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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Activated 1B/OF Darin Erstad from the DL; optioned 1B Chris Pritchett to
Vancouver. [8/19]

Activated INF Paco Martin from the DL; placed INF Craig Shipley on the 15-day
DL, retroactive to 8/20 (strained hamstring). [8/21]


Pritchett’s brief appearance was a nice reminder that the minor leagues, even
in systems like the Angels’, have people who can do more to help a club than
Cecil Fielder. Otherwise, the typical merry-go-round for the Angels: Erstad in,
and probably Jim Edmonds out and onto the DL in a couple of days. If Troy Glaus
adjusts in another couple of weeks, and if they stick with both him and Todd
Greene, it may not matter who’s down.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Recalled RHPs Clint Sodowsky and Ben Ford from Tucson; optioned SS Hanley Frias
and RHP Bob Wolcott to Tucson. [8/20]

Purchased the contract of LHP Chris Michalak from Tucson; optioned RHP Ben Ford
to Tucson. [8/21]

Placed RHP Bobby Chouinard on the 15-day DL (muscle strain); recalled RHP Ben
Ford
from Tucson. [8/22]


Ugh. So the D-backs will take a spin with Sodowsky as their fifth starter, and
they’ve brought up Ben Ford a bit too soon. Ford coughed up 41 runs in 68.1 IP;
that isn’t much to brag about, without considering his problems controlling his
plus fastball. At this point, he still has more in common with Mark Acre than
Todd Worrell. Michalak will get a crack at lefty spot duty; despite getting
knocked around the PCL, he’s allowed only one long ball to lefties this year.


The D-backs have had several success stories in terms of resurrecting
journeymen pitchers or letting people other people gave up on break through:
Omar Daal, Amaury Telemaco, Willie Banks, perhaps even Aaron Small. What does
that say about expansion pitching? Aren’t these the "minor league hacks" we’re
supposed to complain don’t belong. Okay, so that whole line of thinking has
been demonstrated to be a red herring, time and again. Bobby Chouinard is
another example, although to a significantly lesser extent: he’s been setting
up and sitting down righties well with a limited assortment, and has probably
shown he belongs in a big league uniform as much as Clint Sodowsky. What he
proves, and what the success the D-backs have had this year in building a
pitching staff, or that the D-rays had in building a good bullpen, or that the
Rockies had in building a great pen, or the ’93 Marlins did in building a solid
pitching staff, is that any team can shake loose some pitching talent, if
they’re willing to take the time and effort to find it.


ATLANTA BRAVES

Recalled RHP Mark Wohlers from Richmond and placed him on the 15-day DL;
returned him to Richmond for a rehab assignment; activated RHP Russ Springer
from the DL; optioned LHP Adam Butler to Richmond. [8/21]


The unhappy saga of Mark Wohlers stumbles in a new direction, but at least the
Braves get Springer back. I’m not really against having and using Springer as
much as I’m disappointed it took giving up Embree to get him, and as long as
the Braves insist on keeping Norm Charlton or El Presidente around, they need
every major league pitcher they can get.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Signed LHP Jesse Orosco and INF Jeff Reboulet to new contracts through 2000.
[8/20]

Placed RHP Scott Kamieniecki on the 15-day DL (bulging disk); purchased the
contract of 3B Willis Otanez from Rochester. [8/22]


Losing the Kamieniecki isn’t really a problem; this is just one of those years,
like ’95 or ’96, that the Polish Prince just can’t be counted on to contribute
much. In his absence, the Orioles may avail themselves of the opportunity to
mix and match Pete Smith and Doug Johns in the fifth spot, since the return of
Arthur Rhodes has already bolstered their middle relief. In his absence, the
O’s add… somebody who’d be a great platoon mate for Willie Greene at third
base. Otanez has had an outstanding season at Rochester, pasting 27 taters and
driving in 100 runs while hitting .285/.343/.511. Before the elbow injury that
held him back in previous seasons, he was even a solid glove at third. For the
O’s he may get DH at-bats vs. lefties, if they keep him around for any length
of time.


CHICAGO CUBS

Signed 3B Gary Gaetti, and added him to the active roster; optioned SS Jose
Nieves
to Iowa. [8/19]

Optioned RHP Terry Adams to Iowa; recalled RHP Rodney Myers from Iowa. [8/23]


Like so much of what the Cubs have done this year, moves both good and bad. I
won’t argue that they needed to do something about Terry Adams, but the mistake
is that they waited until now, effectively removing him from their playoff
roster because he can’t be recalled before the August 31 deadline. That in
itself isn’t crippling. Should the Cubs win the wildcard, most of their
postseason pitching would be done by their four good starters and a bullpen of
Beck, Karchner, Mulholland, Heredia, and Stevens, so the guy who benefits the
most from this is Dave Stevens. Whether they carry a tenth pitcher at all is
academic at this point. But getting Terry Adams back to where he was in April
and May is important, and letting things get as bad as they have is another
symptom of a generally mismanaged and chaotic bullpen situation. Who’s to blame
for the bullpen? More appropriately, who isn’t? From the players to the coaches
to the manager to the general manager, all deserve credit.


Picking up Gaetti is handy for a number of reasons. First, he’s an adequate
veteran insurance policy in case Jose Hernandez gets injured. Second, if the
Cubs choose to bench Mickey Morandini against a tough lefty, they can shift
Hernandez to second and play Gaetti at the hot corner. Third, they can play
somebody other than Manny Alexander when they get frustrated with Jeff Blauser,
again playing Gaetti at third and shifting Hernandez to short.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Optioned RHP Carlos Castillo to Calgary; recalled LHP Tom Fordham from Calgary;
agreed to a two-year extension of the player development contract with
Birmingham (AA), through 2000. [8/19]


Fordham came up for an emergency start in place of James Baldwin (hamstring),
and will get to stick around now that Jaime Navarro has finally been pulled
from the rotation. When he was sent down, his mechanics were a mess. His stuff
has so much movement already that he was barely capable of throwing strikes. A
return to AAA and a refresher on regular starting work didn’t make him less
wild (26 walks in 51.2 IP), but it has him back around the plate. His
opportunity to make the rotation for ’99 is now or never.


Sending down Carlos Castillo is a tough break for him, but he’ll enter
Calgary’s rotation. He took the demotion hard, but there really weren’t many
other options, unless you want to argue the Sox should just start eating
Navarro’s contract now. The other important aspect of the demotion is that the
Sox were promptly accused of demoting Castillo to dodge making him eligible for
arbitration, reminiscent of similar situations from years past involving Jack
McDowell and Wilson Alvarez. They may have, but it doesn’t seem as likely as it
did in those cases. The key here is that the Sox lack the credibility to be
taken at their word, and that’s something that’s always going to plague a
Reinsdorf operation.


Finally, the agreement with Birmingham has to be considered progress, if only
because it shows that the Sox aren’t going to repeat the mistake that lost them
their affiliation with Nashville, and has their AAA team stuck in Calgary. The
Sox have been frequent losers in affiliation shuffles in the minors, so it’s
nice to see them on the ball this time around.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Extended the contract of manager Mike Hargrove through 2000, with a club option
for 2001. [8/21]


So Hart and Hargrove get to grit their teeth, smile for the cameras, and keep
working together.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Optioned OF/1B Derrick White to Colorado Springs; recalled OF Angel Echevarria
from Colorado Springs. [8/22]


White didn’t get a fair shot, and the Rox apparently want to look at whether
Echevarria is a handy fill-in in the OF corners. At 26, he still hasn’t figured
out the strike zone, racking up 14 walks and 15 HRs in 324 PA.


DETROIT TIGERS

Activated RHP Doug Brocail from the DL; optioned RHP Dean Crow to Toledo.
[8/24]


Brocail has been the Tigers’ most effective setup man all season, so bringing
him back is clearly a boon on a team where Brian Powell and Frank Castillo have
a hard time getting through five innings. The more difficult call is why send
Crow down? After putting up a 3.79 ERA, he hasn’t exactly been ineffective,
while A.J. Sager has been next to worthless.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Recalled RHP Rafael Medina from Charlotte. [8/19]


Medina pitched relatively well in AAA while recuperating from his latest
injury, winning four of six decisions and posting a 3.90 ERA. He’ll be in the
rotation for the remainder of the season, for as long as he can stand (or as
long as he can stand slagmeister Jim Leyland). Even if he struggles, it’s a step
up from watching Andy Larkin get smacked around.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Placed 1B Jeff King on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/16 (sore back), and INF
Scott Leius on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/14 (strained hamstring);
purchased the contract of RHP Brian Barber from Omaha; activated 1B/OF Jeff
Conine
from the DL. [8/19]

Placed RHP Hipolito Pichardo on the 15-day DL (strained ligament – elbow);
recalled RHP Jose “Poxy” Santiago from Wichita (AA). [8/21]


For all of these casualties, you’d think the Royals were in trouble. If
anything, these losses are opportunities to move on from some of the more
serious Herk snafus. Okay, sure, they could replace King with Conine, and it
wouldn’t help them or hurt them. Impressions are a funny thing: Conine’s
perceived as struggling, while King’s supposed to be doing fine, but Conine’s
hitting .259/.318/.439, while King’s hitting .278/.325/.458. Hitting like that,
either one of them is a weak offensive player for first. Hal Morris isn’t the
answer, so what to do? The best idea would be to just play Larry Sutton every
day, to see if he’s going to be a ’99 Royal, while making space in the outfield
for Jeremy Giambi, Carlos Beltran, and possibly Mark Quinn.


Similarly, Pichardo’s season-ending injury ought to be interpreted as an
opportunity to do some good. The sick fascination with Pichardo has hopefully
played itself out, and the Royals’ unrealistic expectations that they had
something special in him have been squelched. Sadly, Chris Haney is going to
step into the rotation for the time being. I don’t begrudge them taking a
chance on Brian Barber, but I would like to see them give Jim Pittsley the
opportunity to keep this from being a lost season by getting him out of the
bullpen. Kevin Appier should be up for a few starts, which means the Royals
should take the opportunity to start looking at whether Pittsley and Barber are
options for ’99, instead of running Haney out there.


Jose Santiago will get some work in the pen; although he throws hard, he hasn’t
mastered setting hitters up, so he hasn’t run up many strikeouts while logging
20 saves in Wichita.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Optioned LHP Travis Miller to Salt Lake. [8/21]

Activated RHP Bob Tewksbury from the DL. [8/22]


Now that Tewksbury and Mike Morgan are both healthy and back in the rotation,
Frankie Rodriguez returns to the bullpen as a long reliever after giving the
Twins a couple of good starts. Not that I’m wishing anyone gets injured, but I
hope the Twins get the opportunity to run Frankie out for a few more starts in
September. Even if Tom Kelly has had his fill of him, it’s probably the only
way they can turn him into a valuable commodity in trade during the offseason.
Not that anyone’s excited about it, but with their Opening Day rotation back in
place, the Twins can restart their big push to finish second in the AL Central.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Optioned RHP Mike Buddie to Columbus; recalled RHP Ryan Bradley from Columbus;
transferred RHP Jeff Nelson from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/21]

Traded OF Shea Morenz and RHP Ray Ricken to the Padres for RHPs Jim Bruske and
Brad Kaufman. [8/23]

Placed RHP Joe Borowski on the 15-day DL (cervical strain); recalled RHP Mike
Buddie
from Columbus. [8/24]


Apparently nothing, and nobody, is going to crowd into Mike Buddie’s date with
destiny as the least memorable member of the great ’98 Yankees. Meanwhile, how
do you think Jim Bruske feels? After slaving away in the PCL for much of the
last eight years, this is hitting paydirt. I’m sure we’re all eagerly awaiting
the opportunity to watch his post-game interviews with Jim Gray about how he
felt pitching mop-up against his ex-teammates in the World Series…


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Selected the contract of RHP Gil Heredia from Edmonton; optioned OF Jason
McDonald
to Edmonton. [8/22]


Heredia has basically come back from the dead, and has shown outstanding
control while pitching in Edmonton’s rotation, walking only 18 men in 144.2
innings. He’s a junk man, but the whole Mike Oquist thing isn’t exactly working
out very well, so Heredia may get a chance to stick around after one good
start. My question is why send down Jason McDonald? What does he do worse than
Bip Roberts? Like Roberts, he’s got experience in the infield and in the
outfield. Unlike Roberts, he can still actually use his glove. He’s the better
hitter, and Roberts is being publicly taunted by almost everyone affiliated
with the Tigers for being a waste of space. What’s the payoff for keeping the
Bipster in green and gold?


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated OF Turner Ward from the DL; outrighted OF Mark Smith to Nashville.
[8/20]

Placed RHP Jon Lieber on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/21; recalled LHP Sean
Lawrence
from Nashville; signed LHP Ricardo Rincon to a two-year contract
extension through 2000. [8/24]


Lieber’s season has been outstanding despite his misleading 8-13 record, but
for whatever reason, he’s managed to avoid much mention for anything other than
his health woes. In his place, Sean Lawrence will start for a couple of weeks,
until either Lieber’s back or Jose Silva is ready to return. However, I don’t
think anyone should take Todd Van Poppel’s slot for granted, so Lawrence may
earn a shot at next year’s rotation with a good outing or two.


Although Mark Smith has come back considerably from his miserable start, and is
the star of one of the great moments of the Bucs’ ’97 season, there really
isn’t much to separate him from people like Turner Ward or a minor league vet
like Manny Martinez. They’re all nice guys to have around as your fourth or
fifth outfielder, and they’ve all been miscast as regulars at some point in the
past couple of years. Outfielders who can contribute offensively have to be
considered a big offseason priority for Cam Bonifay.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Recalled RHP Manny Aybar from Memphis; optioned RHP Rich Croushore to Memphis.
[8/21]

Purchased the contract of LHP Bryan Eversgerd from Memphis; optioned RHP Manny
Aybar
to Memphis. [8/22]


Some doubleheader-related shenanigans. I’m sure some fantasy types are writhing
over Croushore’s demotion, but he’s come further along this season than most
had any reason to expect, and he may yet carve out a major league career for
himself. Right-handed screwball pitchers are a rare breed, and it seems to take
awhile for anyone to take them seriously (case in point: Jim Mecir). Croushore
will come back when the rosters expand.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Recalled 3B George Arias from Las Vegas; optioned OF James Mouton to Las Vegas.
[8/22]

Traded RHPs Jim Bruske and Brad Kaufman to the Yankees for OF Shea Morenz and
RHP Ray Ricken. [8/23]


Arias is up to audition for a postseason roster spot, as well as to give Ken
Caminiti a day off or two per week. Although he’s had a monster season in the
thin air at Las Vegas (.308/.362/.652, 36 HR, 117 RBI), we’re talking about a
guy who drew 35 walks in 472 PA this year. That isn’t healthy, and neither are
inflated expectations based on what he’s done in the PCL this year, at 26, in
his third year at AAA.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Recalled RHP Jose Paniagua from Tacoma; optioned LHP David Holdridge to Tacoma;
designated RHP Felipe Lira for assignment. [8/19]


Holdridge got all of two games to show his wares, half as many as the
much-ballyhooed Bob Gajkowski did. We’ve said nice things about Paniagua in the
past, and we won’t stop here: he’s been outstanding as a reliever in Tacoma,
posting a 2.77 ERA while allowing only 2 taters in 66.1 IP. But what’s the
point of singing his praises? Mt. Piniella won’t know what to do with him, and
will thunder and bellow when he hasn’t struck out four men per inning in his
first couple of outings, and demote him. What’s bad about this move is that it
may cost them Lira, who would be a sweet pickup for some pitching-hungry team
short a major league starter (like, say, the Cubs).


TEXAS RANGERS

Signed LHP Tony Fossas to a contract with Oklahoma City. [8/19]


It would be in really bad taste to say anything here about explosions, Tony
Fossas, and Oklahoma City. Insert your own punchline, laugh on your own time,
don’t ask, and don’t tell.