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IN THIS ISSUE


American League


National League


ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Claimed LHP Eric Cyr off of waivers from the Padres. [3/5]
Assigned C-R Ryan Budde, C-L Jeff Mathis, OF-B Kenny
James
, 1B-L Casey Kotchman, SS-R Tommy Murphy, 1B/OF-L
Mike O’Keefe and LHP Tommy Milo to their minor league camp.
[3/9]

Optioned RHP Rich Fischer to Arkansas (Double-A). [3/10]

The first cuts are always the most predictable and least interesting, so
there isn’t much to say about these guys that you won’t find out in this
year’s Prospectus
, or from keeping up with John Sickels. Casey Kotchman is
the name you need to remember, although his arrival to stay as a major
leaguer is a couple of years off. So what that really leaves us with is the
interesting development of nabbing Eric Cyr off of waivers. He’s got a nifty
curve, spots his fastball well, and if he was healthy, he wouldn’t be too
far from being able to help a big league team. However, he also had to have
“minor” surgeries on both his elbow and shoulder, so he’s not
likely to be ready to help soon. That said, as a body to put on the 60-day DL
to make room for someone else on the Opening Day roster, and as a future
lefty alternative for a team short on left-handed relief, he’s a worthwhile
claim. In the meantime, it might make it a little easier for Rich Rodriguez
to crack the roster, or create some wiggle room for Bill Stoneman to acquire
another lefty at the end of camp.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Assigned RHPs Greg Aquino, Beltran Perez, Jose Valverde, Jeremy Ward, and LHPs Chris Capuano, and Mike
Gosling
to their minor league camp. [3/8]

The Snakes hauled in a number of journeymen for shots at the back end of
their bullpen this spring, with the candidates ranging from Mike Jackson to
Ron Villone to Manny Aybar, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities for the
organization’s homegrown future prospects. Mike Koplove should be able to
claim a job, and John Patterson and Stephen Randolph have decent shots at
jobs, but Bret Prinz probably won’t make it, which means there wasn’t a
whole lot of opportunity for any of the guys from this first round of cuts.


BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned LHP Jorge De la Rosa, RHP Anastacio Martinez, UT-B
Cesar Crespo, 2B-R Freddy Sanchez, and INF-B Angel
Santos
to Pawtucket; assigned 3B-R Kevin Youkilis and RHP
Hansel Izquierdo to their minor league camp. [3/10]

Freddy Sanchez and Kevin Youkilis were longshots before Theo Epstein’s
winter acquisitions program, so they were both already doomed to make the
trek to Pawtucket. They both remain where they were last October, which is
as intriguing alternatives come July or August, should the current options
flop or get hurt. Certainly, by acquiring Bill Mueller, Todd Walker and
Damian Jackson while keeping Shea Hillenbrand and Lou Merloni around, the
Red Sox are well-stocked at second and third. Youkilis and Sanchez give the
Red Sox both in-between bargaining chips for their drive on contention now,
and options for their roster makeup come 2003. That doesn’t make this camp
as important as this year for their place in the near-term picture.


CINCINNATI REDS
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Optioned RHP Luke Hudson to Louisville; optioned RHPs Chris
Booker
and Josh Hall, 2B/SS-B Rainer Olmedo, OF-R Steve
Smitherman
, and C-R Dane Sardinha to Chattanooga (Double-A);
assigned OF-Ls Jacob Cruz and Robin Jennings, UT-L Reed
Secrist
, INF-B Felipe Crespo, INF-R Kelly Dransfeldt, UT-R
Ryan Freel, DH-R Juan Thomas, RHP Sean DePaula, LHPs
Travis Miller, Brian Reith and Mark Watson to their
minor league camp; released LHP Bruce Chen and RHP Osvaldo
Fernandez
; invited RHPs Bobby Basham and Dustin Moseley to
major league camp. [3/10]

Bob Boone went through his now-annual, chest-thumping, hair-shirt-donning,
“Woe is me, it’s so hard to tell people they’re gone” press
conference. It makes for a nice little drama in early March, where it really
reveals Boone at his most frustrating and creative. As I’ve frequently
kvetched, Bob Boone’s problem isn’t that he’s got bad ideas or good ideas,
it’s that he has a surfeit of ideas, and the lack of constancy to stick with
any of them. So it’s easy to have some sympathy, because he’s smart enough
to identify ways in which to identify how everyone has value under all sorts
of scenarios. Almost everyone cut has value for one of the last two or three
roster spots anywhere in the majors. That’s the problem with an organization
that understands the relatively ready availability of free talent: They’ll
get a bunch of it, know that it’s all pretty worthwhile, and then have to
make tough choices knowing that these guys deserve a little bit more of a
look than you can afford to give them. But the public anguish? For whose
benefit is that?

The surprise amidst all of this is, in the end, perhaps not all that
surprising. Bruce Chen, on the road again? There’s no point in acting
surprised or upset about it. Some of the best pitching coaches in the game
have gotten exasperated and given up on him, and not just given up, but
given up quickly. There’s not even a hint of an off-field issue, just the
persistent whispers that there are issues with aptitude, attitude, and
focus. Will he be valuable? Can anybody get good work out of him? Maybe.
Maybe he’ll go to a team with a pitching coach who will let Chen do it his
way, and maybe Chen would have a little run of success. Life’s full of
maybes. At this point, Chen’s gone from being one of the best young pitchers
around to a maybe maybe. He might be a maybe, and he might not be even that.
But he isn’t an ‘is’ any more, and he’s moving into ‘was’ territory with
unusual speed.


COLORADO ROCKIES
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Optioned RHP Ryan Cameron, LHP Cory Vance, C-B J.D.
Closser
, OF-B Rene Reyes, LF-R Matt Holliday, and 3B-R
Jeff Baker to their minor league camp; assigned LHP Colin
Young
and C-B Tino Sanchez to their minor league camp. [3/9]

About three years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Jeff Baker and his
father about the difficulties of growing up playing on bases and through
military assignments, and it was a really compelling story. The
site in question was http://www.militarylifestyles.com/, and it left me with an
impression of a very serious young man with a genuine interest in the
traditions and rivalries of college baseball in the ACC. Heck, it was also a
great portrait of a father and son, and all of that sort of stuff that
defies the tired modern devices of irony or sarcasm, the good stuff that
just is what it is. This won’t be the last we hear of him, for which I’m
glad beyond any level as an analyst or someone who aspires to an
unachievable objectivity.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Assigned 1B-L James Loney and C-R Mike Nixon to their minor
league camp. [3/9]

Optioned LHPs Hong-Chih Kuo and Jose Diaz to Vero Beach
(A-ball). [3/10]


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Optioned RHPs Matt Childers and Dave Pember and OF-R
Cristian Guerrero to Indianapolis, and RHP Pedro Liriano and
LHP Luis Martinez to Huntsville (Double-A); assigned RHP David
Manning
to their minor league camp. [3/9]

Released RHP Dave Mlicki outright. [3/10]

There are people in the baseball industry, and other people positioned to
give advice to people in the baseball industry, who valued Dave Mlicki as an
acquisition this past winter. No, really. And not just people employed by
the Brewers. And not Gord Ash. And not because he might be a good parent or
a solid citizen or an organ donor. The good news to infer from Mlicki’s
release is that former Red Sox and Twins prospect Matt Kinney and Mexican
League import Francisco Campos are being taken seriously for a couple of
slots on the roster. The Teddy Higuera-Campos comparisons can be stretched
into broader comparisons to the vile Brewers staffs of the mid-80s that Teddy
Higuera arrived to redeem, and on a similar level, you have to hope Kinney
finally gets his opportunity to shine. Because if Todd Ritchie is as good as
he can be…what, he’s going to turn into a bunch of fun swag from Kenny
Williams again? The Brewers need to take risks on guys like Kinney or Campos
if they’re going to clamber up to something as lofty as fourth place in the
NL Central before Czar Bud’s reign of error ends.


MINNESOTA TWINS
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Optioned RHP Willie Eyre, OF-R B.J. Garbe and C-B Rob
Bowen
to New Britain (Double-A); assigned C-R Gabby Torres and
SS/2B-B Luis Rodriguez to their minor league camp. [3/10]

There weren’t any real surprises among the initial Twins cuts. Luis
Rodriguez’s chance to threaten Luis Rivas’s job wasn’t going to really come
to anything before July, B.J. Garbe’s floundering career at least seems to
have a medical basis to it, and Rob Bowen floated some prospect mavens’
collective boats without quite earning the accolades. The organization has
enough depth that they can afford to clear away talent that needs to make
progress before it gets to earn ‘prospect’ labels.


NEW YORK YANKEES
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Optioned LHPs Danny Borrell and Alex Graman and RHP Jorge
DePaula
to Columbus, and RHP Chien-Ming Wang to Trenton (Double-A);
assigned LHP Brandon Claussen and C-R Omar Fuentes to their
minor league camp. [3/10]

This is the Yankees–as if anybody making the minimum had a chance. I
suspect Chien-Ming Wang’s screenplay, unifying the themes of life in the
Yankees’ organization and death in the Hong Kong classics of John Woo,
probably didn’t help his chances any. I suppose if Ed Whitson had ever
written down his side of the story, that would explain why he had to go.


NEW YORK METS
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Optioned RHPs Heath Bell, P.J. Bevis, and Jeremy
Griffiths
, LHP Phil Seibel, OF-L Jeff Duncan, OF-R
Prentice Redman, and 1B-L Craig Brazell to Norfolk; assigned
RHP Bobby Munoz, LHPs John Bale and Pete Zamora, C-R
Justin Huber and OF-PR Esix Snead to their minor league camp.
[3/10]

Again, the Mets are stocked with enough pitching depth that nobody in
this group was going to have much of a shot. They have an overstuffed pen.
If there’s a surprise, it’s that they didn’t take a longer look at Esix
Snead. Snead’s value in fantasy is perhaps sort of like Pamela Anderson
Lee’s, a better concept on paper than as a practical matter, to be sure, but
still worth entertaining. But this being the Mets, and considering the main
contender for the last outfielder’s job on the squad is another one-tool
talent in Tsuyoshi Shinjo, why not kick around carrying a deluxe
pinch-runner instead of a defensive replacement for that last spot on the
bench?


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Optioned RHP Shane Bazzell, 2B-L Freddie Bynum, and UT-R
Adam Morrissey to Sacramento; assigned C-B Mike Rose, 1B/OF-R
Mike Edwards and OF-L Chris Prieto to their minor league camp.
[3/9]

Optioned RHP Joe Valentine to Sacramento, and RHP Rich Harden
to their minor league camp. [3/10]

The battle for the bullpen jobs gets more and more interesting, now that
Valentine has been excused early. If the A’s carry six relievers, you can
count out Jim Mecir because of the injury that will keep him out until late
April. So that leaves the three locks (Keith Foulke, Chad Bradford, and
lefty Ricky Rincon), and then the other guys. At this point, that’s
optionless Chad Harville, Jeremy Fikac, Roy Smith, Rule 5 picks Mike Neu and
Buddy Hernandez, lefty Micah Bowie, and either or both of John Halama or Ed
Yarnall if they don’t beat out Aaron Harang for the fifth slot in the
rotation. Harang’s got options and no relief experience, so odds are he’s
SOL, but that still leaves either Halama or Yarnall in the fight with the
other six for one of the last three jobs in the pen. And even then,
everyone’s going to have to have a good month, because Mecir will eventually
be back. It makes for some interesting competition, to be sure, and if it
wasn’t for the complicating factor of Czar Bud’s cockamamie premature
Opening Day for the benefit of the Mariners’ absentee owner, you might
expect a deal or two at the end of the month.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Signed OF/3B-R Albert Pujols to a one-year contract; optioned RHPs
Matt Duff and Jimmy Journell to Memphis; reassigned LHP Dan
Serafini
, INF-L Ivanon Coffie, and OF-L Jon Nunnally to
their minor league camp. [3/10]

They danced, they flirted, but at the end, Mr. Pujols coquettishly refused to
give that raffish old gentleman, Mr. Jocketty, a birthdate, so there is, as
of yet, no multi-year contract to be had. Still, the Cardinals generously
overtipped, making it clear that they’re still feeling that the night holds
promise. Meanwhile, Jimmy Journell was washed away from the fifth starter’s
competition by Cal Eldred’s great camp, Garrett Stephenson’s apparent
health, and Dustin Hermanson’s just being there. Hermanson and Alan Levin
and Joey Hamilton aren’t having great camps, but they’ll get the benefit of
the doubt for another couple of weeks.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned RHPs Ben Howard and Dennis Tankersley, LHP Cliff
Bartosh
, 2B-B Bernie Castro and OF-R Jason Bay to
Portland; optioned LHP Cory Stewart and OF-L Vince Faison to
Mobile (Double-A); assigned RHPs Pat Flury and Brian Tollberg,
LHPs Randy Keisler and Rob Ramsay, 2B-L Jake Gautreau,
SS-R Khalil Greene, and C-R Humberto Quintero to their minor
league camp. [3/10]

Not many surprises among the demotions. With Phil Nevin’s injury, the major
concern will have to be with watching the waiver wire, because there’s a
real danger that Brian Buchanan might have to play every day, or that Brady
Anderson or Roberto Kelly or both might make the team. Rule 5 pick Shane
Victorino’s shot as the fifth outfielder certainly looks pretty strong at
the moment. Dennis Tankersley didn’t give any indication that he’s over his
jitters, all the more unfortunate considering that treadless invitees like
Charles Nagy or Jaret Wright are (predictably enough) not looking good,
and Kevin Jarvis is still working his way back.


SEATTLE MARINERS
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Reassigned RHP Clint Nageotte to their minor league camp. [3/9]

Optioned LHPs Ryan Anderson, Steve Kent, and Matt
Thornton
, RHPs Jeff Heaverlo, Aaron Looper, and Rett
Johnson
, OF-Rs Kenny Kelly and Jamal Strong to Tacoma;
optioned C-R Ryan Christianson to San Antonio (Double-A); assigned
RHP Allan Simpson to their minor league camp. [3/8]

If there’s a surprise, it isn’t much of one, just a notional error of
omission. However, the Mariners want to take a long look at Gil Meche, and
while he’s being outpitched by Jamey Wright and Ken Cloude so far, he’s not
doing any worse than Ryan Franklin, so he’s still in the running for a
rotation job. However, there’s enough flux on the staff that somebody like
Cloude or J.J. Putz or Aaron Taylor could stealth his way onto the roster.
Otherwise, the item of note is that by demoting both Kelly and Strong
already, it looks like Mark McLemore will be the de facto fifth outfielder,
with John Mabry being the other outfield reserve. Chad Meyers isn’t going to
beat out organizational favorites like Willie Bloomquist or Luis Ugueto for
a last spot on the bench, so in comparison to the pitching staff, the
position players are almost set already.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Released RHPs Wayne Gomes, Mike James and Lesli Brea;
optioned LHP Hans Smith, RHPs Brian Stokes and Matt
White
, C-L Pete LaForest, and OF-L Josh Hamilton to
Orlando (Double-A); assigned 2B-R Jay Canizaro, 1B/OF-L Ryan
Jackson
, SS-Rs Gabby Martinez and B.J. Upton, C-Rs
Charlie Greene and Angel Pena, OF-Rs Brian Lesher and
Chad Mottola, LHPs Brian Fitzgerald and Matt Perisho,
RHPs Jeremi Gonzalez, Mel Rojas, Kevin McGlinchy,
Erik Sabel, Carlos Reyes, and Blake Stein to their
minor league camp. [3/10]

This is the D-Rays, so there’s always plenty of indignity to go around, but
how do you think it feels to be Mike James or Wayne Gomes, and be cut while
somebody like Mel Rojas gets kept? You could infer some promise that veteran
outfielders like Brian Lesher and Chad Mottola won’t make the team, but you
have to be a Baldelli cultist to really see this as a good thing. Even more
horrifying, Jason Tyner was not demoted. You could argue that a guy
like Jay Canizaro didn’t get a shot at the second base job because aspiring
mediocrity Marlon Anderson was brought in, but by May, Anderson may have
inspired some thundering from Mt. Piniella, and Canizaro might be a Durham
paesan with a hitting streak. At this level, they’re relatively
interchangeable, and both would be hard-pressed to underwhelm Brent
Abernathy. Finally, the demotion of Pete LaForest reduces the battle for the
backup catcher’s job to Jorge Fabregas, Sandy Martinez, and Hector Ortiz, a
sort of who’s who from the category of “Worst Backup Catchers of the
’90s.” That’s not really the end of the world in itself; if you’re the
D-Rays, fourth place is a distant dream, and it’s probably better from a
development point of view to have a catcher with language skills for the
2003 season.


TEXAS RANGERS
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Optioned RHP Travis Hughes, LHPs Mario Ramos and Ben
Kozlowski
, CF-R Ryan Ludwick, 1B/LF-R Jason Hart, OF-L
Laynce Nix, and assigned OF-L Jim Rushford, LHP Justin
Thompson
, C-L Scott Heard, C-Rs Danny Ardoin and
Fernando Lunar, and 2B-L Drew Meyer to their minor league
camp. [3/10]

Like a lot of the other teams here, this was mostly a matter of clearing
away people who are injured or rehabbing, extra catchers who were just
around to help out with the catching chores in the early portion of camp,
and the extra bats who were going to be crowded out by the arrival of Mark
Teixeira, Doug Glanville, and Ruben Sierra to a roster already packed on
the left end of the defensive spectrum by an extra like Mike Lamb. This same
problem is what has helped push Hank Blalock to a spring experiment at
second base, a risky solution to a problem that might have been better
solved with Palmeiro getting more DH time, and with Blalock and Teixeira
claiming the majority of playing time at the infield corners.

What’s also interesting is that this really seems to reduce the catching
situation to Einar Diaz, Chad Kreuter, and Todd Greene. Kreuter and Greene
are dueling for the backup job, but given Diaz’s offensive limitations, it
wouldn’t be surprising to see all three in a Rangers uniform in the early
going, with Greene getting some at-bats at DH or first base as well.

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