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ATLANTA BRAVES

Traded RHP Mark Wohlers to the Reds for RHP John Hudek; optioned RHP Mike
Cather
to Richmond. [4/16]

Activated LHP Mike Remlinger from the DL; optioned LHP Derrin Ebert to
Richmond. [4/18]

I’m no big fan of Hudek’s, but since Wohlers may never be the same, this isn’t a
bad way to make Wohlers somebody else’s problem. Hudek is basically of the
same ilk as Russ Springer: an adequate reliever when he’s going good, but
not really somebody you should rely on too heavily. Remlinger’s return just
adds another name to the hopper for who might get to close for the Braves
for a week or two. The way things are going, the first guy to convert
back-to-back save opportunities will almost certainly get a shot at a
third. What’s really important is to keep in mind that none of it really
matters: the Braves wouldn’t win so many more games if only they had Troy
Percival. Keep that in mind, and apply that lesson to other teams. Closers
are created or anointed by their managers, but logging saves are
bookkeepers’ notations, not a stat that describes a skill. Troy Percival or
Trevor Hoffman are good pitchers because they can blow a batter out of the
box, not because they can log saves. The Braves have pitchers with skill in
their pen, and they’ll be fine.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Placed 3B Cal Ripken Jr. on the 15-day DL (back); recalled INF Jesse Garcia
from Rochester; placed 1B Will Clark on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/18
(fractured thumb). [4/20]

Neither of these items are really bad news for the Orioles in themselves.
Having blown the money on Clark, and having to carry the slow bat of the
Iron Icon, expectations should have already been low. The really bad news
is that they can’t capitalize on the playing time Clark’s absence creates,
because Cal Pickering’s aching shoulder has him idling at Rochester. This
team was already bad, but if they were playing Pickering and Willis Otanez,
they’d at least have a shot at being bad-but-improving. Instead, they’ll
probably goof off with Jeff Conine at first, which leaves them with one of
the weakest 1B/LF pairings in the American League.


BOSTON RED SOX

Placed C Scott Hatteberg on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation). [4/15]

Recalled C Creighton Gubanich from Pawtucket; activated 1B Reggie Jefferson
from the DL; optioned 1B Brian Daubach to Pawtucket. [4/16]

Placed RHP Tom Gordon on the 15-day DL (strained elbow); recalled RHP Brian
Rose
from Pawtucket. [4/18]

Optioned RHP Brian Rose to Pawtucket; recalled RHP Juan Pena from
Pawtucket; optioned Pena to Pawtucket. [4/19]

Losing Hatteberg is a small blow, but easily compensated for. In his
absence, Jason Varitek gets to play every day, and it should let the
long-deserving Gubanich finally make his major league debut. The
Rose-to-Pena-to-(probably Tim Harrikkala) shuffle was all part of
Harrikala’s being used by the Paw Sox on Saturday, while the Sox kept their
bullpen stocked in the meantime. It didn’t really cost them anything in
terms of options, but it seems like an inane way to handle a roster spot.


CINCINNATI REDS

Acquired RHP Mark Wohlers from the Braves for RHP John Hudek; placed
Wohlers on the 15-day DL (acute Blassitis). [4/16]

Purchased the contract of RHP Rick Greene from Indianapolis. [4/18]

Purchased the contract of C Guillermo Garcia from the Marlins, and assigned
him to Chattanooga (AA). [4/20]

The Reds were going to have to create a roster spot for Denny Neagle at
some point, and trading Hudek does that. The Braves are footing the bill
for the Reds’ flyer on Wohlers, so if he gets straightened out, they got
something for very little. I’m not extremely optimistic that Wohlers can be
straightened out, but if all it costs was another wild mediocre reliever,
it didn’t cost much. Greene will probably get sent down today, but the Reds
won’t keep only ten pitchers forever, especially when they’re dragging
Jason Bere’s carcass in the rotation as some sort of trophy. I figure
between Mark Sweeney and Michael Tucker, somebody’s going to end up on
somebody else’s team by May.

The small potatoes masterstroke here is snagging Garcia back from the
Marlins. They basically got a hard-throwing reliever in Manny Barrios for
less than two weeks of Guillermo Garcia’s not-very-valuable time. You don’t
need me to tell you that’s a steal, and another small feather in Jim
Bowden’s cap, coming at the still-well-regarded Dave Dombrowski’s expense.


DETROIT TIGERS

Acquired RHPs Dave Mlicki and Mel Rojas and cash from the Dodgers for RHPs
Robinson Checo and Apostol Garcia and LHP Rick Roberts. [4/16]

Optioned RHP Beiker Graterol to Toledo; designated RHP Felipe Lira for
assignment. [4/17]

The Tigers are still gunning for second place in the AL Central. There
really isn’t any long-term payoff to adding an adequate fifth starter like
Mlicki, and Mel Rojas will be even more of a disaster in Tiger Stadium than
he’s been everywhere else of late. On the other hand, they didn’t really
give up that much. It’s too early to say much about Roberts. Apostol Garcia
has been bad in his brief career, and Checo was wire fodder. The move
basically broadcasts the same plaintive cry the Tigers have broadcast all
winter: they want to be better, even if they aren’t really helping
themselves in any meaningful long-term way.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Outrighted RHP Eric Ludwick to Calgary. [4/17]

Between Alex Fernandez’ shoulder woes, and Dennis Springer and Kirt Ojala’s
problems, I won’t be surprised to see Ludwick resurface in a bid for the
rotation spot he won last year, only to lose to repeated freak injuries.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Acquired RHPs Robinson Checo and Apostol Garcia and LHP Rick Roberts from
the Tigers for RHPs Dave Mlicki and Mel Rojas and cash; assigned Garcia and
Roberts to the minors; activated RHP Antonio Osuna from the DL. [4/16]

Purchased the contract of RHP Jamie Arnold from Albuquerque; designated C
Rick Wilkins for assignment. [4/20]

The Dodgers have made moves that range from the odd to the unfortunate, but
this trade wasn’t one of them, in itself. Mlicki and Rojas aren’t really
that useful or significant in themselves, while Checo could end up being a
decent long reliever. The interesting math is that the value of Bobby
Bonilla went from Mel Rojas (ie, worthless) to some odds and ends. That
seems about right.

Cutting Wilkins loose is basically an affirmation that they’re confident
that Todd Hundley won’t have any major problems with his shoulder from here
on out. Calling up Arnold seems strange; he’s not a prospect, the Dodgers
aren’t a team that needs to carry 12 pitchers, and after Dave Hansen,
they’re thin on the bench for useful hitters.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed LHP Bill Pulsipher on the 15-day DL (sore back); purchased the
contract of RHP Steve Falteisek from Louisville. [4/19]

As expected, Brewers starting pitchers should end up dropping like flies,
and Pulsipher’s only the first to fall. In his place, Cal Eldred is
expected to be activated from the DL. Now that the wild ex-suspect is out
of the way, my bet is that Jim Abbott is the next to go down (career-ending
ineffectiveness), although Scott Karl isn’t doing anything to convince
anyone he’s healthy. How desperate is the situation? Phil Garner’s
wrestling with using the shuttle system that Tony LaRussa tried with the
A’s, where he uses his starting pitchers for three or four innings each
every three days. LaRussa didn’t stick with it. Although Garner’s working
with some horrible alternatives, and as much as it might limit the bad
things you can expect from a Jim Abbott, if Garner sticks to it, it would
severely undermine Steve Woodard’s value to the club. The other down side
is that it allows someone like Abbott to pitch more frequently, creating
souvenirs every three days instead of every five. I don’t expect too many
opposing teams will gripe about that.


NEW YORK METS

Optioned OF Terrence Long to Norfolk; recalled C Vance Wilson from Norfolk.
[4/16]

No major news here. Piazza looks to be back before the end of the month,
and in the meantime Todd Pratt is once again demonstrating he’s a useful
baseball player. Vance Wilson will be back in Norfolk in no time.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Activated LHP Andy Pettitte from the DL; placed 3B Scott Brosius on the
15-day DL, retroactive to 4/14 (sprained ankle). [4/17]

Wow, Clay Bellinger’s name up in lights. Whodathunk it? For all of the
attention paid to the much-vaunted pitching staff or the Irabu situation,
the real story is that the Yankees are having their problems offensively.
None of the three leftfield candidates are doing much, and with Brosius
gone, the Yankees add a weak hitter at third. Sure, it’s too early to mean
much, but add that to the early struggles of Tino Martinez and Jorge
Posada, and you’ve got the beginnings of a problem.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Placed RHP Francisco Cordova on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/11
(shoulder inflammation); purchased the contract of RHP Jim Dougherty from
Nasvhille; transferred LHP Jeff Tabaka from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [4/16]

Transferred RHP Javier Martinez from the 15- to the 60-day DL; purchased
the contract of RHP Todd Ritchie from Nashville; optioned RF Jose Guillen
to Nashville. [4/18]

So Guillen goes back down after being the big "A-ball to the
majors" story of 1997. He’s being scapegoated to a certain extent,
because the same men who rushed him are the same men blaming him for his
recent lapses in the field and on the basepaths. The biggest problem by
far, of course, has been Guillen’s lack of significant progress as a
hitter. He could still end up having a career. In his absence, the Bucs are
slowly working Brant Brown out of centerfield, which is just as well, since
he can’t really play the position. That in turn means more playing time for
Turner Ward and Adrian Brown. With the decision to keep Chad Hermansen in
center field in Triple-A, don’t be surprised if Hermansen comes up at gets
a shot at the job by August. Cordova’s shoulder isn’t supposed to be
serious, and they say they’re erring on the side of caution. In the
meantime, I was surprised to see Ritchie returned to the
starting role he struggled with in the minors, but he’s added some breaking
stuff to the straight fastball that used to be his only weapon. Who’s to
say he won’t be an adequate fourth or fifth starter?


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Activated UT David Howard from the DL; optioned SS Luis Ordaz to Memphis.
[4/19]

There’s a lot of bluster about the Cardinals’ "strong" bench
lately, not to mention how Howard’s return makes it stronger. It’s even
being said with a straight face. Shawon Dunston is positionless and doesn’t
get on base. Willie McGee is postionless, and doesn’t get on base. David
Howard can play every position on the field, and doesn’t get on base.
Alberto Castillo has a hard time hitting his weight. This is what passes
for a strong bench these days?


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Activated C/UT Phil Nevin from the DL; designated INF Carlos Garcia for
assignment. [4/16]

Garcia can’t hit or play third, two qualities the Padres needed from their
13th position player. Nevin’s ability to catch, or play third or left,
gives Bruce Bochy considerable flexibility, but I have to wonder if the
best move might not be to give Damian Jackson some playing time at the hot
corner. As is, the Padres are eventually going to have to make a choice
between Jackson and Chris Gomez at short, and giving Jackson the
opportunity to play every day could prod them towards trading Gomez, should
anyone besides the Padres actually want him.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Placed RHP Mark Gardner on the 15-day DL (shoulder "discomfort");
recalled OF Armando Rios from Fresno. [4/17]

Placed LF Barry Bonds on the 15-day DL (elbow and triceps surgery);
recalled RHP Joe Nathan from Shreveport (AA). [4/20]

Losing Bonds after already losing Bill Mueller? That’s one way to rip the
guts out of a team’s offense. With Bonds gone for two months, Dusty Baker
will get to spread Bonds’s playing time among Stan Javier, F.P. Santangelo,
and Rios, which isn’t the end of the world in itself. It isn’t Bonds’
ability to get on base the Giants can’t replace, it’s his power. Losing
Gardner creates a second chance for Joe Nathan after he failed to beat out
Chris Brock for a job in camp. Every team in the division has a blend of
strengths and warts, so I wouldn’t give up on the Giants just yet.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Assigned LHP Norm Charlton to Durham; activated OF Rich Butler from the DL
and optioned him to Durham. [4/16]

Well, if Charlton wants a shot at John Franco’s "saves for a
left-hander" record, he’s in the right organization. It may even only
take him twenty years or so.


TEXAS RANGERS

Assigned DH Mike Simms to Oklahoma on a rehab assignment. [4/17]


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Placed RHP Joey Hamilton on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/14 (shoulder
impingement); recalled RHP Nerio Rodriguez from Syracuse. [4/16]

Placed D"H" Dave Hollins on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 4/18;
recalled OF Anthony Sanders from Syracuse. [4/20]

Losing Hamilton for any length of time doesn’t significantly alter the
team’s solid shot at postseason play. In his absence, the Jays will work
Roy Halladay into the rotation, and if Hamilton bounces back soon enough,
the Jays may be able to move aside Pat Hentgen if he’s still struggling.
Losing manager’s pet Dave Hollins only helps the lineup, since it creates
playing time for the guys who should have been the team’s DHs in the first
place: a platoon of Willie Greene and Geronimo Berroa. Now if they could
come up with a second baseman and a way to make Mike Matheny go away,
they’ll be in great shape to push the Yankees and stay ahead of the Red Sox
for the next five-plus months.