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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed LHP Allen Watson on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled 3B/1B Frank
Bolick
from Vancouver. [5/24]


Thanks to a few handy off-days this week, the Angels aren’t really going to be
hurt much in the short term by placing the combustible Watson (7.69 ERA) on the
DL. Jack McDowell will continue to pitch hurt (anyone remember his bold
statements this spring about his health?), and they won’t have to decide
whether or not to press Jason Dickson back into the rotation for several days.
A spot start by Shiggy Hasegawa or Pep Harris probably isn’t out of the
question.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Purchased the contract of LHP Efrain Valdez from the Mets. [5/22]

Purchased the contract of LHP Efrain Valdez from Tucson; optioned RHP Bryan
Corey
to Tucson. [5/26]


With Omar Daal’s success as a starter, the D-backs went with convention and
added Valdez to be the spot lefty in the pen. You may not remember him from his
brief stint with the Indians back in ’90-’91, back when Mike Hargrove was
juggling Goose Gozzo and my old personal fave, Dave Otto. He’s 31, and hoping
he has as many lives left as Kevin Hickey.


ATLANTA BRAVES

Placed RHP John Smoltz on the 15-day DL (sore elbow); activated RHP Mark
Wohlers
from the DL. [5/24]


Wohlers’ return is conveniently coincidental with Kerry Ligtenberg’s recent
struggles. It would have been nice to see Alan Embree get a chance in the
closer’s role, and/or an expansion of the role into the 8th inning, but we all
know Bobby Cox is sturdily conservative with this sort of thing, and you can’t
blame him for it. In Smoltz’ absence, obviously Kevin Millwood won’t have to
worry about being skipped as the fifth starter, and El Presidente will continue
his shuffling stumble towards baseball history as the game’s “winningest”
Latin.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed LHP Jimmy Key on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/20 (stiff left
shoulder); recalled RHP Nerio Rodriguez from Rochester. [5/24]

Activated RHP Terry Mathews from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Nerio Rodriguez to
Rochester. [5/26]


Key is already starting his rehab assignment, so this isn’t really a long-term
problem. Rodriguez made the emergency start in his absence (and got pasted),
and the O’s expect to run out Doug Johns, Scott Kamieniecki, Doug Drabek, and
Scott Erickson over the next four games. I doubt Sid Ponson is going to get
more than a start out of this, although there’s nothing wrong with the Orioles
keeping him around in long relief this year. The question is whether its
sensible to keep jerking Rodriguez around as he has been over the first two
months, with the only dubious benefit being that if Pat Gillick burns through
his options any faster, he’ll either get to escape to another organization, or
he’ll finally get left alone.


BOSTON RED SOX

Placed CF Damon Buford on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/18 (strained knee);
recalled RF Trot Nixon from Pawtucket. [5/22]

Recalled SS Keith Johns from Pawtucket; optioned RF Trot Nixon to Pawtucket;
transferred RHP Kerry Lacy from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/23]

Placed 2B Mark Lemke on the 15-day DL (still recovering from a concussion);
recalled RHP Joe Hudson from Pawtucket. [5/26]


Losing Buford leaves the Sox somewhat shorthanded in the outfield, since it
means that Darren Lewis, Darren Bragg, and Troy O’Leary will have to play every
day. Its interesting that Duquette decided to not call up Billy Ashley at this
point, but the Sox would have had to shuffle their 40-man roster. Hudson’s
callup should be temporary, since he’s the obvious fall guy for Nomar
Garciaparra if/when the shortstop comes back by this weekend, and he’s a good
candidate to have his contact optioned to Pawtucket without fear of losing him.

Mark Lemke can’t help a baseball team win ballgames. His continuing presence in
a major league uniform ought to be the subject of the next “Batman” movie: Dr.
Freeze, desperate to prolong the career of his favorite ballplayer until he can
find a cure for a bad bat, puts the Polish Lemming on ice, only to find that
Lemke’s already so cold that he doesn’t have to.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Fired pitching coach Mike Pazik and hitting coach Ron Jackson; named Nardi
Contreras
pitching coach and Von Joshua hitting coach; activated RHP Matt
Karchner
from the DL; designated LHP Larry Casian for assignment. [5/23]

Purchased the contract of LHP Jim Parque from Calgary; designated DH Ruben
Sierra
for assignment. [5/25]


Parque entered the rotation last night, and should be up to stay, since he’d
have to work more than may be humanly possible to pitch worse than Jason Bere
or Jaime Navarro. After a rough start at Calgary, he’d regrouped to go 2-3 with
a 3.94 ERA, although his control was a problem (25 BB in 48 IP). Of course, one
or two bad outings in a row may be enough to have Jerry Manuel resort to his
preferred motivational tactic of publicly questioning a player’s manhood.
Meanwhile, the release of Sierra has led to agonized cries from Frank Thomas
that the team doesn’t know what its doing. He’s half right: any team that
wastes ink, paper, and money on signing Ruben Sierra to do anything other than
sing the national anthem doesn’t know what its doing, and any manager who
thinks that playing Sierra regularly was going to help the offense, as Manuel
claimed during last week’s experiment with His Burnished Bald Badness in
right… well, you know the punchline. It appears that in straightening all of
this nonsense out, Ron Schueler had to sacrifice his man in the clubhouse
(Pazik) to get Von Joshua in and Ruben Sierra out, in exchange for allowing
Manuel to bring in his old associate (Contreras) from their mutual service with
the Expos organization. The faces may change, but the haphazard management
style remains.


CINCINNATI REDS

Optioned 1B Sean Casey to Indianapolis; recalled LHP Eddie Priest from
Indianapolis. [5/23]

Placed RHP Mark Hutton on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/22 (groin strain);
recalled CF Pat Watkins from Indianapolis. [5/24]


Casey had played his way out of the first base job, and I can’t really fault
them for deciding to go with their already-deep major league outfield of Reggie
Sanders, Jon Nunnally, Chris Stynes, Mel Nieves, and Watkins (who pounded the
ball during his ten-game stint in Indy), while returning Dmitri Young to first.
Meanwhile, Eddie Priest replaces David Weathers in the rotation. As canny as
the Reds have been in most cases, the fascination with Weathers was
unfortunate. If not for his one great start against a weak Mets team, he’d have
been dropped much sooner. Priest has been moving up fast: after starting out in
AA, he went up to Indy, where he was 3-0 with a 4.09 ERA in 4 games (2 starts).
He’ll be the fifth starter behind Brett Tomko, Mike Remlinger, Pete Harnisch,
and Scott Winchester, which is stronger than anything involving Weathers.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Activated RHP Dwight Gooden from the 15-day DL; placed RHP Chad Ogea on the
15-day DL, retroactive to 5/20 (strained pectoral muscle). [5/22]


Gooden was busily building up the bragging rights of International League
hitters when Ogea’s injury bug cropped up (again). The Tribe had wanted to
leave Doc in Buffalo for another couple of starts, so that he could at least
demonstrate the ability to get somebody out, but he’ll take his shellackings in
the majors for the time being. It was a bad signing at the time, and now that
he has to pitch, the Indians will be hurting for more than the wasted money.
Don’t be surprised when Gooden fails to make the postseason roster.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Traded C Mike Piazza to the Mets for LHP Ed Yarnall, LHP Geoff Goetz, and OF
Preston Wilson. [5/22]

Purchased the contract of C Mike Redmond from Charlotte; designated RHP Blaine
Mull
for assignment. [5/22]

Purchased the contract of RHP Joe Fontenot from Portland (AA); optioned RHP
Donn Pall to Charlotte. [5/23]


Talk about anticlimactic finishes to fabulous possibilities… trading Piazza
for one outstanding pitching prospect, one A-ball pitcher, and one legacy?
Yarnall is the best pitching prospect in the minors today; he’s decisively
outpitched Fontenot at AA, for instance: 8-0, a 0.49 ERA, 43 baserunners in 55
IP, with 57 K (Fontenot had a 3.08 ERA, by comparison, the bum.) Goetz was the
Mets’ top pick in the ’97 draft, he throws hard (and possibly harder once he
matures physically), but he’s a year removed from high school, and there’s no
such thing as an A-ball pitching prospect. Wilson is a hack-happy boondoggle,
and now in an organization awash in better outfielder prospects. There are a
couple of ways to take this trade from the Marlins’ perspective: maybe
something is wrong with Piazza (or his agent has undermined his value by
advertising his interest in Arizona for ’99 and beyond), maybe major league GMs
are more gun-shy than ever about making deals for players who aren’t under
contract beyond the current season, and maybe Don Smiley had a gun to Dave
Dombrowski’s head. To be honest, I don’t know. One hopes, for Yarnall’s sake,
that the next wearer of a World Series ring to head out of town is Leyland,
lest he get to make a clean sweep in his drive to incapacitate pitching
prospects. Ryan Dempster, it appears, will remain in the bullpen, with the
rotation consisting (as long as it can survive) of Jesus Sanchez, Livan
Hernandez, Fontenot, Brian Meadows, and Andy Larkin. I could see Meadows as the
only survivor by next April, if only because he’s relatively economical in his
pitch counts. Gregg Zaun will get his big chance right now (Redmond is a
non-factor), with John Roskos potentially getting a crack if Zaun screws up.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Optioned RHP Mike Grzanich to New Orleans. [5/24]

Activated LHP Mike Magnante from the DL. [5/25]


Grzanich got into one game, so he didn’t really get an opportunity to push Bob
Scanlan. He can hope to build on his good work in New Orleans, and get another
crack by August.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Activated 1B Hal Morris and RHP Hipolito Pichardo from the DL; optioned LHP
Jamie Walker to Omaha; placed OF Ernie Young on the 15-day DL, retroactive to
5/22 (sore back). [5/23]


Pichardo will eventually be returned to the rotation, which means that Chris
Haney and Jose Rosado are essentially duelling for a rotation spot for the next
start or two. Since Pichardo isn’t a great bet to stay healthy as a starter,
and isn’t a major asset regardless of the organization’s noisy protestations of
his potential greatness, the point may wind up being moot with Kevin Appier
beginning his rehab work. Morris’ return coincides with Jermaine Dye’s
employment as a regular, which means that Larry Sutton and Shane Mack will get
less playing time. That isn’t going to make the Royals better for the short or
long term, but the only things that matter at this point are how well Johnny
Damon plays, how quickly and fully Appier recovers, and when Jeremy Giambi gets
called up.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Recalled LF/1B Paul Konerko from Albuquerque; optioned RHP Brad Clontz to
Albuquerque. [5/22]


Wasn’t it only a few weeks ago that Clontz was racking up his hitless innings
streak? Calling Konerko up to sit on the bench while Bill Russell diddles
around with neato whizz-bang ideas like batting Todd Hollandsworth leadoff has
to be some new form of decisive indecisiveness that comes into play when Big
Brother Rupert is looking over your shoulder. “Splunge!”


MINNESOTA TWINS

Placed RHP Bob Tewksbury on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/24 (shoulder
soreness). [5/26]


The seriousness of Tewks’ injury remains to be seen, but it appears that the
Twins have the right idea if they follow through on the rumor that they’ll
promote Dan Serafini to take his place. Sure, Ricky Bones has a 3.42 ERA at
Salt Lake, but you know and I know and apparently Terry Ryan knows that means
as much to the Twins’ future and improvement as a bullpen donkey gimmick.
Actually, with Mike Veeck potentially entering the management picture, Ricky
Bones is arguably less important than a bullpen donkey gimmick. Serafini put up
a 3.71 ERA in the PCL, and has been waiting for his shot for about two years
now, so here’s hoping he makes the best of it; how he does could do a lot to
fan the flames of those trade rumors surrounding Mike Morgan and Tewksbury.
Meanwhile, Frankie Rodriguez’ problems are only getting worse, as his ERA in
the Buzz rotation is now 8.10.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Optioned LHP Rick DeHart to Ottawa; designated Major League Son Derrick May for
assignment. [5/22]

Recalled RHP Carl Pavano and 3B Jose Vidro from Ottawa. [5/23]


At long last, Pavano enters the Expos’ rotation. Give credit where credit is
due: even with things going as badly as they have, they haven’t rushed him
through his rehab. With his arrival, I suspect Carlos Perez’ availability in
trade will be closely related to Dustin Hermanson’s recovery. With F.P.
Santangelo badly beaten up, Vidro returns to butcher the deuce and make outs;
given that the alternative in Santangelo’s absence is Mike Mordecai, how many
Expos fans are willing to admit they miss Doug Flynn these days? At least the
removal of May signals a temporary commitment to go with the LF platoon of Ryan
McGuire and Robert Perez, which is a big improvement over anything involving
Derrick May and playing time.


NEW YORK METS

Acquired C Mike Piazza from Florida for LHP Ed Yarnall, OF Preston Wilson, and
LHP Geoff Goetz. [5/22]

Designated C Rick Wilkins for assignment. [5/23]


What does this mean for Todd Hundley? Or John Olerud, should Hundley’s elbow
heal up so that he and Piazza split the catching duties and first base? Given
Bobby Valentine’s past willingness to go with awful defensive combinations
(Inky in CF, or Kevin Reimer ever wearing a glove, come immediately to mind), I
won’t be surprised if Hundley or Olerud have to shag flies in the outfield,
barring that rumored trade for Roberto Alomar and Raffy Palmeiro (which in turn
could send Palmeiro back to the outfield?). Hats off to the Mets for getting
Piazza relatively cheaply, and for creating this set of “problems” in the first
place; as good as Yarnall could be, they still have a recuperating Pulsipher,
Octavio Dotel, and Arnold Gooch above A-ball, so they’re not lacking pitching
depth in the system.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Placed CF Jason McDonald on the 15-day DL (concussion); recalled CF Ryan
Christenson
from Edmonton. [5/24]


Is it fate? McDonald’s done everything the organization has ever asked, moving
from short to second to the outfield to second to center during his minor
league career, he’s been a useful offensive player, and even when he finally
gets his shot, something like this weekend’s gruesome collision with Rickey
Henderson stops him in his tracks. I like Christenson’s long-term future, and I
like having him on the field now, but its unfortunate that it has come under
these circumstances.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Placed LHP Yorkis Perez on the 15-day DL; recalled LHP Robert Dodd from
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/25]


Perez was perhaps finally earning a shot to stick, but Dodd may claim the lefty
setup role for keeps: he has good control, and he’s a better prospect than
Perez was or Darrin Winston is. That doesn’t make him a great prospect, but the
Phillies’ farm needs all the success stories it can get.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed SS Lou Collier on the 15-day DL (strained hip flexor); recalled INF
Chance Sanford from Nashville. [5/23]

Placed RHP Marc Wilkins on the 15-day DL (rotator cuff); recalled RHP Elmer
Dessens
from Nashville. [5/24]

Placed LHP Jeff Tabaka on the 15-day DL (fractured jaw). [5/25]

Purchased the contract of 3B Aramis Ramirez from Nashville; transferred LHP
Jeff Wallace from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/26]


Its been a wild few days for the Pirates. Wilkins’ tender right arm apparently wasn’t
tender enough, since he was able to smash his roommate Tabaka’s jaw in a hotel
lobby fracas (albeit with his left hand). Collier’s luck goes bad at the worst moment for him, just as he
was finally winning his fight with Kevin Polcovich for the shortstop job.
Sanford and Polcovich will platoon in his absence, while Doug Strange hits the
bench now that Cam Bonifay decided to go for broke and call up Ramirez. He’s up
a couple of months too soon: although he’s showing good command at AAA
(288/.392/.396), he isn’t yet turning on pitches and driving the ball
consistently. Like Jose Guillen last season, the Bucs are just going to take
their lumps and let Ramirez learn while plugging in part of their potentially
great lineup of the future right now (next up: Chad Hermansen?). If Ramirez
sticks for the next 4+ months, he may reach arbitration a year earlier than if
Bonifay had waited until August; hats off to Cam for apparently not caring.


St. LOUIS CARDINALS

Optioned RHP Rich Croushore to Memphis; recalled RHP Sean Lowe from Memphis.
[5/25]


Croushore got pasted in his brief trial; since he’s an organizational soldier
instead of a “prospect” like Curtis King or John Frascatore, there was no
commitment to keep him around. More important is whether or not Lowe will be
the latest entrant into the rotation. Behind Todd Stottlemyre and Kent Mercker,
Tony LaRussa has scored a success with spotting Mark Petkovsek. Manny Aybar is
still struggling, and Mike Busby hurt himself in his second start. With Alan
Benes and Matt Morris not due back soon, and Donovan Osborne unlikely to be
healthy at any remaining point in this milennium, Lowe is probably the best
option the Cardinals have, sporting a 2.95 ERA at Memphis (despite 74
baserunners in 55 IP), a good record for durability, and a good heater.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Activated 3B Ken Caminiti and LHP Mark Langston from the DL; placed UT Archi
Cianfrocco
on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/20 (strained oblique muscle);
designated LHP Ben VanRyn for assignment. [5/23]


Langston’s return means that Pete Smith is being dropped from the rotation for
the time being (Hitchcock has claimed a slot in Langston’s absence). That will
last for as long as Langston remains healthy, ie, probably not very long.
Caminiti’s return frees up Eddie Giovanola and Andy Sheets for duty at short.
Chris Gomez is still struggling, and the Pads are carrying a pair of good
pinch-hitters in Eddie Williams and Mark Sweeney, so Bochy has plenty of
weapons on offense. Moving VanRyn is unfortunate when Donne Wall and Carlos
Reyes are being kept around, but he’s struggled since coming over from the
Cubs, and it didn’t cost anything to bring him in in the first place.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Recalled RHP Russ Ortiz from Fresno; optioned OF Alex Diaz to Fresno. [5/25]


This is basically an emergency move, coming on the heels of the Giants’
17-inning game on Sunday. Ortiz has pitched exceptionally well in Fresno (0.99
ERA, with only 34 baserunners in 27.1 IP, and 24 K), so he could earn his keep
and force the Giants to move someone else. Losing Diaz is no loss; only Dusty,
God bless him, would give Alex Diaz almost 60 major league PA nowadays.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Purchased the contract of RHP Steve Gajkowski from Tacoma; optioned RHP Felipe
Lira
to Tacoma; assigned RHP Rafael Carmona to Orlando (AA) on a rehab
assignment. [5/22]


Gajkowski has been immediately named a co-closer of sorts (with Mike Timlin) as
a result of Mt. Piniella’s latest eruption. Don’t bet on it lasting beyond
consecutive bad outings by Gajkowski. Although Gajkowski was pitching well in
Tacoma (9 saves, 1.01 ERA, 22 baserunners in 26.2 IP, 27 K), he’s a soft-toss
control artist, sort of a minor league version of Paul Quantrill. Given
Piniella’s usage patterns, that means he’ll probably get brought in to clean up
other people’s problems, and since he’s hittable, that means runs for the
opposition. Shame on everyone who’s getting excited by Piniella’s sudden
preference for Gajkowski: he’ll probably struggle as every Mariners reliever
struggles. As a group, they’re only part of the problem, and as long as the
Mariners are subject to Lou’s whims, they’ll be hard-pressed to stop.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Purchased the contract of LHP Matt Ruebel from Durham; optioned RHP Eddie
Gaillard
to Durham; transferred RHP Rick Gorecki from the 15- to the 60-day DL.
[5/25]

Placed C John Flaherty on the 15-day DL (dislocated thumb); purchased the
contract of C Tim Laker from Durham; activated OF Jerome Walton from the DL and
released him. [5/26]


Gosh, now let me get this straight: at one point this winter, it was touted as
a major victory for the expansion teams that they could get catchers as “good”
as Jorge Fabregas and John Flaherty. Now Flaherty’s hurt after hitting
.160/.244/.255, and Fabregas has lost his job to a noticeably better player in
Kelly Stinnett. Talk about two wasted first-round picks… Ruebel’s callup was
an emergency start to paper over Wilson Alvarez’ arm woes; Alvarez has been
advised to rest for a week, and its still uncertain as to whether or not he’ll
have to be put on the DL. I wonder if his struggles (or those of Roberto
Hernandez) make White Sox fans feel any better… Walton is the victim of the
organization’s stated preference for Mike Kelly and Randy Winn’s hot debut, but
in a world where people pay Alex Diaz to play, his phone will ring.


TEXAS RANGERS

Signed LHP Ricky Pickett to a minor-league contract, and assigned him to
Oklahoma. [5/25]


Potentially a handy pickup. It wasn’t so long ago that Scott Bailes and Eric
Gunderson were wondering about life after baseball. Have working left arm, will
travel…