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BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Optioned RHP Chris Britton to Bowie (Double-A); purchased
the contract of RHP Jim Hoey from Bowie; designated RHP
Eddy Rodriguez for assignment. [8/23]

It seems a little strange that the Orioles demoted Britton, because it
wasn’t like he was pitching all that badly
. But these days, the
Orioles Way involves a unique blend of iffy free talent pickups and
accelerated promotions from within, and they decided that they really,
really wanted to have Hoey up, despite this being his first season to
appear at any level higher than short-season A-ball. The Orioles’ track
record with this sort of thing isn’t all bad-they did badly with both
Jeff Fiorentino and Hayden Penn in 2005,
while Adam Loewen and Nick Markakis both
seem to be slowly settling in well enough this year.

Hoey throws in the mid 90s and has a particularly wicked slider, so I
can understand how the Orioles are excited about him, but even this year,
he’s pitched only nine innings above A-ball, and they weren’t all good,
considering that he gave up five runs. Combined, Hoey’s struck out 73 in
51.1 innings, allowing 39 hits, 18 walks, and three homers. That’s good,
but again, we’re talking about somebody who had a combined total of 63.2
professional innings since being drafted in 2003 coming into this season.
This seems ridiculously premature, but it isn’t hard to stand out in the
Orioles’ organization, and they seem determined to get kids up to prove
that they’re building, and not just employing the Conines and Millars to
no obvious end.

I guess the part of it that I don’t like is demoting Britton. I don’t
think there’s any penalty if they had instead released Todd
Williams
, Russ Ortiz, or Bruce
Chen
. Even if they think they can get Ortiz or Chen turned
around, there isn’t a lot of danger if they’d DFA’d Ortiz, while losing
Williams wouldn’t be cause for any regret.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Received LHP Shawn Nottingham from the Mariners as the
PTBNL in the Broussard trade of 7/26. [8/24]

Although Nottingham’s done a nifty job of bouncing back from an
injury-plagued 2005, he’s not really a prospect. Although he’s 21, he’s a
soft-tossing lefty getting by with guile. Pitching in the hitter-friendly
Cal League, he’s given as much as he’s got, plunking 16 hitters and
striking out 136 in 155.1 innings, while walking 52 and allowing 5.2 runs
per nine. Given a pedestrian heater and adequate curve, his most likely
career destination is situational leftydom, and there, his numbers offer
some encouragement, as he’s limited southpaw swingers to .190/.283/.305.
Keep in mind, Nottingham’s the throw-in-the major pickup in the swap was
getting Shin-Soo Choo.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Optioned OF-R Josh Rabe to Rochester (Triple-A). [8/23]

Activated OF-R Rondell White from the 15-day DL; signed
LHP Dennys Reyes to a two-year, $2 million contract
extension. [8/24]

Exchanging White for Rabe is moderately disappointing, but let’s face it,
it’s the sort of thing most teams would do, especially while chasing a
playoff spot. If White simply alternates with Jason Kubel
and Jason Tyner, and gets most of his at-bats against
lefties, I think it’s not unreasonable to expect he’ll do more damage to
the other guys, as opposed to his own team. Rabe’s successful short gig in
the majors was a nice reminder that organizational soldiers can do good
stuff given the chance, and he should be back once rosters expand.

A similarly happy little note is Reyes’ collecting a big payday. Maybe
it’s because he’s half Fernando!
and half El
Guapo
in terms of mound magic, the roly-poly lefty who’s always been
able to fool a lot of people some of the time. There’s no bet that he’ll
pitch this well in the future-very few relievers pitch consistently well,
year in and year out-but the Twins have been able to rely on setup men
like Juan Rincon while also getting more value out of
Matt Guerrier than I ever expected. It would be worth
seeing if there’s an intersection between managers and relief pitcher
performance, but generally speaking, I’m willing to give the Twins the
benefit of the doubt. If Reyes can handle situational lefty work as well
as or better than how well J.C. Romero did for years, and
you pair that up with the side-slinging scything of right-handed hitters
by Pat Neshek, you’ve got a pen very much like those of
past years in Boston and Oakland as far as having situational monsters in
front of strong closers. As critical as I’ve been of Terry Ryan in the
past, if that sort of small achievement is taken as a symptom of genius in
other GMs, it seems obvious that Ryan deserves similar credit for
assembling the same sort of elements for a successful bullpen, beyond Ron
Gardenhire’s ability to get those results.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Placed RHP Mike Mussina on the 15-day DL (strained
groin), retroactive to 8/21; recalled RHP Brian Bruney
from Columbus (Triple-A); released RHP Sidney Ponson
outright. [8/23]

Well, okay, this essentially means that Mussina will miss three starts in
all, assuming he spends only the minimum on the DL. That also means that
Jeff Karstens will get at least two more starts in
Mussina’s slot. Unhappily, he’ll be going up against the Angels and Twins.
There’s something amusing that the next start in that slot after those two
tough matchups is against the Orioles in Camden Yards. It would be
interesting to see if the Yankees actually let Karstens make that start as
well, reserving Mussina to come back in time for their mid-September
homestand against the Red Sox. Even then, I wouldn’t suggest we’re not
going to see any more from Karstens, because that Sox-Bombers matchup does
involve another double-header.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Placed RHP Jae Seo on the 15-day DL (strained groin);
recalled RHP Jason Hammel from Durham (Triple-A);
activated INF-R Luis Ordaz from the 60-day DL, and
designated him for assignment. [8/23]

Acquired RHP Evan Meek and either a PTBNL or cash from
the Padres for 4C-L Russell Branyan. [8/24]

Putting Seo on the DL might seem premature, but let’s face it, the D-Rays
know he’ll be in next year’s rotation, and having stolen him from the
Dodgers in the same deal that brought them Dioner
Navarro
, it isn’t like they have to push him to show those happy
few who follow the team that they got value for nondescript placeholders
like Mark Hendrickson and Toby Hall.
After a rough beginning to his D-Rays career, Seo has logged five quality
starts in ten with Tampa Bay after posting five of ten in his Dodger
starts-nothing brilliant, but something you can definitely use in a third
or fourth starter.

In the meantime, the Rays have a chance to look at one of the kids, and
while you might have expected them to bring back J.P.
Howell
, his turn in Durham came on Tuesday, making him
unavailable to start tonight’s game. So they’ve instead elected to bring
up somebody homegrown. Hammel was named one of the organization’s top
prospects before the season, and he’s had a decent consolidation sort of
season in Triple-A, striking out 117 in 127.2 IP, walking 36 and allowing
133 hits (11 home runs), and giving up runs at a pace of five per nine.
Storky and occassionally overpowering, he’s shown flashes of a plus curve
and command of his change. Generally
speaking, he’s got a solid groundball/flyball ratio, and hasn’t given up
much in the way of power to opposing hitters.
I wouldn’t think of this
as anything more than an opportunity for Hammel to show how close he is to
being ready, although I think we all know that he and Howell will both get
their chances next season. With that sort of talent almost ready to stick,
a journeyman like Tim Corcoran really can’t afford a bad
camp next spring.

Another addition to that pool of pitching talent comes over in the D-Rays’
deal with San Diego. Meek’s not too shabby a return on Branyan: he throws
into the mid 90s and has a pretty nifty curve that he’s gotten better
command of since washing out of the Twins organization and being
bird-dogged by Pads scout Charley Kerfeld. Although he’s
allowing six runs and 4.7 walks per nine, keep in mind he’s pitching in
Lake Elsinore’s unfriendly confines in the Cal League, and between his 2-1
groundball/flyball ratio and the 113 hitters he’s struck out in 119.1
innings, there’s obvious potential for him to overpower people. Because of
the control issues, my guess is that if Meek’s going to inherit the earth,
it’ll be coming out of the bullpen.

I don’t know about you, but Opening Day doesn’t seem like it was all that
long ago. That doesn’t mean I’m still savoring the surprise on learning
that Ordaz had made the Opening Day roster after not even really hitting
well in spring training. His knee injury nipped that surprise in the bud,
and considering it was a surprise that he made it onto the D-Rays’ 40-man
roster, I’d be even more surprised if we ever see him make it again.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Activated LHP Gustavo Chacin from the 15-day DL. [8/23]

It took forever and a day to get him back, and he was promptly drubbed on
activation. I don’t know how many more ways the fates have at their
disposal to make sure that J.P. Ricciardi gets the memo that this season’s
done, but the hope here is that Chacin just demonstrates that he’s back in
working order. If he can’t do that, better the Jays take the time to give
Dustin McGowan a real look as a starter. His
performance in Syracuse as a starter was getting stronger as the summer
progressed
, but the club’s inexplicable preference for Shaun
Marcum
shunted McGowan aside. Even with Casey
Janssen
on the shelf and Ty Taubenheim coping
with a staph infection, they don’t have to use Marcum as the fifth
starter. But McGowan flopped in relief work, putting him in the same
category as Francisco Rosario, another talented pitcher
that the Jays aren’t quite sure what he’s going to grow up to be. These
are the sorts of situations where some weird results can get spit out:
maybe Marcum pans out, maybe McGowan or Rosario get it together, or maybe
something like a Davis Romero spot start gives them a
winning dark horse. What’s apparent in all of this is that there’s no real
plan, and that’s the one thing the Jays really can’t afford to be without
if they ever want to be taken as seriously on the field as they were by
beatwriters last winter. You can only posture so long before you start
looking less like Billy Beane and more like Kevin Malone.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Placed RHP Danys Baez on the 15-day DL (emergency
appendectomy). [8/24]

Hopefully, Baez will heal quickly and fully-no Adrian
Beltre
-style lengthy recovery time, please. An injury like this
serves as some sort of particularly bitter punctuation to what has been an
extremely disappointing season for Baez. He was supposed to be the
insurance the Dodgers needed for Eric Gagne, an
“established closer” to spare on an All-Star team. It didn’t work out that
way, and he didn’t even provide the Braves with all
that much value
since his being picked up as a veteran patch to add to
their patchwork pen. He’s arbitration eligible, but courtesy of that wacky
deal he got from the Indians at the start of his career, he’s already been
non-tendered once, and seems likely to be again this winter.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Placed LHP Ryan O’Malley on the 15-day DL (strained
elbow); recalled RHP Jae Kuk Ryu from Iowa. [8/23]

On the Western Front, sniffy chateau-bound generals would refer to their
insane losses of manpower as wastage, a reflection of the
de-humanizing nature of the Great War. The Cubs can’t be similarly
sanguine about running through their talent-not only has TribCorp owned
the team more than long enough to no longer write off players as
depreciating assets, but even an organization as pitching-rich as the Cubs
really can’t afford to lose guys every week. O’Malley may not be one of
the organization’s top prospects, and admittedly, there’s virtue in giving
Ryu a longer look as the Cubs play out the string. It’s not a one-for-one
patch, in that the Cubs are still interested in looking at Ryu as a
reliever for the time being. That could go all sorts of ways-Ryu might end
up getting an Earl Weaver-style extended engagement in the pen before moving
into the rotation once the Cubs’ now-standard injuries repeat themselves
next year, or he might just end up a successful major league reliever.
Given that Ryu’s a pitcher with four pitches he can throw for strikes
while having only average velocity, I’d rather see him in the rotation,
especially after the pretty solid season he’s had in Iowa: 105 strikeouts
against 46 walks in 123.1 innings, 3.7 runs allowed per nine, more than
twice as many groundball outs as flyballs. However, the kid is only 23, so
if this ends up saving him some wear and tear, and he gets a clean shot to
impress management, it’s not a major sacrifice.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Optioned 2B/OF-R Norris Hopper to Louisville (Triple-A);
reinstated LHP Chris Michalak from the Bereavement List.
[8/23]

NEW YORK METS
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Optioned LHP Royce Ring to Norfolk (Triple-A); added RHP
Guillermo Mota to the active roster. [8/23]

Designated OF-L Ricky Ledee for assignment; transferred
C-R Ramon Castro from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/24]

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Activated C-B Ryan Doumit from the 15-day DL; claimed RHP
Juan Perez off of waivers from the Mets, and assigned him
to Indianapolis (Triple-A). [8/23]

Despite his injury issues, Doumit remains an interesting prospect, both as
a bat and as a prospective starting catcher for somebody. As a Pirate, he
seems likely doomed to be stuck in the same tweener role that
Craig Wilson had, with his playing time ebbing and
flowing as he falls into and out of favor. His bat is promising enough
that I’d like to see him get a shot at the first base job in camp next
spring. Failing that, he’d make for a nifty high-offense alternative to
Ronny Paulino, with Humberto Cota
getting shopped around, but I suppose how this plays out depends on what
sort of pot you could take from shopping any one of the three. Shop
Paulino or Doumit, and you might get something you can really use; shop
Cota, and you’ll get something considerably less. If Doumit can catch 100
games, keeping Cota as his catch-and-throw backup would work. As good as
Paulino has been this season, his numbers are basically all batting
average-dependent, and he grounds into double plays at a murderous clip,
hitting
into twin-killings 25% of the time this season
. Despite all that, a
good-throwing catcher who does more at the plate than the Brad
Ausmus
types would be worth something, but the only way the
notion really works is if the Pirates think that Doumit can catch
regularly, or if they anticipate Neil Walker making it to
The Show as a catcher. It’ll be interesting to see what course, if any,
Littlefield chooses.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned RHP Tim Stauffer to Portland (Triple-A);
recalled RHP Brian Sweeney from Portland. [8/23]

Acquired 4C-L Russell Branyan from the Devil Rays for RHP
Evan Meek and either a PTBNL or cash. [8/24]

I’ve been a Branyan fan for years, considering he’s a minor deity among
the pantheon of Three True Outcomes stars. (Those are strikeouts, walks,
and home runs to those of you uninitiated or happily ignorant of the Rob
Deer Fan Club’s belligerent belief that putting the ball in play short of
the fences is a Deadball Era anachronism.) I’m particularly pleased that
he’s a Pad person, though, in that Branyan gives them insurance at all
four corners, infield and outfield, while also providing prodigious power
off of the bench. If Todd Walker‘s defensive problems at
third become too much of a distraction, they can play Branyan in his
place. If Adrian Gonzalez or Brian Giles
or Dave Roberts need a day off, Branyan’s a good fallback
position. With Ryan Klesko‘s rehab not going all that
well-he isn’t hitting the ball with much authority-and Klesko’s basic
uselessness in the field, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Branyan winds
up on the playoff roster at Klesko’s expense, especially since they gave
up something of value to get Branyan.

On the pitching staff, the Pads have wanted to get Sweeney up to fill a
utility pitcher role for several days now, but his start for Portland on
August 20th took him off of their menu of options when things were really
ugly with the rotation. Now, with Stauffer having given them a good start
on the 21st, they’ve got Sweeney active and ready to resume his utility
pitcher role after resting up, while Stauffer will be kept available for a
quick yo-yo back to the big league roster in case they need him to fill in
for Chris Young next week. With Chan Ho
Park
out for the rest of the year, the Pads no longer have the
luxury they had with Mike Thompson as their instant
fill-in starter, because Thompson’s now the regular fifth man.
Nevertheless, with Stauffer’s good work plus Sweeney’s ability to fill in,
and keeping in mind that Park wasn’t all that valuable, I don’t think that
Bruce Bochy lacks options. They can’t discount the possibility that
Young’s shoulder/back/whatever might give him trouble for the rest of the
year, which promises this level of involvement as far as rotation
micromanagement for as long as the Pads are still in this thing.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Placed SS-R David Eckstein on 15-day DL (strained
oblique); designated OF-L Timo Perez for assignment;
signed INF-B Jose Vizcaino to a major league contract;
activated LHP Mark Mulder from 15-day DL. [8/23]

Gack. I
touched on the Mulder thing
at Anthony Reyes‘ expense
last time around, so my visceral response is really more about losing
Eckstein and “replacing” him on the roster with the Vizzer. There’s a real
danger that Vizcaino will get significant playing time, because
Aaron Miles isn’t really a good second baseman-asking him
to fill in at short isn’t likely to generate happy results, especially for
the starting pitchers. There’s the hope that Miles will hit well enough
that they won’t miss Eckstein too much in the lineup, but that’s based on
expecting Miles to stay hot instead of hitting the way he has most of his
career. You know who would have been handy right around now?
Hector Luna, but Walt Jocketty unfortunately outthunk
himself into getting Ron Belliard a year or two too late,
leaving the team even worse off than if he had done nothing. The Cards
would have been much better off with Miles at second and Luna at short in
Eckstein’s absence, and call up John Nelson or even
Rico Washington instead of wasting time employing
Vizcaino. This is the sort of year where blowing the details will make a
difference between playing baseball or playing golf in October, and these
are the sorts of problems that rise above mere detail.