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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Recalled RHP Ramon Ortiz from Edmonton; optioned RHP Mike Fyhrie to
Edmonton. [8/19]

Ortiz’ highly-touted debut has come and gone, and he managed to mow down
the White Sox. Comparisons to Pedro Martinez abound, but unlike Martinez,
he isn’t going to get to cut his teeth in middle relief, and unlike
Martinez, he had serious arm problems in ’98 after being worked hard in
’97. Did the organization learn anything from that? In 1999, as a 23 year
old, he’s tossed 155.1 innings between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Edmonton
in 24 starts. Between the two levels, he’s allowed 134 hits (19 homeruns),
with 59 walks and an impressive 150 strikeouts. That’s in a season coming
off of an injury, which is both impressive and troubling. He still has his
velocity despite last year’s elbow problems, but the Sox claimed they
weren’t that impressed, saying Ortiz is hittable. Terry Collins is not known
for his careful treatment of young starters, and the Angels are a bad team,
so there’s definitely some danger that something stupid will happen and
Ortiz will be put at risk. Fyhrie goes down in his place, courtesy of Tim
Belcher’s contract, despite having an ERA nearly two runs lower than
Belcher’s 6.67.


CHICAGO CUBS

Agreed to a one-year contract extension with 1B Mark Grace for 2000. [8/18]

The Cubs take up the challenge one more time: can they build a winner with
a first baseman who doesn’t hit for power? Despite this year’s offensive
surge and some highly touted winter conditioning, Grace has only twelve
homeruns (thirteen as of a few minutes ago). Can a team win with Grace?
Sure, but to do it requires getting more offense out of other positions,
and the Cubs are carrying offensive zeroes at second, center, third, short,
and catcher. The challenge Ed Lynch has to respond to is to get good
players at all of those positions, instead of merely settling for
improvement over Gary Gaetti or Tyler Houston.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Purchased the contract of LHP Chris Haney and recalled RHP Jason Rakers
from Buffalo; placed LHP Mark Langston on the 15-day DL (strained
quadriceps); optioned LHP Tom Martin to Buffalo; transferred 3B Travis
Fryman
from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/18]

Between Haney and Rakers, the Indians have called up Sunday’s starting
pitcher. Mike Hargrove’s made no promises about which one will make the
start, or if a rehabbing Doc Gooden will take Steve Karsay’s place or that
of Langston/Haney/Rakers. To make this murky situation all the murkier, Tom
Martin had to go down because the bullpen was "fried" after the
Texas series. You could argue that either Rakers or Haney deserved a crack
at the fifth spot before Tom Candiotti ever did; Haney’s had another
workmanlike season for Buffalo, and Rakers has shown signs of life (4.92
ERA, only 31 waks in 131.2 IP, although 151 hits and 17 homeruns).


COLORADO ROCKIES

Optioned LHP Bobby Jones to Colorado Springs; recalled LHP Rigo Beltran
from Colorado Springs. [8/17]

Beltran clearly deserved to be up sooner than this since his pickup from
the Mets, but the real question is whether there’s going to be any
accountability at all on the subject of the Rox rotation. With Jamey Wright
and John Thomson back in the rotation, the Rox are back to the rotation
they had in April. If this is what the Rox call rebuilding now that it’s
August and they’re awful, what do you refer to it as looking back at April,
when expectations were high? Leyland’s facetious claim to like lefties
better aside, Jones had little business starting ahead of Thomson.
Leyland’s inability to wake up and smell the Coors, and his newfound
palavering about a need for defense and speed, condemn the greater Denver
area to a pretty grim future.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Purchased the contract of RHP A.J. Burnett from Portland (Double-A);
optioned RHP Hector Almonte to Portland. [8/17]

Optioned RHP A.J. Burnett to Portland (Double-A); purchased the contract of
LHP Brent Billingsley from Calgary. [8/18]

Burnett came up after pitching so poorly in Portland that he got demoted to
the bullpen. Was it a reward? Not really, because going to the pen is what
made him (and not lefty Mike Tejera, who’s been outstanding) available for
the spot start in the first place. At Portland this year, Burnett’s been
wild: a 5.78 ERA (and 6.8 runs per nine), 122 hits, 70 walks, and 15 wild
pitches in 113.2 IP, but he has punched out 119 batters. But as Dave
Dombrowski put it, the brief callup can give Burnett a bit of incentive to
improve. It was also a good spot to break him in: the wide open spaces of
Chavez Ravine, against a struggling Dodgers team. It seems uncanny how
almost every NL team tries to break in a rookie starter against either the
Marlins or the Expos, but the Marlins obviously don’t have one of those
options.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed RF Derek Bell on the 15-day DL (strained groin); recalled INF Russ
Johnson
from New Orleans. [8/17]

As previously mentioned/expected. Bell’s absence creates a good shot at
serious playing time for a legit member of the Killer B’s, Lance Berkman.
Berkman will probably have to settle for platooning with Matt Mieske so
that Glenn Barker fills in at center with Carl Everett in right, but the
Astros could help themselves every once in awhile if they just told Carl
Everett to cover everything between the foul poles, and put Berkman in
right and Daryle Ward in left.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Traded OF Rich Becker to the Athletics for a PTBNL; recalled 1B Kevin
Barker
from Louisville. [8/18]

Okay, so they’re still stuck with Marquis Grissom, and they just gave up
their best-case scenario platoon partner for the multi-million boondoggle
John Hart saddled them with. With the expectation that Dave Nilsson is
going to walk away, the Brewers could still do themselves some good with
this deal, by asking that the PTBNL be the ragin’ cajun catcher, Danny
Ardoin. Ardoin’s blocked in the A’s system, but he’s a good catcher, draws
a few walks, and would be a good alternative to Bobby Hughes for next year.
If the Brewers instead get Prieto-flavored slurry, they didn’t help
thelmselves. How they’ve helped themselves right now is by making space for
their first baseman of the future, Kevin Barker. Brewers fans, thank your
lucky stars you’re not one of the teams that’s giving big money to a J.T.
Snow or a Rico Brogna. At Louisville this year, Barker hit .278/.363/.518
with 23 homeruns, but he’s a platoon player, having slapped right-handers
around for a .295 average, 21 of the homers, while slugging .565. He’s an
adequte fielder at first, but he’ll need Mark Loretta or Sean Berry to spot
him against lefties. Since he’s just 24, the Brewers should look forward to
writing his name into the lineup for years to come.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Recalled 1B/OF Ryan McGuire from Ottawa; optioned RHP Tony Armas Jr. to
Harrisburg (Double-A). [8/17]

Armas will be back, although perhaps not until he puts the finishing
touches on a fifth (!) pitch, the splitter, which he just added this
spring. He should be able to walk right in and claim a rotation spot next
spring, and the expectations of future success are both high and
well-merited.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Acquired OF Rich Becker from the Brewers for a PTBNL; optioned UT Jason
McDonald
to Midland (Double-A). [8/18]

Delicious. Okay, my true colors are showing, but I like this deal for
obvious reasons. Becker’s still a good centerfielder, still kills
righthanded pitching (.252/.395/.424 with the Brewers this year), and he
can run. Basically, he’s the ideal platoon mate for Ryan Christenson as a
solution to the leadoff problem in Tony Phillips’ absence, which leaves the
A’s better off overall, offensively and defensively. As icing of sorts,
Becker’s arbitration-eligible this winter, but after two years of part-time
play, he’ll have a pretty hard time turning that into a huge raise. That
means the A’s can go into next year with the Becker/Christenson platoon in
place, and (if they let John Jaha walk/limp away to a multi-year deal with
someone like the Mariners or the Blue Jays) put Mario Encarnacion in RF
and get Matt Stairs back to DH.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Signed 1B Rico Brogna to a one-year contract extension for 2000. [8/18]

The National League is slugging .432 last I looked, and Rico Brogna is
slugging .434. The NL figures count pitchers’ hitting totals, so Brogna’s
slugging worse than your average NL position player, counting Rey Ordonez.
If this is the new "Phillies Way," someone might have to tell
them that if this new path involves giving lots of cash to guys who aren’t
even as good as Lenny Matuszek was (and that was actually pretty good, once
upon a time, but I digress), they might not like where the road ends. If
Curt Schilling doesn’t pitch for a significant amount of time next year,
the Phillies could easily finish in last place, at which point the Philly
renaissance ends up looking like a disaster.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated LHP Jeff Wallace from the DL, and optioned him to Nashville. [8/19]

The latest Wild Boy can work on his control in the PCL prior to getting a
September return engagement.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Optioned RHP Jose Jimenez to Memphis; recalled RHP Rick Heiserman from
Memphis. [8/17]

Jimenez has two basic problems: first, his slider still hasn’t come along,
leaving him overly dependent on his great sinker. Second, he’s lost command
of the sinker, leaving it up so that instead of punishing right-handed
batters, they’re catching up to him. He still has the makings of a fine
starting pitcher, but he has work to do. When his spot comes up again on
Tuesday, Rick Ankiel will be getting the start, and Rick Heiserman will be
back in Memphis.