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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed RHP Ken Hill on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/1 (elbow
inflammation); recalled LHP Jarrod Washburn from Edmonton. [7/2]

Coming on the heels of losing Belcher, you might think this is bad news for
the Angels. But Hill’s been pitching hurt all year, and losing someone
walking more than five guys per nine innings can’t be all bad. What losing
Hill and Belcher does for them is put Terry Collins and Bill Bavasi in a
situation where they’re going to have to take their chances with a minor
league vet like Mike Fyhrie (8-5 at Edmonton with a 3.40 ERA in 106 IP; 84
hits allowed, 33 walks, 106 Ks and only seven taters, all while pitching in
the PCL), or a talented prospect like Washburn (5.02 ERA, 32 Ks in 37 2/3
innings). The anchors of the team’s rotation haven’t been their expensive
marquee starters like Hill, Belcher or Chuck Finley, but retreads like Omar
Olivares and Steve Sparks. If the Angels are going to mount any sort of
July charge to contend, they’re going to have to take a few risks.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Placed RHP Gregg Olson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/23 (back
spasms); recalled RHP Bobby Chouinard from Tucson. [7/3]

The next few weeks are pivotal to the future of the franchise. Losing Olson
forces the D’backs into a decision: do they take themselves so seriously
that they want to trade one of their good pitching prospects to get a
closer? Regardless of how seriously you take them, they’re in a position to
win. But is a closer the make-or-break player that this team needs? The
Braves have made do with no-name bullpens, and for all of the money the
Snakes have spent on starters, you’d think they could, too.

Basically, I wouldn’t send away Brad Penny to get somebody like Ugueth
Urbina. The Cubs have made a habit of trying to acquire an established
closer, and after a lot of money and several years’ worth of grief, they
still don’t have somebody they trust in the ninth. Meanwhile, the Reds have
a half-dozen guys and the Astros have three. If the D’backs are smart,
they’ll stand pat and see if they can trust the rookie trio and the two
veteran lefties.

Bobby Chouinard? How long has it been since he was traded for Harold
Baines, anyway? Almost seven years? Well, he does throw strikes (63:13 K/BB
ratio in 62 innings), which means he could be handy in a Dave Weathers sort
of way…


ATLANTA BRAVES

Activated SS Walt Weiss from the DL; optioned SS Mark DeRosa
to Richmond. [7/1]

Placed RHP John Smoltz on the 15-day DL (inflamed elbow); recalled
LHP Bruce Chen from Richmond. [7/5]

The Braves have been down this road before, and with both Maddux and
Glavine pitching better of late, it’s more important that they make certain
Smoltz can pitch in the playoffs than it is for them to have him around in
July. Chen is still as good a pitching prospect as you’re going to find,
was still pitching well in Richmond (3.77 ERA, 69 hits, 25 walks and 87 Ks
in 74 innings), and having him pitch now gives the Braves a live-ammo trial
to decide between Chen and Odalis Perez as the fifth starter down the stretch.

Bringing Weiss back is huge. Not because of his OBP (a paltry .330), but
because it gets Ozzie Guillen’s bat out of the lineup, and even more
importantly, his glove off the field. The Braves are having real problems
turning double plays. You could have expected some problems as Weiss and
Bret Boone got used to playing together, but they’ll still be adjusting to
one another going into August. Having Guillen out there only made a tough
situation miserable almost to the brink of pointlessness. As has been the
case throughout the decade, the Braves’ taste in bench players leaves
something to be desired. That they still have the best record in the league
is a testament to the strength of their core talent.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed RHP Jim Corsi to a minor-league contract; placed RHP Ricky
Bones
on the 15-day DL (fatigue); recalled RHP Gabe Molina from
Rochester. [7/2]

Whether he’s fatigued or just plain old bad, the Orioles reap the bitter
fruit of having ever signed a broken-down old mopup man like Ricky Bones in
the first place. Molina is a definite upgrade, and he’ll be given every
opportunity to seize the closer’s job from Mike Timlin, which might let
Timlin sort out his problems in a setup role. If Timlin does that, he may
yet have some trade value.

Adding Corsi is a bit of a surprise, in that other teams could have used
him as well. But he’s an East Coast guy, and probably wanted to remain
close to home.


BOSTON RED SOX

Placed 3B John Valentin on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/27
(post-concussion syndrome); recalled 3B Wilton Veras from Trenton
(Double-A). [6/30]

Placed LHP Mark Guthrie on the 15-day DL (strained Achilles tendon);
purchased the contract of UT Chad Fonville from Pawtucket;
transferred C Scott Hatteberg from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/5]

Losing Valentin at the same time that Nomar Garciaparra was struggling with
nagging injuries left the club flat-footed. Valentin has been run down in
print lately, but despite the poor start, he’s still a good glove and a
solid power source. Losing him exposed an organizational problem at third
base, at least until they feel Cole Liniak is ready. It’s interesting that
for all of the Duke’s maneuvering, the Sox didn’t have a Triple-A vet
cooling his heels in Pawtucket. Veras may turn out to be a decent player,
but his numbers at Trenton this year (.307/.346/.458, with nine home runs)
are the product of repeating the level this year. He still hasn’t made
progress commanding the strike zone (16 walks in 327 PA), but he has some
physical skill at the hot corner.

Calling up Fonville is the ultimate throwaway roster move: nobody but Tommy
Lasorda and Fred Claire every really thought he could play, he’s been a
lousy Pawsock (.240/.295/.274), and whether he makes it through waivers or
not when the Sox need to make space for someone useful is completely
irrelevant.


CHICAGO CUBS

Outrighted OF Robin Jennings to Iowa; recalled LHP Ray King
from Iowa. [7/3]

Activated RHP Terry Adams from the DL; optioned RHP Kyle
Farnsworth
to Iowa. [7/4]

Jennings made it through waivers. Will the team make an equally heroic
move, and realize that nobody else wants Sandy Martinez? They’re still
burning a roster spot or two, and Jennings would fill their needs better
than Martinez will. Heck, so would Kevin Orie.

In the meantime, the Cubs have temporarily given up on Farnsworth, having
rushed him and regretted it. Dan Serafini will get first crack at the
rotation spot, which tells you either how seriously the Cubs take
themselves at this point, or how out of touch they are with what it might
take to fulfill their delusions of postseason grandeur. What’s happened
with Farnsworth (and Serafini) sort of highlights another one of the
drawbacks to having a mini-LaRussian running a ballclub: no kids get to cut
their teeth and gain confidence in middle relief roles, because the manager
is obsessed with every possible tactical advantage, as opposed to the idea
that if he works someone regularly, they’ll learn a thing or two and become
more valuable. If Farnsworth had been broken in like Scott Williamson or
Scott Elarton or even (surprisingly) John Halama, he might have given the
Cubs some good innings in middle relief while learning what works, and
would have been ready to step into the rotation. Now the Cubs have an
unhappy Farnsworth, no fifth starter, no good bullpen, but damned if they
don’t have a "tactician" clever enough to know to bring in Ray
King to face a left-handed batter.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Purchased the contract of RHP Pat Daneker from Birmingham
(Double-A); optioned RHP John Snyder to Charlotte; transfered RHP
Darren Hall from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/1]

Snyder’s struggles went beyond acceptable, and it’s simply because the
league has adjusted, and Snyder hasn’t adjusted back. Everyone seems to
agree his delivery is basically fine, his mechanics are fine and his
velocity hasn’t dropped. He’s being demoted because he’s been lousy, which
seems pretty old-fashioned.

Daneker is a very similar pitcher to Snyder: a four-pitch starter whose
bread and butter is the not-overpowering sinker-slider combo. He’s a
University of Virginia grad with good control (27 walks in 104 2/3 innings,
to go with 97 hits allowed, 70 Ks, and a 3.10 ERA). It’s interesting that
Daneker leapfrogged both Carlos Castillo and Kevin Beirne at Charlotte, but
Ron Schueler’s been grumbling about what he doesn’t like about both of
them. The guy who might have to take notes at this point is James Baldwin,
whose struggles of late may get him bumped to the pen, since he can’t be
optioned down.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Outrighted C Chris Turner to Buffalo. [7/2]

Placed RHP Steve Karsay on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/2
(strained oblique); recalled RHP Jeff Tam from Buffalo. [7/3] Placed
3B Travis Fryman on the 15-day DL (damaged knee ligament); recalled
SS John McDonald from Buffalo. [7/4]

Optioned OF Mark Whiten and RHP Jeff Tam to Buffalo; recalled
OFs Jacob Cruz and Alex Ramirez. [7/6]

An interesting collection of moves, especially with Fryman likely out for
most of the season. Will they really move Jim Thome back to third base?
Will they play Enrique Wilson at third regularly? Losing Jeff Manto on
waivers has created all sorts of interesting possibilities. I’m willing to
guess that recalling Cruz and Ramirez means that they’ll get the playing
time created by Fryman’s absence, which means Thome at third, Sexson at
first, Justice resting his legs at DH pretty regularly, and even more
offensive support for the wobbly rotation.

Where I’m left clutching straws is trying to explain why McDonald’s up. Why
does a team that has two good glovemen at short (Vizquel and Wilson) need a
third? McDonald’s made strides offensively this year (a .315 average
between Akron and Buffalo), but he still has no power (16 doubles, one home
run) and poor patience. He might get to be showcased, because other GMs
have heard about his highlight-reel defense. But he’d basically be the
new-and-improved version of Rey Ordonez, and how many more of those do we
need to see with Deivi Cruz already running around?


COLORADO ROCKIES

Waived C Jeff Reed; recalled LHP Roberto Ramirez from
Colorado Springs; optioned Ramirez to Colorado Springs; recalled UT
Chris Sexton from Colorado Springs. [7/3]

The Rox are flailing, pure and simple. Reed outside of a mile-high
environment is going to struggle, but the really bad news is that no one
would take Kirt Manwaring off their hands, meaning they’ve elected to keep
the worst of their catchers and now carry two right-handed-hitting glove
men (Manwaring and the immortal Henri Blanco). That means no platoon, and a
bad situation made worse.

At least they can add Sexton to their three-headed hydra at second, but
that just means it’ll be tough for Leyland to find enough playing time for
all of them. He isn’t well-known for running a great bench; he’s actually
better known for wasting a roster spot on somebody like John Wehner because
he doesn’t know what else to do with the last couple of slots. That sort of
inflexibility is probably a bigger handicap in Coors than elsewhere.


DETROIT TIGERS

Placed RHP Masao Kida on the 15-day DL (back strain); recalled RHP
Willis Roberts from Toledo. [7/1]

Roberts wasn’t pitching well as a Mud Hen (6.48 ERA), but as long as the
Tigers are going down, they’re going to get to go down with some of Randy
Smith’s project players. Roberts is a tall, skinny Dominican who throws
hard, but he hasn’t really gotten a handle on this baseball thing yet,
having basically never done well since leaving A-ball after 1996. If Tiger
fans thought things were bad, they can get worse.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Placed 3B Kevin Orie on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/1 (partially
torn quad). [7/3]

Recalled 2B Amaury Garcia from Calgary. [7/4]

Orie goes down, as he’s gone down every year in the last four, giving Mike
Lowell a clean shot at the job. Since Orie had been slowing down of late,
if Lowell heats up, the Marlins can congratulate themselves on getting
pretty solid play out of their third basemen this year. Unfortunately,
neither player is good enough to outstrip the other, so if both play well,
the Marlins don’t have much reason to prefer one to the other.

Garcia was having a banner year in the PCL bandboxes, recently heating up
to .313/.360/.554 with 12 home runs. His hope has to be a shot at
platooning with Luis Castillo, where he’ll get to show off his relatively
huge advantage at getting the ball out of the infield.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed RHP Sean Bergman on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/26
(forearm tightness); purchased the contract of RHP Joe Slusarski
from New Orleans. [7/3]

Optioned INF Russ Johnson to New Orleans; recalled RHP Wade
Miller
from New Orleans. [7/5]

With Bergman going down, Chris Holt’s struggles and Mike Hampton’s recent
wrist injury, Miller is going to have an opportunity to toss some good
middle relief innings. Miller throws hard, has a nice slider and was
pitching pretty well: a 3.96 ERA, 9-5 record, 99 hits, 39 walks and 88 Ks
in 102 1/3 innings. He could possibly wind up like Scott Elarton, in the
rotation, or they could simply send him away once Ken Caminiti heals. You’d
have to think they’re pretty frustrated with Holt at this point, as his ERA
creeps back over five.

What’s this, Joe Slusarski’s back? In the same weekend that saw the returns
of Don Wengert and Bobby Chouinard? Who’s next, Todd Burns? Nah, he was too
good. Johnny Guzman? Dana Allison?


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Placed RHP Terry Mathews on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/1
(strained rotator cuff); recalled RHP Don Wengert from Omaha. [7/3]

Placed INF Scott Leius on the 15-day DL (dislocated shoulder);
recalled INF Steve Scarsone from Omaha. [7/4]

Aside from their immediate families and Rany Jazayerli, this sort of
stuff… well, I guess the phone company makes a few cents from the phone
call, and the guys who make the fabrics for the uniforms make some pin
money, and…maybe somebody’s feelings are hurt in Omaha. I guess losing
Leius might make Muser more insistent in his demands for a defensive
replacement at first. Hell, maybe he’ll suit up himself, or ask that the
team trade for Tom Kelly. What is Mike Squires doing these days, anyways?


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Activated SS Mark Grudzielanek from the DL; placed INF Tripp
Cromer
on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/5 (irregular heartbeat). [7/6]

I don’t want to make light of this if Cromer has a real problem, but this
seems awfully fishy coming in the wake of Shane Spencer’s situation (see
below). Grudz’ return only kick starts the same defensive problems the
Dodgers had with him in the first place, and it isn’t like he’s going to
start hitting like Honus Wagner.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated LHP Bill Pulsipher from the DL; optioned RHP Al
Reyes
to Louisville. [7/3]

Reyes had a 4.25 ERA, which isn’t all bad these days for a middle reliever,
but he was irritating the bejeezuz out of Phil Garner with his tendency to
walk his first batter. I’m certain somebody would love to take a
hard-throwing righty off of their hands if he’s really so odious to Scrap
Iron.

Pulsipher will get a shot at the rotation in the same slot that Cal Eldred
and Raffy Roque have abandoned, and is just about as likely as they were to
hand it to somebody else by August.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Outrighted RHP Mel Rojas to Ottawa. [7/1]

Recalled RHP Jeremy Powell from Ottawa. [7/2]

Placed LF Rondell White on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring);
placed OF/1B Orlando Merced on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/1
(strained calf); recalled 3B Jose Fernandez from Ottawa; purchased
the contract of OF Terry Jones from Ottawa. [7/3]

Announced that RHP Mel Rojas rejected his assignment to Ottawa, and
is entering an enforced retirement of sorts, at the expense of the Tigers.
[7/5]

Rondell makes his third trip to the DL, and it reflects how ill-focused the
Expos are that they’ve called up Terry Jones and seem inclined to play him,
despite last year’s flop and this year’s weak hitting (.270/.321/.340). At
best, this is a holding pattern until White heals or Peter Bergeron comes
up. At worst, the Expos will waste another couple hundred ABs on Jones.

The call-up of Powell basically means that Felipe Alou’s had it with Miguel
Batista’s struggles, at least until they get tired of seeing Dan Smith get
knocked around. Powell was having a good season, posting a 2.97 ERA while
allowing 85 hits and 37 walks in 91 innings, along with 72 Ks. Calling up
Fernandez is interesting because it betrays how far the stars of Wil
Guerrero and Shane Andrews have fallen. Jose Vidro’s going to play second
base, and while Michael Barrett’s out, Fernandez is apparently going to get
a full-blown crack at third. Like Andrews, he has his limitations afield,
but Fernandez can run a little, hit for some power, and was having a decent
year in his first full season at Ottawa (.270/.334/.445).


NEW YORK METS

Placed LHP John Franco on the 15-day DL (strained tendon – middle
finger); recalled LHP Rigo Beltran from Norfolk. [7/3]

Placed DH Bobby Bonilla on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/3
(stiff…knee); recalled RHP Jason Isringhausen from Norfolk. [7/4]

Losing Franco might be interpreted as some sort of major setback, but
Armando Benitez is the better pitcher right now, and Rigo Beltran has been
pretty good at both major- and minor-league levels. What’s tough for the
Mets is what to do about Izzy. He’s been dominant at Norfolk (2.29 ERA) and
pathetic in the majors (7.30 ERA). If they let him get some success in
middle relief, they may yet turn him around, but this is hardly the team or
the situation that allows a struggling ex-prospect is going to get a chance
to straighten himself out.

Bobby Bo’s not on the roster? How will they notice?


NEW YORK YANKEES

Claimed INF Jeff Manto off of waivers from the Indians. [7/2]

Signed LHP Allen Watson to a minor-league contract; placed OF
Shane Spencer on the 15-day DL (irregular heartbeat); added INF
Jeff Manto to the roster.
[7/3]

Manto’s a dandy snag, since he can help out against left-handers, and play
almost anywhere other than center field or shortstop in a pinch. Losing
Spencer just as he was winning the left-field job may finally clear the
decks for Ricky Ledee to finally claim the job in left, but the rumors
are–naturally enough–swirling that the Yankees want to add a name.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Recalled OF Jason McDonald from Vancouver; placed RHP T.J.
Mathews
on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation). [7/2]

Mathews was one of the team’s most valuable players in the first two months
of the season, but his struggles of late were symptomatic of a bullpen-wide
implosion that has undermined the A’s pursuit of the Rangers. Having
returned to an eleven-man staff, they may have to count on Doug Jones, Tim
Worrell and Brad Rigby that much more, but I’m hoping this creates a clean
shot at the setup job for Chad Harville.

McDonald’s return gives Art Howe the flexibility to pinch-hit for Ryan
Christenson without automatically having to move Tony Phillips to center
field, a tactical gambit that hasn’t been too swell so far. In his
month-plus of duty at Vancouver, McDonald was hitting well
(.326/.420/.504), and he should be a nice fifth outfielder, pinch-runner,
and all-around spare part.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Optioned RHP Mike Grace to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; purchased the
contract of RHP Steve Schrenk from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; placed LHP
Yorkis Perez on the 15-day DL (inflamed elbow); purchased the
contract of RHP Joe Grahe from Scranton/Wilkes Barre; transferred SS
Desi Relaford from the 15- to 60-day DL. [7/2]

I guess I’m just shocked that not only are Joe Grahe and Steve Schrenk both
still pitching, but they both came up on the same weekend as the Wengerts
and the Chouinards and the Slusarskis. Naturally, the media should have a
field day with complaints about "expansion pitching". It was ten
years ago that both were both considered prospects. Grahe was the closer at
the University of Miami, and Schrenk was considered one of the best
pitching prospects the White Sox had. Lots of bad–and some good–pitching
and several injuries later, here they both are, after their 30th birthdays,
on the Phillies.

This is Grahe’s first major league action since 1995, and he wasn’t doing
so hot as a closer for Scranton. This is Schrenk’s major league debut, and
I’m glad for him that he finally made it. He was pitching solidly as a
middle man, posting a 2.93 ERA, but with 21 walks in 43 innings; he doesn’t
have the velocity he had when Reagan was president. They’re an interesting
pair of characters to have floating around at the back end of the bullpen,
but the Phillies should continue to use Wayne Gomes as their closer, and
rely on Jim Poole or Amaury Telemaco in setup roles, although Perez will be
missed.

As for Mike Grace, when you pitch like crap in a garbage time role, that’s
the definition of a guy who should lose his job to lifers like Grahe or
Schrenk.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Recalled LHP Jimmy Anderson from Nashville; placed LHP Jeff
Wallace
on the 15-day DL (fatigued shoulder). [7/3]

Placed C Jason Kendall on the 15-day DL (broken & dislocated ankle);
recalled C Yamid Haad from Altoona (Double-A). [7/5]


Placed 1B Ivan Cruz on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); purchased
the contract of UT John Wehner from Nashville; transferred C
Jason Kendall from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/6]

Like everyone else, I really, really hope that medicine has gotten to the
point that Jason Kendall can come back as the player he’s been so far. Bucs
fans are already muttering about Rennie Stennett and his very similar–and
in that case, career-altering–injury. Let’s just say this is sort of thing
that could kill the Pirates’ mad dash at respectability this year. Haad is
an emergency call-up; the Pirates are expected to either snap up Jeff Reed
or trade for a body to use along with Keith Osik behind the plate.

As for calling up Anderson, the gaudy 11-1 record exaggerates his
effectiveness. He’s a control artist and something of a soft-tosser, but a
3.86 ERA isn’t bad, and anything has to be better than Jose Silva nowadays.

Wehner’s back in a Pirates’ uniform? Jim Leyland must be jealous.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Placed RHP Heathcliff Slocumb on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/23
(strained shoulder); recalled CF J.D. Drew from Memphis. [6/30]

This means that finally the Cardinals have someone who can physically play
center field. As much as everyone’s said Drew’s struggled so far, he’s
slugging almost .500 in the playing time he has had. This is a
straightforward improvement, offensively and defensively, and may yield big
rewards for a pitching staff that needs all the help in the field that it
can get.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Placed C Greg Myers on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 6/29 (strained
hamstring); recalled RHP Carlos Almanzar from Las Vegas. [6/30]

We always get to hear about the shortage of catchers, almost as much as we
get to hear about the shortage of pitching. So let’s see: the Padres have
lost Jim Leyritz, Greg Myers, and Carlos Hernandez, three pretty useful
guys who are all major-league calibre catchers. We’ve got thirty major
league teams, so the shortage of catchers should be at an all-time high,
right? Except that the Pads have ├╝berprospect Ben Davis looking like he’s
ready to play major league baseball right now, and Phil Nevin’s looking
pretty handy with ten homeruns. Sure, the Padres are extraordinary in this
respect, and several teams would be glad to have any one of their Pads’
five catchers. But if you’re upset that your team has (insert Matt
Walbeck’s name here), remember that that’s a question of taste or the lack
of it, not a product of some catching shortage.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Placed 3B Charlie Hayes on the 15-day DL (wrist); recalled INF
Ramon Martinez from Fresno. [7/3]

Hayes has been worse than decrepit this season, having a year that puts
Gary Gaetti’s to shame. With J.T. Snow doing adequately against
left-handers while batting left-handed, Hayes’ platoon role has shrunk.
With Bill Mueller back, his playing time at third has evaporated as well.
Losing him isn’t the worst thing that’s happened to the Giants this year.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Outrighted RHP Melvin Bunch to Tacoma; recalled LHP Damaso Marte from
Tacoma. [6/30]

Guess what, Marte wasn’t pitching well in Tacoma. Does it matter? Hell no!
In the shadow of Mt. Piniella, anybody gets to pitch for the Mariners,
sometimes for as long as a week at a time.


TEXAS RANGERS

Activated RHP Esteban Loaiza from the DL; sent RHP Danny Kolb to Oklahoma.
[7/4]

Loaiza’s return has become less urgent with John Burkett running off a
streak of solid starts, but nonetheless, the Rangers can also look forward
to putting him in should they tire of Ryan Glynn or once Mike Morgan has to
take another one of his DL sabbaticals. With almost every Rangers’ starter
having problems getting through the sixth inning, there should be plenty of
middle relief work for Loaiza in the meantime.