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August 18, 2009
Me(l)t-downs and Brave-ry
Outrighted INF-R Chris Woodward to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [8/18]
Activated LHP Scott Lewis from the 15-day DL, and optioned him to Columbus (Triple-A). [8/17]
Placed LHP Francisco Liriano on the 15-day DL (arm fatigue); purchased the contract of RHP Philip Humber from Rochester (Triple-A); designated INF-R Matt Macri for assignment. [8/18]
It would be hard to describe Liriano's latest breakdown as a setback to the Twins' playoff hopes, already down to less than five percent and falling in the PECOTA-informed playoff odds report, and under 10 percent in the kinder vanilla version. A nice run in June followed by a quality start on the Fourth of July might have made it seem he'd turned the corner, but just two quality starts in his next six turns and 27 runs allowed in the 30
I'll leave it to Will Carroll to document the nature of the fatigue, and instead suggest that with Humber up and headed into the rotation after allowing 5.8 runs per nine for the Red Wings, and joining a unit that already has Anthony Swarzak struggling badly, it's time to accept the end is nigh in Minnesota. (And I mean, for more than the apostasy of potentially employing Achilles, false godling of the cheeseheads.) It's time to see if they can't re-flip Carl Pavano before the expense of employing the tacked-on placeholder adds up; they're going to wind up with Brian Duensing starting games for them no matter what they do anyway, so why not cut to that particular chase while seeing if anybody's starter-hungry enough to forgo exploring the zesty blend of mystery and unusual joys that come with employing what's left of John Smoltz or Vicente Padilla or Russ Ortiz?
Placed RF-S Justin Upton on the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of OF-L Trent Oeltjen from Reno (Triple-A). [8/6]
Optioned CF-R Chris Young to Reno; purchased the contract of INF-R Rusty Ryal from Reno; signed free agent RHP Daniel Cabrera. [8/10]
Placed LHP Scott Schoeneweis on the 15-day DL (depression); recalled LHP Dan Schlereth from Mobile (Double-A); released RHP Tom Gordon. [8/11]
There's so little joy to be found here; losing Upton's a matter of losing one of the half-dozen people left worth paying to see in a Snakes uni. Even the bittersweet liberation from watching Chris Young keep the infield alternately busy (catching popups, which Young delivers at an incredible rate) or air-conditioned (striking out a quarter of the time) might be relief of some sort, but that's inevitably attended by the devastating import of what it means if Young's not a building block. No Young would make for an outfield that has Gerardo Parra doing filler's work in center and Eric Byrnes do somewhat less than that in left (because that disaster contract still has another year to run, after all). It's a future where Stephen Drew's park-aided adequacy still masquerades as stardom. It's a franchise where organizational players like Oeltjen and Ryal and Ryan Roberts wash up and get to play.
It's not the end of the world, of course, just somewhat desolate, the sort of team that needs Brandon Webb back and being Brandon Webb again. It's a team that has to have Conor Jackson recover entirely from Valley fever, and not become the next sports great to join the NBA's Johnny Moore as someone who had his career's trajectory seriously altered by the infection; Moore came back, but he went from being one of the game's great point guards to just a guy. And it's a team that needs for Young to show a capacity to learn and adapt, instead of alternating whiffs and pops like he was some sort of Yalie.
Placed CF-L Nate McLouth on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring), retroactive to 8/16; purchased the contract of OF-R Reid Gorecki from Gwinnett (Triple-A). [8/17]
If you accept the PECOTA-driven proposition that the National League Wild Card will win 90 or 91 games, let's also accept for argument's sake that the Phillies, Cardinals, and Dodgers win their respective divisions. That puts the wild-card field at five: the Rockies (65 wins), Giants (64), Marlins (63), Braves (62), and Cubs (60). Anything that trips you up short of that 90-win mark strikes me as more than a little dangerous. As things stand now, the Braves would have to go 28-16. Now, in the happiest scenario possible, they're going to be without McLouth until early September, and beyond that, we still don't know what exactly will happen with Martin Prado. Re-adopting faith in Kelly Johnson and making Matt Diaz an everyday player doesn't sound like the best way to go 28-16 in your next 44 games; if anything, it sounds like a proposition that puts Jason Heyward on the spot to reprise Andruw Jones' '96 pennant-push debut, a decision fueled by need and not simply talent management.
The schedule's going to play a big part as far as defining the possibilities, and the immediate future's not all good on that score. The Braves do get the benefit of seeing the Mets three more times and the Nats twice; indeed, those two teams are four of the Braves' last six opponents. Unfortunately, things could get ugly beforehand, as they try to get past seeing the Marlins and Phillies in three of their next five series. You can place your faith in pitching, or in Adam LaRoche, or in the power of all that is mighty-Chipper Jones himself-but the next couple of weeks are going to be tough. While that downslope in the back half of September seems promising, I guess my thought is that if the Braves don't keep winning more than half their games in the next two weeks, they'll have set themselves up for having to match the Rockies' for stretch heroics of 2007, and easy schedule or not, that's a tall order for any team.
Activated LHP Ted Lilly from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Justin Berg to Iowa (Triple-A). [8/17]
Optioned RHP Jhoulys Chacin to Colorado Springs (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP Adam Eaton from Colorado Springs; transferred LHP Alan Embree from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/12]
Aaron Cook's foot problem put Chacin on the spot and starting against the Pirates last week, and after dominating in a few relief stints, Chacin floundered, walking six of 14 batters before Jim Tracy hooked him. Rather than let the roster spot go slack, they sent Chacin back down. He has yet to pitch for the Sky Sox, but the plan has been to return him to a rotational role in the meantime; he'll be starting tonight's game at Triple-A. Consider this an interesting after-effect of the acquisitions of Rafael Betancourt and Joe Beimel to contribute to the Rockies' stretch drive. Given how good he looked in relief work, I wouldn't be surprised if he's back on the roster once rosters expand.
In the meantime, it's sort of amusing to see Eaton resurrected someplace else, but as a mop-up man and innings sponge who allows Tracy to hook a struggling starter early, he might have his uses. At Colorado Springs, he was moderately effective, allowing just 3.3 R/9, striking out just 5.6 while walking 1.6 per nine. They're getting good work after Josh Fogg already, after all, so never say never when it comes to finding relief from unexpected sources.
Placed 3B-R David Wright on the 15-day DL (PCS); purchased the contract of INF-R Andy Green from Buffalo (Triple-A). [8/17]
Placed MI-L Alex Cora on the 15-day DL (thumbs), retroactive to 8/13; purchased the contract of MI-R Wilson Valdez from Buffalo. [8/18]
So, two days, and you get to scratch off the left side of the infield? As bad as that sounds, things haven't really been that horrible for the Mets. Yes, losing Wright is sort of the coup de grace to a desperately awful season, but to give credit to those still active, they're getting better work than they might have reasonably expected from Jeff Francoeur, Angel Pagan, and Cory Sullivan in the outfield, Andy Hernandez has been getting aboard at a good clip since coming over from the Nats, and Luis Castillo, the last regular left at his position from the Opening Day lineup, is having a decent season at the plate. Starting Bobby Parnell has allowed them to avert the Nelson Figueroa menace, and they even got a quality start out of Oliver Perez this month.
And... well, OK, that's about as far as we can go with a Mary Sunshine act. Gary Sheffield hasn't homered since June. Danny Murphy and Fernando Tatis were supposed to be a nice left-field platoon; instead they're the comatose bat twins starting at the infield corners. It should be entirely unsuprising that the same judgment that said Brian Schneider was a must-have behind the plate subsequently decided that Omir Santos had to be his platoon partner. And, however much satisfaction they can take in Pagan or Sullivan, Triple-A thirtysomethings like Valdez and Green won't patch up an infield that's been shredded by injuries, they'll simply man it. As Will pointed out this morning, there's no need to hurry anybody back to participate in this meltdown; it isn't like there are merit badges that get handed out for association with it.
Designated RHP Logan Kensing for assignment; purchased the contract of UT-R Mike Morse from Syracuse (Triple-A). [8/17]
Since being picked up from the Mariners, Morse had mostly been playing at the infield corners for the Chiefs, a role I'd expect him to continue to fulfill for a Nats team taking its lumps with Adam Dunn at first base. You might wonder about his other applications, since he's played everywhere. After all, over at second Ronnie Belliard's playing out the string, and alternating with Alberto Gonzalez, who's still left over from Jim Bowden's mad dash to acquire everyone else's punchless middle infielders last summer. That said, I don't have any big expectations that you'll see Morse starting all around the diamond; Jim Riggleman already has Willie Harris around for such a purpose, and hasn't used wee Willie much since taking over the team. Instead, Riggs has gone with a relatively set lineup, so I'd expect Morse to be the right-handed foil to Harris' infrequent spot starting and more usual pinch-hitting assignments. If nothing else, having the pair of them does afford the skipper all sorts of possibilities for tactical cleverness late in games or in extra innings.