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BOSTON RED SOX
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Signed 1B-L Carlos Pena to a minor league contract, and
assigned him to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [8/16]

Acquired 4C-L Eric Hinske and cash from the Blue Jays for
a PTBNL. [8/17]

The Yankees could almost cry foul here, if they hadn’t already gotten
Bobby Abreu for a song, and not even a particularly good
one, perhaps something along the lines of an Oingo Boingo B-side that time
appropriately forgot.

Getting Pena to exercise his free agency option to walk off of the
Clippers’ roster and become a quality reserve waiting for the call in
Boston’s outfit was already pretty tasty-Pena hit .262/.391/.496 against
RHPs in the International League, not too much more than what you might
hope from him since he hit .254/.355/.493 against them in the big leagues
last year. Add in that he’s a plus defender at first, and the Sox have
their substitute for previous decisions to lefty-hitting reserves like
John Olerud or Roberto Petagine. Yankees
fans can work themselves up to a new level of obnoxified by this exchange,
but they’re not alone-as an A’s fan, I would have loved to seen Pena
picked up as an alternative to getting Dan Johnson back
on track, but Johnson is slugging .627 for Sacramento, so it’s probably
safe to say that he’s right as rain. But this move also makes me think
that the Tigers’ decision to release Pena outright in camp so that they
could cycle guys like Jack Hannahan, Alexis
Gomez
, Ramon Santiago, Jason
Grilli
, and Roman Colon through the last couple
of spots on the roster deserves reconsideration. If the Tigers had kept
Pena, they wouldn’t have had to trade for Sean Casey, and
they would have had a better in-house alternative to Chris
Shelton
should he falter, as he did. Pena was
projected to a .294 Equivalent Average before the season
, while Casey was projected to .275, and has achieved even
less.
If you’d asked me in February which one I’d rather have, I’d
have said Pena, but I’ve been something of a Casey detractor for… well,
forever, because the Hal Morris types generally don’t
inspire a lot of an enthusiasm in me for them as anything more than temps.

So, Pena was already a nifty no-cost add, but what really gets silly is
that then the Red Sox get another gimme from a division “rival” to combat
the Evil Empire? Javy Lopez for nothing as a two-month
rental can be written off as a case of the Orioles screwing up, because
they mishandled the decision about who to have at DH, and flubbed an
opportunity to convert Lopez for real goodies last winter when his value
as a catcher would have commanded something in barter. But to now have the
Blue Jays agreeably hand over a lefty power bat who can help a Red Sox
lineup that, without Trot Nixon, really could use a lefty
to mix in at all four corners of the infield and outfield? That’s a wee
bit convenient, that, especially on a team that has right-handed hitters
starting at first, third, and in both outfield corners. Hinske should be a
near-regular at all four spots (plus DH on those rare days Papi might want
off), perhaps particularly spot-starting for Wily Mo
Pena
, Mike Lowell, and Kevin
Youkilis
. Not that any of the three are having trouble with
right-handed pitching this year, but would you rather really have to count
on Gabe Kapler?

Basically, I wouldn’t credit Theo Epstein with any particular genius here,
beyond the sensible decision to help his team. He took advantage of
Toronto’s agreeability while simultaneously swiping a potentially useful
sub from the Yankees’ organization, and that’s all good, but it took one
team willing to play handmaiden, and perhaps some sort of discreet
suggestion to Pena to exercise his option to leave the Yankees. So Epstein
will fight the Yankees on the beaches and fight them in the hills and
fight them from the banks of the Hudson to Plymouth Rock and back. Did you
expect anything less?

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Announced that INF-L Ramon Vazquez cleared waivers and
was outrighted to Buffalo (Triple-A). [8/16]

DETROIT TIGERS
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Placed 2B-R Placido Polanco on the 15-day DL (separated
shoulder); recalled 2B/SS-B Ramon Santiago from Toledo
(Triple-A). [8/15]

Signed C-R Vance Wilson to a two-year contract extension.
[8/17]

It looks like Polanco might be back in time to get into some game action
in the last week or two of the regular season, and ideally, that’ll be
enough for the team to have him prepped for postseason play. The
difference between Polanco and Omar Infante is relatively
negligible at the plate or in the field, and if you want to start
kibbitzing over how much you lose by having Santiago on the bench versus
having Infante there, well, that’s not quite the sort of thing that’s
going to keep the Tigers out of the postseason. As these things go, it
could have been a lot worse, so I think it’s safe to say that if you want
to see the Tigers at their best going into a postseason series, you should
still.

Meanwhile, wow, talk about job security for Wilson. Seems a bit premature
to start handing out the high-fives given that we’ve got six weeks to
play, but Wilson’s a solid representative of the Tom
Prince
class of backups, a guy with just enough pop and a solid
enough catch-and-throw skills that you can plug him in for ten days or two
weeks whenever your starter goes down. This does keep him under contract
through his 35th birthday, and I don’t know if he’ll have much value
beyond that point, but it’s nice to see him collect the payday (around
$1.9 million over the two years).

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Optioned RHP Jose Veras to Columbus (Triple-A); activated
RHP Octavio Dotel from the 15-day DL. [8/16]

Placed RHP Cory Lidle on the Bereavement List; purchased
the contract of RHP Brian Bruney from Columbus
(Triple-A). [8/17]

Although Lidle’s loss of his grandmother is a bit of personal grief that I
hope he and his family can accept and work through, it won’t affect the
pennant race much, except that it puts an extra arm in the Yankees pen
between Lidle’s starts, even helping cover today’s doubleheader. Lidle
started on the 16th, so his next start wasn’t going to fall until the 21st
anyway, the fifth game of this weekend’s big series with the Sox. So for
the team, it isn’t really a setback-they’ll have Bruney or whoever else
they want to haul up from Columbus over the weekend to help keep the very
bottom of the pen manned. At the top of it, they’re also presumably in
better shape now that the always-engaging Dotel is up and ready to go. The
Yankees pen already has five
guys doing good work in it
, but Dotel gives the club some insurance
against Kyle Farnsworth‘s occasional fugues or the
question over whether or not Scott Proctor has
Cinderella-level pumpkin potential. To Proctor’s credit he’s bounced back
since the All-Star break, but there’s nothing wrong with having some
insurance.

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Optioned PH-L Greg Dobbs to Tacoma (Triple-A); purchased
the contract of LHP Eric O’Flaherty from Tacoma. [8/16]

Optioned UT-R Mike Morse and RHP Sean
Green
to Tacoma (Triple-A); activated 1B-R Richie
Sexson
from the Bereavement List; activated OF-L Chris
Snelling
from the 15-day DL. [8/17]

The irrepressibly hopeful folks over at U.S.S. Mariner
did a nifty if predictably overenthusiastic writeup of O’Flaherty’s tool
kit, noting that he’s a Pacific Northwest kind of guy they drafted in
2003. He can get it into the low 90s and mixes in a nice slider, and with
more than twice as many groundball outs as flyballs, he’ll probably profit
from having a shortstop as slick as Yuniesky Betancourt.
That might nibble into his
otherwise apparent hittability
in a season mostly spent between the
Cal League and Double-A, but to be fair, the Texas League isn’t all that
pitcher-friendly, and the Cal League’s a menace for any moundsman. That
said, his limited exposure above A-ball should encourage you to curb your
enthusiasm. He’s effectively replacing Jake Woods as the
pen’s second lefty behind George Sherrill now that Woods
has replaced Joel Pineiro in the rotation, and I like
that the Mariners are taking a look at him. Unlike the uninspiring results
from Adam Jones, the team’s getting rewards for having
promoted Mark Lowe aggressively. Nothing wrong with
home-growing your own Joe Klink clones.

Mentioning Jones’ situation brings to the fore the possibilities now that
Snelling has been reactivated, because if the team really wants to help
itself, there’s no time like the present as far as seeing if Snelling can
finally play center and avoid hurting himself. There’s no benefit to
keeping Willie Bloomquist playing with anything like the
regularity he’s been given this summer, and Jones clearly isn’t ready. If
Snelling is, Jones is going to be spending next summer in Tacoma anyway,
and now that there’s no question over whether or not this team had a shot,
why not just get on with seeing if Snelling’s future is now, if ever.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Designated RHP Chad Harville for assignment; recalled RHP
Chad Orvella from Durham (Triple-A); released 3B-L
Sean Burroughs from his contract at Durham. [8/15]

The timing’s right for this sort of thing. Harville hasn’t earned his
keep, and Burroughs didn’t find his stroke down in Durham (.214/.262/.258,
or a one-way ticket to the SurfDogs), so it’s fine to start cutting bait
when you’re thinking about who’s going to be among next year’s shiver of Devil Rays.
(I figured that was the closest cartilagenous fish, that, so perhaps
there’s a collective term for the rays and skates waiting to be coined. A
beam of rays, perhaps?)

The key here is sorting out how they’re going to handle Orvella now that
he’s back. There’s nothing for him to master at Triple-A, not when he
struck out 55 of the 154 hitters he faced for the Bulls while walking only
nine, not when he limited them to a .217 average. The question really is
whether he’ll be pitching his way or pitching coach Mike Butcher’s.
Orvella’s commented on how he’s more relaxed nowadays, for whatever that
means, and if he’s relaxed and doing things Butcher’s way, he may finally
stick. With a little bit of leeway, they’ll wind up with a fine reliever,
and might be back to considering better choices for high-leverage relief
roles than Seth McClung or Brian
Meadows
.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Placed RHP Kip Wells on the 15-day DL (sprained foot),
retroactive to 8/12; recalled RHP Scott Feldman from
Oklahoma (Triple-A). [8/15]

Placed OF-L Brad Wilkerson on the 15-day DL (shoulder
soreness); recalled CF-B Freddy Guzman from Oklahoma.
[8/16]

Pity the Rangers, because they did take their best shot, and it isn’t
really their fault that Wells broke down, and they’ve been coping with
Wilkerson’s bum shoulder all summer. So now they’re back to what was good
enough earlier in the season, with John Koronka returning
from Oklahoma to rejoin the rotation this weekend. There is the problem of
fielding a full rotation now that Vicente Padilla‘s been
suspended for his part in this week’s Angel-Ranger rumbles, but they’ll
make do. Although John Wasdin asked for his release
rather than go back to Oklahoma when the Rangers shipped him out two weeks
ago, this is exactly the premise of Wasdin’s career, not to mention the
film And God Created
Wasdin
(arguably the lowlight of Curt Jürgens’ career-I think we all
know Tab Hunter really should have gotten the part). In Wilkerson’s
absence, the Rangers can still alternate between Matt
Stairs
and Nelson Cruz, while I don’t expect
that this will herald any real playing time for Guzman at Little
Sarge
‘s expense in center. The decision over whether or not to offer
Wilkerson arbitration this winter can wait for November, and the Rangers
can get a sense of whether or not they want to commit to Cruz in the
meantime.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Traded LHP Scott Schoeneweis to the Reds for a PTBNL or
cash; purchased the contract of LHP Davis Romero from
Syracuse (Triple-A). [8/16]

Traded 4C-L Eric Hinske and cash to the Red Sox for a
PTBNL or cash; recalled 3B-B John Hattig from Syracuse
(Triple-A); optioned RHP Francisco Rosario to Syracuse.
[8/17]

What’s mine is
yours, and what is yours is mine.
-Shakespeare, but probably not on
the subject of sydicate baseball.

If you were buying that big winter dignity campaign eight or nine months
ago, you’ve been chumped. There’s really nothing nice to say about J.P.
Ricciardi’s decision to give Theo Epstein an assist, because it doesn’t
look like the Jays will get much more than that, forgetting the second
half of the Bard’s collectivist sensibility. The PTBNL almost certainly
won’t be a significant player, and since the Jays are at 37 on their
40-man roster, it isn’t like they needed to wait until the offseason to
make space for a Red Sox prospect.

No, I think this is Arnold Johnson
territory, where the man running the Jays would rather see Boston give New
York a run for their money than observe his responsibilities to his
charges. It’s nice for Hinske to get into a pennant race, of course, and
if you’re truly Macchiavellian, you might think that Ricciardi’s hoping
that if Boston beats out the Yanks, it might lead to an offseason
intervention by the Boss, but I think that’s too clever by half. We don’t
have a commissioner with any Bowie Kuhn-style tendencies to squawk about
this and to get sniffly about sanctity and pennant races-that man’s
responsible for the atrocity of trying to make the All-Star Game matter,
after all, and he doesn’t give a fig for what interleague play does to
screw up who winds up playing in October. Everybody involved is an adult,
and it’s reason for the Yankees to note that it’s like that with the Jays,
and see if they can tweak the perpetually in motion yet perpetually
third-place team in the division someday in return. I wouldn’t harbor any
expectations that the Jays will get anything of value for Schoeneweis
either, for that matter, but that’s because the Reds have little in the
way of prospects. As much as getting American greenbacks is no small
logistical issue for the Blue Jays, if that’s all there is to tearing down
the non-contender that got overloaded with preseason hosannas, that’s no
badge of honor.

I guess the happy news is that this gives the Jays a chance to start
noticing who’s on their roster, and start looking at them. Rosario was
just milling around in the 25th slot, nursing a hurt back while the Jays
basically ignored him, but that’s just part of the decision to actively
screw up their own rotation by demoting Casey Janssen a
couple of weeks ago. Romero may or may not help fix that, since he’s bounced
between starting and relieving in the Blue Jay chain. The little
Panamanian lefty seems to have the right mix to be something more than
just a situational lefty, because while he’s shut down his fellow
gaucheés at an incredible .133/.231/.236 clip, there’s no shame in
holding right-handers to .257/.305/.376. His ratios are also sweet: a 2-1
groundball-flyball ratio, and 25 walks against 106 Ks in 118.1 innings.
His heat usually hangs around in the high 80s, so normal lefty velocity
from a three-quarters delivery, but he has a curve he fools people with,
and spots his changeup well. He could wind up being part of the solution
to the team’s muddied rotation picture, instead of merely challenging
Brian Tallet over who gets to move into Schoeneweis’ slot
in the pen. Because he’s been so touch on lefties, I expect it’s the pen
that will claim him, but it doesn’t have to be so.

I’m less excited about Hattig’s recall, because what Q-factor goes with
being baseball’s first Guamer-Guamacker? Guamamian?-whatever, it’s cooler
than being mistakenly reported as the latest Army brat or Foreign Service
baby, because he’s an honest-to-goodness… person from Guam. As a player,
Hattig’s not much of a prospect, already 26 and only hitting
.276/.341/.394, but he was doing
better against right-handers
, and that helps him fulfill some of
Hinske’s role as a bench player who can fill in at first and third. He’s
also the sort who gets outrighted off of the 40-man and probably slips
through waivers. Think of him as halfway between Shea
Hillenbrand
and Terry Tiffee, but with a
slightly better glove at the hot corner, and you’ll have a sense of his
upside.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Optioned 1B-L Scott Thorman to Richmond (Triple-A);
recalled RHP Lance Cormier from Richmond. [8/15]

Cormier’s good at inducing grounders, but he’s still short an overpowering
pitch that would make him a consistently effective long reliever, let
alone a starter, and that’s what the Braves have been reduced to for the
time being. Cormier’s had a pretty decent seven-start
run with Richmond
, but let’s face it, picking two from among Cormier,
Oscar Villarreal, and Kevin Barry to
fill out your rotation when you’re supposed to be making a stretch push is
pretty suboptimal. Things should improve next week, because Kyle
Davies
should be back soon. That will probably put Cormier in
Richmond and leave the fifth slot to Villarreal after his nice stint
against the Nats, but that still doesn’t add up to a strong rotation.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Placed LHP Scott Eyre on the 15-day DL (strained
hamstring); purchased the contract of LHP Ryan O’Malley
from Iowa (Triple-A). [8/16]

Whatever satisfaction that the Cubs might derive from the knowledge that
their
three expensive relievers are also their three best relievers this
season
, keep in mind that it wasn’t supposed to only add up to the
18th-best pen in the game
. There again, Ryan Dempster
has demonstrated that flaky performance can be a career-defining quality
in your closer every bit as much as a signature moustache or AC/DC’s
“Hell’s Bells” or some quirky mannerism. I guess the pity is
that Dempster doesn’t even have Jim Kern‘s cachet. He’s
just a mediocre closer without anything else to get worked up about, which
is worth more than a bad starter, and worth a lot
less than what the Cubs are paying him
.

In Eyre’s place, the Cubs have called up an organizational soldier instead
of another one of their young pitchers with promise, and he’s not
replacing Eyre in the pen, instead stepping into the rotation. O’Malley was a college pitcher at the
University of Memphis, and signed up as an undrafted free agent in 2002.
It
took him two years, but he’s passed the hurdle from Double- to Triple-A
this year
. He’s still short of a world-beater, allowing 4.5 runs per
nine, and he’s
a hittable
strike-thrower, punching out only 71 while walking 29 in
124 innings. He’s in the rotation as a result of the club’s 18-inning
marathon on the 15th
, and after doing nicely in Wednesday’s start
against an Astros team that was probably short of both sleep and scouting
reports, O’Malley will no doubt get further opportunities. After
Carlos Zambrano, it’s a crapshoot anyway, with O’Malley
contending with Carlos Marmol, Juan
Mateo
, Angel Guzman, and Rich
Hill
to see who gets to fill out the rotation. With that sort of
spread of young talent, the Cubs should be able to get a good read on
who’s best prepared to contribute next year, and who needs to work on what
in the winter leagues to be able to mount their own challenge for a slot.
If that isn’t enough silver lining for this season’s suffocating, overcast
mugginess, Cubs fans, you can always keep hoping that the next Jeffrey
Loria tantrum brings you Joe Girardi to skipper next season’s team.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Acquired LHP Scott Schoeneweis from the Blue Jays for a
PTBNL or cash; transferred LHP Kent Mercker from the 15-
to the 60-day DL; optioned LHP Brian Shackelford to
Louisville (Triple-A); announced that 2B/SS-R William Bergolla cleared waivers and was outrighted to Louisville. [8/16]

Sign the Reds up for that Lay’s sponsorship, because when it comes to
relievers, I betcha they can’t have just one… more. Seems appropriate
enough, since Wayne Krivsky was properly screwed in the deal with the
Nats, but enough about that. Schoeneweis gives the Reds exactly what they
had in Mercker and what they thought they’d gotten in Rheal
Cormier
before he started hobbling up as well, and now that the
team’s in for several pennies, you can understand how they’ve decided to
just stop counting and do whatever it takes to keep their bid for the
wild-card going. There isn’t all much talent in the farm system left in
the organization anyway, so a PTBNL probably won’t be anyone
they’ll miss, and if it’s a matter of instead spending extra cash to get
to the playoffs, that would more than pay for itself. Basically, the
organization that Wayne Krivsky inherited wasn’t too far from broken, so
no problem as far as going for broke now. Rebuilding the farm system is a
multi-year project to start off with, so it isn’t like going out and
getting Schoeneweis undermines that. We can debate the marginal difference
between Shackelford and Schoeneweis, but I don’t really begrudge them that
before even getting to the question over whether or not Shackelford passed
his most recent good citizenship check.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned C-R Paul Hoover to Albuquerque (Triple-A);
activated C-R Matt Treanor from the 15-day DL. [8/15]

Matt Treanor groupies are no doubt really happy, and while that might seem
a snide throwaway sort of remark, my favorite fan ballpark sign is still
the one I saw televised in Seattle for Bill Haselman (it
read, quite simply, “Haselmania!”, and that’s the sort of thing
you don’t even know if his in-laws really feel), and my favorite ballpark
moment was hanging out with George Williams‘ brother and
kids and nephews/nieces (memory blurs a bit on the spread of whose was
whose) in the stands of Comiskey Park 2.0, hoping that our guy came into
that day’s A’s game against the Sox. Perhaps it’s a reflection on the kind
of sensibility you have to have for this beat, but backup catchers are for
me what knuckleballers are for some people, or what utility infielders are
for Jay Jaffe. Somebody really ought to be the ultimate fifth outfielder
fanboy/girl, and while I’m always going to have a spot in my heart for
guys like Terry Puhl or Thad Bosley, you
start getting into Dewayne Wise territory, and that’s
where I start to bug out. Mop-up middle relievers need their boosters, and
there again, I know I probably had an unhealthy curiousity about the
peregrinations of Warren Brusstar or Rich
Bordi
, but again, that just doesn’t have that same vibe-some of
the most surprising guys end up giving you a good season in long relief,
at which point your sad sack isn’t quite so sad, transcending the
pity-root category. Let’s face it, even Jerry Don Gleaton
had his moments.

So Treanor’s up, and I care, although the former Strat-O manager in me
keeps wishing that the Fish would give Josh Willingham
some extra time behind the plate so that he might not get a +3 arm or a
passed ball rating of 20. I know, that’s neither here nor there for most
of you, but if I have zero interest in fantasy baseball, part of me is
always going to be a games geekette.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Released OF-R Preston Wilson outright. [8/15]

… thereby making him an entirely free free agent for any borderline
contender who might need some help. The Braves are pretty hard up for
outfield help, and I suppose a reunion with the Rockies would represent an
upgrade on the likes of Choo Freeman or Ryan
Spilborghs
.

NEW YORK METS
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Returned RHP Pedro Martinez to the 15-day DL (strained
calf), retroactive to 8/15; recalled RHP Heath Bell from
Norfolk (Triple-A). [8/16]

This was expected as far as these things go, and it’s the sort of thing
that the Mets can afford while taking their victory lap and laughing over
the squalor of the NL wild card chase. Since John Maine
is going good, there’s really just the question of preference about who to
stick in the rotation in Pedro’s absence: Oliver Perez?
David Williams? Brian Bannister?
Alay Soler is hurt, so he’s out of the picture, and
Mike Pelfrey really should be in the minors. The only
wrong answer is Jose Lima, and even that’s a matter of
debate if you’re one of those guys hungering for another sighting of Mrs. Lima.
Beyond keeping everyone tuned up and ready for October, that’s really what
the Mets are left to work out, so barring an announcement over who’s
taking Pedro’s place, this is really more Will Carroll’s beat, as far as
following the staff ace’s recovery.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned RHP Brad Thompson to Memphis (Triple-A);
recalled OF-L Timo Perez from Memphis. [8/15]

No big deal, as the Cardinals just swap out that eighth reliever for an
outfield reserve. I know, it’s only Timo Perez, but the Cards are giving
Chris Duncan regular at-bats in the big leagues, and want
to give John Rodriguez regular at-bats in the minors.
Since a DL move wasn’t involved, Rodriguez wasn’t eligible to be called
back up anyway, having instead to accept at least the ten days down in
Memphis. All of which is to say, I wouldn’t worry about Timo winding up on
the postseason roster at Rodriguez’s expense.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Placed LHP Micah Bowie on the 15-day DL (strained lat),
retroactive to 8/10. [8/17]

To a certain extent, Bowie can already claim mission accomplished for
2006. His fifteen-game gig with the Nats should get him in someone’s camp
with a solid shot at winning a second lefty job in somebody’s bullpen next
spring, and if he’s further proof that you shouldn’t trade for Braves
pitching prospects, he’s also proof that all sorts of people can end up
becoming useful relievers.