May 12, 2014
With Matt Wieters nursing his elbow on the DL these days, the Orioles needed a catcher to pair with Steve Clevenger. They chose Joseph, a 27-year-old rookie, to serve as the right-handed sock. Heaven knows whether Joseph's recent offensive gains in the minors are legitimate, but assuming the eye test can be trusted, his receiving skills should endear him to framing wonks. Joseph has strong wrists and an understanding of how to create angles with his body. Does he have the chance to become the new Jose Molina, Rene Rivera, or Chris Stewart? Probably not. He's fine as a third catcher, however.
Activated RHP Scott Feldman from the 15-day disabled list (bicep tendinitis); optioned LHP Brett Oberholtzer to Triple-A Oklahoma; placed RHP Jose Cisnero on the 15-day disabled list (elbow discomfort); recalled RHP Paul Clemens from Triple-A Oklahoma. [5/9]
A pleasant surprise last season, Oberholtzer tallied just one quality start in his first seven tries to begin 2014. It's possible he would still be in the rotation if not for the unexpected performances by Collin McHugh and Dallas Keuchel. The Astros had to choose between Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock, and went with the bird. Should Oberholtzer do his thing in Triple-A, he's got a solid chance of returning to the majors in due time. In Peacock's latest attempt to become a starter, he's tossed 22 innings, allowed 20 hits (four home runs), walked 16 batters, and struck out 17. True: six of those walks occurred in one start; false: those kind of numbers will work over the long haul.
Speaking of sloppy geography, Fields entered the spring competing for the closer's job. So much for that. Fields has a quality fastball-breaking ball combination, which he throws from a high release point. Unfortunately, his inability to consistently locate the pitch obscures his raw stuff. He's at the age now, 28, where it's fair to start to wonder whether the worthwhile reliever trapped inside will ever come to power. Fields will attempt to start the revolution in Triple-A. He should return in time.
Optioned SS-S Pedro Florimon and C/OF-L Chris Herrmann to Triple-A Rochester; activated OF-S Aaron Hicks from the seven-day disabled list (concussion-like symptoms); selected the contract of OF-L Chris Parmelee from Triple-A Rochester; designated OF-R Kenny Wilson for assignment. [5/9]
Optioned LHP Logan Darnell to Triple-A Rochester; designated LHP Brooks Raley for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Matt Guerrier from Triple-A Rochester; recalled INF-R Eduardo Nunez from Triple-A Rochester; placed OF-L Sam Fuld on the seven-day disabled list (concussion-like symptoms). [5/8]
Florimon's demotion is the most significant change here. He had been, perhaps anonymously, the starting shortstop for the last season-plus. A talented defender with a little pop, Florimon started 2014 in a miserable slump, even by his own standards. The Twins decided against keeping him around for continuity's sake, perhaps because they had a few clones around in Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana. Expect them to get first cracks at the job.
The rest of these moves are, by and large, unimportant. Guerrier's return to the Twins is a neat story, if only for nostalgia purposes. Otherwise, the Twins have been rocked hard by injuries in the outfield. Fuld joins Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham on the DL, with Hicks returning just in time. Lord knows Ron Gardenhire is having a tough time covering the holes with a three-man bench. In fact, he might be the AL manager who would most prefer a week-long road trip to National League cities right now, if only to give him a full four-man bench for a few days.
Here's a trivial note for you: Herrmann had provided the Twins with four players (including Joe Mauer) on the 25-man roster who could catch. A few other teams have three such players—the O's and Braves, for instance—but four? That's rare.
By the way, Wilson was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays, and Raley by the Angels.
You could argue Straily deserved to stay in the rotation in place of Tommy Milone. But as Jason Wojciechowski pointed out, it's not always as simple as looking at the numbers. Straily has more upside—or should, at least, depending on the cause for his early-season woes and striking velocity loss—and so there's more to be gained later by sending him down now. After all, Milone is what he is. No amount of bus rides will cause him to become more than a back-end starter. As a result, his future means less to Oakland than Straily's does. Of course that doesn't make these short-term decisions any easier to make; the A's just hope this one pays off over the long haul.
Drew Pomeranz takes Straily's place in the rotation. The draft is about a month away, and Pomeranz is a good reminder that even the sure things aren't sure things. The fifth pick in 2010, the erstwhile Ole Miss lefty is with his third organization, yet has failed to crack the 150-inning mark as a starting pitcher. Pomeranz pitched well out of the bullpen, and last time out threw five scoreless innings against the Mariners. He's still got a chance, but this wasn't the path to success we all envisioned for him a few Junes ago.
Savery and Rodriguez give Bob Melvin new toys to play with late in games. Savery has a low-90s fastball, slider, and changeup. In nearly 50 innings in the majors, he's been far more effective against ... well, you would guess lefties, but the answer is righties. Quirky platoon splits aside, he figures to be little more than a low-leverage reliever. Rodriguez, meanwhile, has more impressive raw stuff. He came to Oakland in the Jed Lowrie trade, but missed last season due to Tommy John surgery. Depending on his control, Rodriguez has the chance to intrigue.
Quackenbush. A physical right-hander with impressive minor-league results. Quackenbush. In nearly 200 innings of professional work, he's yielded two home runs while posting a 1.16 ERA and fanning about 12 batters per nine. Quackenbush. His stuff isn't as good as you might think: his fastball sits in the low 90s and he has an assortment of okay secondary offerings. Quackenbush. The key to his game is deception: he keeps his arm action short and uses his big body as a shield, all but ensuring the hitter doesn't get a look at the ball until release, thus adding perceived velocity. Quackenbush. Look for him in middle relief.
For the second time in a few weeks, the Cardinals demote a struggling youngster. Grichuk, the other outfielder St. Louis acquired in the David Freese trade, showed little indication he was ready for big-league duty. Contact was the primary issue: he whiffed on more than 35 percent of his swings, and struck out in a third of his at-bats. Grichuk has always been known for an aggressive approach and subpar hit tool. Add in how this was his first taste of big-league ball, and the struggles are unsurprising. He'll try to work his way back into the majors by adjusting at the Triple-A level.
The beneficiary from Grichuk's demotion is Butler, who becomes the latest reserve outfielder to join the Cardinals. Though no stranger to minor-league success, Butler remains a foreigner on big-league soil. Save for a brief stint with the Rangers last season, the Mississippi native has spent his career in the minors, relegated to organizational-depth status due to bat-speed concerns. That blemish did not stop the Cardinals from claiming Butler off waivers in October, though he later passed through without incident.
In truth, Butler is only in the majors because St. Louis is running out of alternatives. The Cardinals have optioned Shane Robinson and Grichuk in the past two weeks, and have just three other outfielders on their 40-man roster: Rafael Ortega and Mike O'Neill, both in Double-A; and Oscar Taveras, who is ensconced in a vault that cannot be opened until the Super Two deadline passes. (Stephen Piscotty merits mention, but he's not on the 40-man roster.) So Butler gets the gig for the time being, but he won't keep it for long.