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April 23, 2010
National League Roundup
Placed LF-R Conor Jackson on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled RHP Esmerling Vasquez from Reno (Triple-A). [4/19]
Optioned LHP Jordan Norberto to Reno; recalled OF-R Cole Gillespie from Reno. [4/21]
Losing Jackson is just the latest setback for him, but as I noted last summer, there's not much of a track record as far as pro athletes and Valley Fever in the first place, and what there is wasn't good news. Add in the normal risks of playing baseball and getting hurt making a play in the outfield, and any hope of getting an early indication that Jackson's back will end up being delayed again.
In the meantime, the offense is doing reasonably well overall, ranking in a tie for sixth in the league in team TAv at .263, thanks to the hot starts of Kelly Johnson, Stephen Drew, and Mark Reynolds... and very little else besides, because not a single regular beyond that trio is doing at least average. Anticipating better things from Justin Upton is reasonable enough, and while Adam LaRoche's slow starts have been the stuff of annual frustration, you can expect improvement there as well. But as with having to replace the injured Miguel Montero with Chris Snyder as an everyday player, Gerardo Parra won't help matters much as a regular, since he's a weak tweener type without the power for left or the on-base skills to provide an adequate alternative to what a healthy Jackson was supposed to provide. This might be a situation where Gillespie or even Rusty Ryal would be worth using as spot starters in the un-Bob'd Banky Bank Ballpark (West Campus), so that the Snakes get the benefit of batters who can bop in a bandbox. Gillespie might provide the best combination of contributions on offense, with a splash of OBP (his career UBB rate in the minors is just under 14 percent), speed on the bases, and modest sock, but using Parra against right-handers with issues against lefties would allow A.J. Hinch some tactical and lineup-card flexibility.
Optioned RHP Logan Ondrusek to Louisville (Triple-A); recalled RHP Carlos Fisher from Louisville. [4/22]
Activated 1B-S Lance Berkman from the 15-day DL; placed 3B-R Chris Johnson on the 15-day DL (intercostal strain), retroactive to 4/18. [4/20]
Surprising nobody, the Chroff Blumson platoon at first and third (with Pedro Feliz flipping across the diamond as needed) didn't help a bad Astros team score m/any runs, contributing to an initial attack that plated just one or none in five of the 'Stros first dozen contests. Don't blame Geoff Blum, he's just following orders, while Johnson's an example of the low-upside suspects in the upper levels of the farm system that the organization has to offer these days. (It's notable that he didn't even merit a mention among their top 15 prospects.) Berkman's return coincided with an offensive outburst and a pair of wins, with the ripple benefit of Blum's availability to now start in Feliz's place at third, so matters are slightly happier than they were before. Of course, with Feliz projected for just a .246 TAv against Blum's .247, it's still worth wondering why they signed Feliz in the first place.
Designated RHP Russ Ortiz for assignment; recalled RHP Jon Link from Albuquerque (Triple-A). [4/18]
Activated RHP Ronald Belisario from the Restricted List; optioned RHP Jon Link to Albuquerque. [4/21]
Placed RHP Jeff Weaver on the 15-day DL (back); activated LHP Hong-Chih Kuo from the 15-day DL. [4/22]
Placed LF-R Manny Ramirez on the 15-day DL (calf); recalled OF-L Xavier Paul from Albuquerque. [4/23]
Manny's calf injury quickly went from something that was going to cost him this weekend's series to something that required a DL move, so it'll be interesting to see what Will Carroll has to add to the available information on this surprising setback. The question now becomes one of how Joe Torre adapts in terms of his lineups. Will Dodgers fans get treated to an awful lot of Garret Anderson and Reed Johnson, or will Torre take this opportunity to work Paul into some playing time, given that neither of the veterans are more than bit players? Given Torre's predilections for veterans and the fact that he already resorted to the Johnson/Anderson tandem during Manny's other days off as well as Andre Ethier's brief injury-related absence, it seems obvious what's going to happen, and it involves a lot of Xavier Paul risking splinters and playing witness. Even so, sticking with just the graybeards, there are other possible options, such as remembering that Casey Blake has a good amount of experience in the outfield; they could always move him out to left to get Ronnie Belliard's bat into the lineup instead of Johnson's or Anderson's.
Meanwhile, slowly and steadily, the Dodgers' pen has begun to resemble their ideal unit, air-brushing away the indignity of their initial associations as tidily as Joe Stalin's photo editors. Although Weaver's injury means that there's one Ortiz still standing, Kuo joins George Sherrill to give Torre a pair of power southpaws, while Belisario resumes his spot in middle relief alongside Ramon Troncoso, with Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios working in the mop-up role that will probably be his lot much of the year. While the overall results in the early going haven't been pretty—from among this season's relief crew, just Troncoso and Jonathan Broxton are in the black as far as their WXRL marks among the regulars—matters should improve as we get deeper into the season. Meanwhile, pending Weaver's return, Ramon Ortiz is temporarily present to help make losing causes more decisively lost, begging the question of why they retained him over Link, other than a desire to not directly contradict the initial mystery as to why they kept the one over the other.
Designated 1B-L Mike Jacobs for assignment; recalled RHP Tobi Stoner from Buffalo (Triple-A). [4/18]
Optioned RHP Tobi Stoner to Buffalo; purchased the contract of 1B-L Ike Davis from Buffalo. [4/19]
Placed RHP Ryota Igarashi on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); recalled RHP Manny Acosta from Buffalo. [4/21]
It would be easy to laugh off the Mets' decision to discard Jacobs as another instance of cluelessness, but if anything, I find it encouraging, and of a piece with the decision to just stick with talent keep Jenrry Mejia up, a choice that's already turning out well. Jacobs was already nothing more than a bad platoon option, a quick fix to a club already thinking in terms of repeating last season's first-base platoon between Danny Murphy and Fernando Tatis before Murphy got hurt. Now that they've lost patience with the patch, they've gone for the upside play, one that still fulfills that particular need. As Kevin Goldstein noted on Tuesday, Davis is at least ready as a platoon option, and he's a better first baseman than Jacobs. The Mets may not be able to really mount a run at the Phillies atop the NL East, but c'mon, it's April. Rather than breaking in the kids after a meltdown, it's interesting that they're integrating them into a club that's very much a potential wild card (both figuratively and literally) for the playoff picture. Do that later in the year, and maybe they're not ready. See if they're up to the challenge now, and maybe you find out you have more going for you than some expected.
The other promising possibility is that this might mark the end of the Danny Murphy Era at first base, which is just as well. Murphy never earned a vote of confidence after filling in for Carlos Delgado last season, and the enthusiasm for him seemed more born of desperation than any great upside. It's slightly ironic that he's on the same team as Frank Catalanotto, in that broad strokes-wise you can see how Murphy's a playable substitute in a power position. In the late '90s, Catalanotto came up as a second baseman for a Tigers team that had Damion Easley starring at the keystone; that led to starts at third and first, and later a trade to Texas, where he got bumped into the outfield. Keep in mind, Murphy was initially a third-base prospect in an organization that has David Wright. Murphy's bat was interesting enough for the club to try and spin him into a second baseman in 2008, but he has no future at third, he can't really play second (any more than Catalanotto could really handle third for any great length of time), and that means his future applications are as a poor man's Catalanotto, spotting at first base or the outfield corners. If the Mets wind up with a roster in which Davis breaks in at first base, perhaps that's a team Murphy contributes to as a spot starter at all four corners. At least that's a proposition aided by the fact that Wright, Jason Bay, and Jeff Francoeur all bat righty. Limit Murphy to 300 plate appearances, and he could be a fine bench weapon.
Placed LHP J.A. Happ on the 15-day DL (strained forearm), retroactive to 4/16; activated LHP J.C. Romero from the 15-day DL. [4/22]
As Will noted this morning, disabling Happ seems proactive as well as prescriptive, with the schedule providing a break on Thursday, so that the club will only have to tab Nelson Figueroa once before they get into the territory where they'll be able to see how far along Joe Blanton is the next time the slot comes up. Things might get interesting if Figueroa looks great against the Snakes tomorrow, but not that interesting, since it's basically a matter of throwing his hat into the ring of a fifth starter's fight neither of the main contenders have managed to settle yet. Kyle Kendrick's had one great start and two disasters, while Jamie Moyer has had two bad turns in his three as well. Either Kendrick or Moyer is already doomed as a matter of numbers, not just in terms of performance, but bodies: eventually Blanton and Happ will be back, and eventually one of the two will lose his job. If they both pitch this badly in their next few turns, the matter returns to the unanswered question of whether either of them is a good idea.
Optioned LHP Brian Burres to Indianapolis (Triple-A); recalled MI-R Argenis Diaz from Indianapolis. [4/21]
The injury stack at the hot corner has been a problem all week, with Andy LaRoche out of action and presumptive backup Bobby Crosby also shelved, pressing Delwyn Young into action as an everyday and every play third baseman, while also leaving the bench shy of an infield reserve capable of playing short. Bringing up Diaz—even if his upside is an Esteban Beltre sort of career—at least addressed that last need, and it made sense to ditch Burres a day after using him up for the next several days post-Morton mop-up, given that they're already several players short of 25 capable of contributing. If they find that Crosby and LaRoche will be able to play this weekend, you can bet that Diaz will likely make way for whichever spot starter they select to appear in the Astros series (it'll probably be Chris Jakubauskas, since he was held back from his latest turn).
Optioned RHP Adam Russell to Portland (Triple-A); recalled LHP Wade LeBlanc from Portland. [4/18]
Activated LHP Joe Thatcher from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Cesar Ramos to Portland. [4/22]
With Chris Young on the DL, LeBlanc was the easy in-house choice to come up from Portland take his place in the rotation, but it's worth noting that the Beavers have been getting good work from several other starters, with Cesar Carrillo, Radhames Liz, and Will Inman all getting out to good starts. Carrillo and Liz are both on the 40-man, while Inman is not. LeBlanc's still the changeup fiend who won't push past 90 mph with his heat, and that was good enough in his first turn to remind folks why he's a decent choice to round out a rotation from its back end. We'll see how he follows the effort up in the Gap this weekend, since that's not a lineup or a park in his favor. The question for LeBlanc isn't whether he'll get opportunities, but what shape they'll take and when they'll come. Beyond something like another Young breakdown, it might be a matter of managing Mat Latos' total workload on the season, or if (or once) they trade Jon Garland. Where things get interesting is if Garland keeps getting drubbed on the road but resembles a useful starter in the aggregate thanks to Petco; that isn't going to help the veteran's marketability, and everybody likes pitching in that park.
Re-signed LHP Ron Villone to a minor-league contract. [4/19]
Placed RHP Jason Marquis on the 15-day DL (loose bodies – elbow), retroactive to 4/19. [4/22]
Recalled RHP Luis Atilano from Syracuse (Triple-A); outrighted RHP Jason Bergmann to Syracuse. [4/23]
The expectation that Marquis will miss a month to six weeks somewhat limited the Nats' range of options as far as replacing him in the rotation. That's well inside of the 60-day DL, they're full-up on the 40-man, with several players on the 15-day DL and not immediately cuttable as a result (Chris Coste or Mike Morse, for example). So, picking Marquis' replacement was going to have to come from a limited field of guys already on the 40-man, a field all the more slender because, from among the possibles, Shairon Martis and Colin Balester have been getting drubbed at Syracuse, while Matt Chico's comeback has been hampered by hittability. J.D. Martin might have been a good choice, but he pitched on Monday, and Marquis' turn was due tonight; so too did Aaron Thompson in Double-A, for Harrisburg. There's always Miguel Batista, who they could have dropped into Marquis' slot easily enough (and hauled up a reliever), but a diet of pasted-in pastings probably only sounds appetizing to Ralph Wiggum.
Instead, going with Atilano seems like a more worthwhile, evaluative exercise. The former Braves prospect and first rounder out of Puerto Rico is in his third season since time lost to TJS, and he's not overpowering. He is on the 40-man anyway, and perhaps there's been enough progress with his breaking stuff to sufficiently complement an average fastball and solid changeup. If it hasn't, they'll have reason to reconsider using the 40-man spot on him.