes and plays an instinctual, far-ranging center. So while he isn't going to be the next Ken Griffey Jr., he might be a better-fielding Juan Pierre for a thirtieth of the price, and that's a lot better than Reggie Abercrombie. And it spares them from playing Alex Sanchez, perhaps one of the most amazingly unproductive players to get real playing time in a center in the major leagues since Miguel Dilone.

You might be concerned that the outfield still isn't at full strength, as they've lost Hermida to yet another injury. Forced to rely on reserves, it isn't like they're playing Quinton McCracken-this is what Borchard and Cody Ross are for, and while neither is a prospect any more, both have a bit of sock. They're not the source of frustration-Hermida is.

New Developments: Losing the Nolasco Kid isn't good news, and calling up Vanden Hurk (an actual Dutch prospect, not an Aruban import) is something of a quickie solution for the vacancy in the rotation, considering he only just got out of A-ball. I'm not wild about what this means in terms of elevating Sergio Mitre to the unskippable fourth slot, but I suppose the Fish could explore using Kevin Gregg for a couple of turns. The other non-closing relievers, like Owens, Lindstrom, and Randy Messenger, have all looked relatively good in the early going. The real problem is that with six pitchers on the 15-day DL, they don't have a ton of choices, but they're at 39 on the 40-man, so purchasing the contract of an alternative to Vanden Hurk or Gregg is possible-the problem there is why would you want to purchase the contract of someone like Wes Obermueller or Chris George?

Cool Tactical Options? I suppose if he wanted to flip Cabrera to an outfield corner and play Boone at third, that's an option; the downside is that it involves playing Boone. Amezaga can play pretty much anywhere if asked.

Is This Really Going to Work? Jorge Julio seems to blown several gaskets at once, which makes the decision to deal Yusmeiro Petit for him look really, really bad for the time being. Happily, Taylor Tankersley will come off of the DL today, which at least gives Fredi Gonzalez some options late in the game.

NEW YORK METS
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Purchased the contracts of RHPs Joe Smith and Aaron Sele; optioned OF-R Ben Johnson and SS/2B-S Anderson Hernandez to New Orleans (Triple-A); reassigned RHP Lino Urdaneta, C-Rs Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Mike DiFelice, 1B-L Mike Carp, and 2B-S Ruben Gotay to their minor league camp. [3/29]
Outrighted RHP Jon Adkins to their minor league camp; optioned RHP Chan Ho Park to New Orleans. [3/30]
Placed RHP Guillermo Mota on the Restricted List (50-game drug suspension); optioned RHP Mike Pelfrey to St. Lucie (High-A); placed RHPs Pedro Martinez, Juan Padilla, and Duaner Sanchez and LHP Dave Williams on the 15-day DL. [4/1]

Final Roster Shape: 14 position players, 11 pitchers

Surprises and Disappointments: Two months ago, nobody thought things would turn out quite so nicely with the rotation, but so far, so good. John Maine and Oliver Perez are both having control problems in the early going, but as last night's game reflects, the virtue of having Aaron Sele in a long relief role is that it allows Willie Randolph to use a quick hook and try to keep a game in reach.

On the pitching staff, it was a little surprising to see side-armer Joe Smith break camp with the team with only 27 pro games under his belt since being picked out of Wright Stae in the third round of last year's draft, but he's got better velocity than more pitchers of his ilk, and Randolph has picked his spots in using him. It looks like Smith can be an asset all season, and adding him to Aaron Heilman and Ambiorix Burgos gives the Mets three very different right-handed weapons to use to get games to Billy Wagner.

New Developments: The schedule was kind enough to provide a few off days in the early going, so fifth starter Mike Pelfrey won't need to be called up until this weekend's series against the Nationals.

Cool Tactical Options? Willie Randolph has Julio Franco and David Newhan as a matched lefty-righty pair of veteran pinch-hitters familiar with the job. Theoretically, utility infielder Damion Easley is also Jose Valentin's platoon mate, but he hasn't drawn a start yet, as Randolph seems comfortable just leaving Valentin out there. That's not going to do Valentin's rate stats any favors, and it's sort of a strange decision to make-what's the point of paying Easley well over the minimum if you're afraid to use your one true infield reserve?

Is This Really Going to Work? Was Lastings Milledge going to get enough playing time? He hasn't really gotten to play, so why is he here? Why not have him trade places with Ben Johnson-Milledge would get the playing time he'll need to be ready to step in for Shawn Green at some later date during this season, while Johnson would provide them with the big league bench-worthy righty-stick to plug in for Green against tougher lefties, as well as a gifted fielder ready to fulfill some necessary defensive replacement duties. As is, Milledge is probably the guy who gets sent down for Pelfrey, but if it was a matter of showing Milledge some love, it's a bit of an elaborate and time-consuming gesture.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Returned Rule 5 pick RHP Jim Ed Warden to the Indians. [3/28]
Placed RHPs Freddy Garcia and Jon Lieber and C-R Ryan Budde on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/23. [3/30]
Placed RHP Scott Mathieson (elbow) and C/1B-R Chris Coste (strained hamstring) on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/23. [4/1]
Purchased the contract of RHP Joe Bisenius from Ottawa (Triple-A). [4/2]
Purchased RHP Francisco Rosario from the Blue Jays. [4/5]
Optioned RHPs Joe Bisenius and Zack Segovia and C/1B-R Chris Coste to Ottawa; activated RHP Jon Lieber from the 15-day DL. [4/8]

Roster Shape: 13 position players, 12 pitchers, but it's still very much a roster up in the air.

Surprises and Disappointments: What's the bigger surprise, that they didn't deal one of their six starting pitchers for an outfielder, or that Zack Segovia nevertheless got a first-week start? The injuries to Lieber and to Chief Garcia were of the relatively minor variety, though, so brief trials for prospects like Segovia and Biesenius may actually prove to be sort of useful later on, when they might have to turn to these guys.

I don't think it's a surprise that they decided they didn't have room for Coste-the guy's just not a great catcher-but it's still disappointing. Nevertheless, I like that Carlos Ruiz has won the lions' share of playing time behind the plate, and as backups go, Rod Barajas might be expensive, but he has his uses.

New Developments: Buying Rosario from the Jays is pretty sweet. No need to kvetch about Gillick going out and getting a player from another one of his past employers-Rosario wasn't signed on his watch. With mid-90s heat and a promising power slider, Rosario might blossom as a reliever in the weaker league, and it isn't implausible to suggest he might be talented enough to become a key set-up man for Flash Gordon as the season progresses.

Cool Tactical Options? I can't say I like this bench as much as I'm fond of it. I like seeing if Greg Dobbs has value as a lefty pinch-hitter-he can make contact with some pop, so if he can adapt to the demands of the role, he might wind up with a career after all. Michael Bourn has too much promise as a major league center fielder to be marooned on the bench; I'd rather see him playing in Ottawa until the Phillies do something like packaging Aaron Rowand with a starter in a deal that lands them that better outfield bat. For power, I know that Jayson Werth has broken everyone's heart a few times, but I guess I still harbor the crazy hope that he's healthy enough to push his way into semi-regular work, potentially helping erase the urgency to add an outfielder.

Is This Really Going to Work? Making Shane Victorino the regular in right still has me worried, but if he can post an OBP anywhere around .350, he's useful, just something less than the ideal. I'd still like them to add a lefty hitter with some sock (Bourn ain't it) to mix into that outfield, but they can wait and see if one comes cheaply in the next few months.

Also, I'm still not sure what Jon Lieber is really for if he isn't starting, but that's something that remains to be resolved.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Purchased the contracts of LHP Ray King and 1B-S Dmitri Young. [3/27]
Purchased the contract of RHP Jesus Colome from Columbus (Triple-A); placed RHP Luis Ayala, LHP Mike O'Connor, 1B-L Nick Johnson, and OF-R Alex Escobar on the 15-day DL. [3/28]
Placed SS-S Cristian Guzman (strained hamstring) and CF-S Nook Logan (strained foot) on the 15-day DL; recalled OF-L Kory Casto from Columbus. [4/3]
Purchased the contract of INF-S D'Angelo Jimenez from Columbus. [4/4]

Roster Shape: 13 position players, 12 pitchers, two Rule 5 picks (catcher Jesus Flores and reliever Levale Speigner), and a few ronin like King, Jimenez, Colome, and Young. It's the sort of team legends will get written about, a polyglot of real talent and journeymen so dusty you can't tell what color their boots originaly were.

Surprises and Disappointments: I've already talked about Manny Acta's decision to go young in the rotation, so that's not really a surprise at this late date. I liked the Dmitri Young comeback from the start, so I'm happy to see that he's won the first base job for himself; Travis Lee represented-with Logan and Cristian Guzman-a potential unholy trinity of offensive hopelessness.

New Developments: Opening Day put two of three likely zeroes in the lineup on the DL. You can feel a little sorry for Logan-this is the last chance he's likely to get-but Guzman is about to assume a place in team history not unlike Bob Horner's with the Braves, or Never-Present Pervis Ellison in Sacramento Kings lore. I don't think it's a good thing to have both Kasto and Chris Snelling around and have one of them not playing, but at least Logan's absence allows them to revisit Ryan Church's play in center field. If he does better than adequately, they may be safe from being Nook'd.

Cool Tactical Options? Not many. Felipe Lopez is grumpily playing short, so I doubt he'd be in favor of moving back and forth across the keystone to see if D'Angelo Jimenez is any better there. Playing Ron Belliard really seems to be a bit of marking time for all concerned; whether or not Jim Bowden can deal him should an opportunity arise, or just him the favor of releasing him, we'll have to see. It's sort of cool to have Rob Fick available to back up Brian Schneider behind the plate, as well as Young at first; he can also play the outfield corners in a pinch. That helps make the decision to carry Mets prospect Flores as a third catcher affordable.

Is This Really Going to Work? It's all part of the master plan. They're doing a send-up of Senators history to quickly garner that lovable losers tag, and then there's nowhere to go but up, baby.


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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