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BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned RHP Bobby Howry to Pawtucket. [4/15]

Purchased the contract of RHP Jason Shiell from Pawtucket. [4/16]

Hand it to Theo Epstein, he’s taking a page from history. In the
time-honored fashion of Admiral Byng’s execution, where somebody has to pay
for a much larger failure, the Red Sox have shipped off Bobby Howry pour
encourager les autres
in the bullpen, in the words of Voltaire. Although
bloody-mindedly meant to encourage the survivors, it was so inspiring that
Ramiro Mendoza did nothing to suppress the notion that he’s a pinstriped
double-agent
, hastily coughing up four runs and contributing to the
continuing overwrought despair in Beantown. Much as I believe in my
heart of hearts that it’s easy to scare up on a workable bullpen on the fly,
and much as I believe that finding usable relievers is just not rocket
science, I’m inclined to prefer Howry. This isn’t simply sympathy with the
victim, since Howry did pitch badly. But does
anyone really believe that Howry deserves to be singled out from among the
many veterans who have blown goats in the early going–certainly Mendoza, Embree,
and Chad Fox? Mike
Timlin’s mediocrity only looks neato by comparison to the relative debacles
surrounding him, leaving only Brandon Lyon and a barely-used Steve Woodard
left among the relative assets left in the pen in the early going.

In short, while I admire the Red Sox if they’re choosing to adopt a
philosophy of the general interchangeability of relief pitchers, whacking
Howry only makes sense if the Sox have better options (and they don’t),
think having him work regularly in Pawtucket will help (which it should),
and whether or not there’s any likely difference between having him pitch
regularly in Boston or Pawtucket (which there isn’t). One of the downfalls
to having a bullpen by committee and refusing to give everyone relatively
even workloads–because everybody’s sharing, honest–is that you’re left
with relievers getting judged on insanely small samples and unstructured
workloads where it’s hard to draw any conclusions. Howry got demoted after
all of four games, after all. What are four games supposed to tell us about
Bobby Howry, compared to his entire career? More than anything else, that
the Red Sox are scared, and that they’re hoping to frighten Howry’s peers
into better performance. So far, all it does is smack of a stunt, to show
people that management is serious about this winning stuff.


CHICAGO CUBS
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Placed RHP Dave Veres on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendinitis),
retroactive to 4/15; recalled RHP Alan Benes from Iowa. [4/16]

Savage as it may sound, the only loss involving Dave Veres is that of face,
considering what they’re paying him, why they brought him in, their failure
to anticipate how he’s no more special than a lot of the talent they already
had on hand, and Kyle Farnsworth’s unsurprising effectiveness in the wake of
Don Baylor’s unemployment. While Joe Borowski has stumbled into the role of
getting the saves, Farnsworth has been in an asset (again), as he was when
Oscar Acosta was shielding his charges from Baylor’s wacky over-involvement.
Now that Dusty’s calling the shots, Farnsworth seems back on track, Juan
Cruz appears to be okay in a well-defined middle relief role, and the Cubs
seem to have the potential to escape management’s fascination with the gray
and costly.

In Veres’s absence, they’ve hauled back Jim Hendry fave Alan Benes. I’m not
a huge believer that Benes is ever going to come back
and be something. In the last three years, he’s been relatively healthy, and
he’s been a flop as a rotation regular in the PCL in the last two years.
Going back to their Creighton days, Hendry might be fond of him, but he’s an
eleventh pitcher aspiring to job security as an eleventh pitcher.
Appropriately enough, this is the only place he has even a remote chance of
getting it.


CINCINNATI REDS
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Placed SS-R Barry Larkin on the 15-day DL (strained calf),
retroactive to 4/11; activated INF-R Juan Castro from the 15-day DL.
[4/14]

Harsh as it might sound, losing Larkin is nowhere near the calamity that
losing Ken Griffey Jr. was. It might get added to a staccato-like litany of
injuries as an explanation for why the Reds are in the basement, but it’s a
weak note. Larkin is not enjoying a Gwynn-like sunset, where, at the end of
his playing days, if nothing else, at least he could still hit. Larkin looks
done at the plate, and he stopped being a defensive asset at short years
ago. So subtracting Larkin is one of those things that, beyond whatever
intangible intangibles he brings to the dugout, is just not a major loss
these days. It also helps that, instead of the likes of Reggie Taylor to
replace Griffey, to replace Larkin the Reds get to run Felipe Lopez out
there. Even if Lopez doesn’t make any progress as a prospect this year,
he’ll hit at least as well as your average Alex Gonzalez-to-be-named-later,
and unlike the A-Gonzes, Lopez has the ability to develop into a
considerably better hitter than that. Given everyday play at the position he
should own in Cincinnati for the next few years, you have to like the odds
that he’ll blossom. This may or may not be Jim Bowden’s swan song (after
all, that’s been rumored for years), but nabbing Lopez for a brief
investment in Elmer Dessens
should wind up being one of the very good things
to come out of this year.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Placed OF-R Jeffrey Hammonds on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle);
activated OF-R Brady Clark from the 15-day DL. [4/15]

As one of the most predictably awful free agent signings of recent years,
there is perhaps no better epitaph for Dean Taylor’s uninspired, expensive
stint as General Manager, or the brief, squalid reign of Wendy, than
Hammonds assuming his natural position: disabled. In his absence, the
Brewers will make do with a platoon of John Vander Wal and Brady Clark,
which isn’t really a bad thing; they’re basically unaffected everywhere but
in their sense of dignity
and the image they project to their fans. After getting the home opener out
of the way, they had poor attendance in their first home weekend, and I
don’t see any reason to expect much better in the weekend to come. Since the
Brewers successfully stranded their ballpark in a parking lot with even less
ambience than EuroDisney, deliberately trying to spoil the old atmosphere of
County Stadium while avoiding anything resembling the neighborhoody
post-modern elements the other new mallparks strive for, the only reason to
go see the Brewers is to go see the Brewers. What parent would do that to
his or her children?


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Activated RHP Turk Wendell and OF-R Jason Michaels from the
15-day DL; optioned RHP Eric Junge to Scranton/Wilkes Barre. [4/14]

Placed LHP Hector Mercado on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring);
recalled Junge from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [4/16]

In Marlon Byrd’s absence, Jason Michaels gets to come up and be the token
outfield reserve, because it’s far more likely that Ricky Ledee is going to
get 95% of the playing time in center than any other
potential outcome. Similarly, the decision to haul Eric Junge back is
basically a question of temporary expediency. Brandon Duckworth is going to
be activated and start on Sunday, but in the meantime, Junge’s available as
a long reliever for use in any early blowouts, extra-inning marathons, or
meaningless mop-up situations for a few extra days, effectively giving the
Phillies an eight-man pen until Sunday. In other words, he’ll be holding
down the job Joe Roa’s destined for once Duckworth resumes his spot in the
rotation.


Since they still have Dan Plesac and Rheal Cormier, they’ve got a
pair of lefties, and exchanging Wendell for Mercado doesn’t affect the pen’s
balance too badly. By Monday, they’ll have a seven-man pen again, two of
them lefties. Among the the non-Mesa right-handers, Roa will be in the
last-man role, Carlos Silva in the middle relief role, Terry Adams will be
handling set-up work (he’s been virtually reduced to situational work), and
Wendell will get free innings where they’re available. Overall, it’s a nice
pen to work with, even if Cormier continues to struggle. If there’s a
question, it’s whether it would be better to keep Junge and ship out Roa.
Much as I’ve always liked Roa, Junge’s more talented and has a better future
with the organization. However, Junge has options, and Roa’s got last year’s
good work to his credit.


TEXAS RANGERS
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Purchased OF-R Ryan Christenson from Oklahoma; optioned 2B/OF-L
Jermaine Clark to Oklahoma. [4/15]

Bringing up Christenson is a preliminary to placing Doug Glanville on the
DL. It’s probably a net gain for the Rangers. While Christenson is 29 and
his career never quite worked out the way anyone might have hoped, he’s
still pretty fluid in center. Compared to Glanville, he’s still got better
command of the strike zone, and similar power. Barring any organizational
flashbacks to Bobby Valentine’s attempt to make Pete Incaviglia a center
fielder, none of the other outfielders on the team can really play center
in anything more than an emergency, which in turn means that this is about
as clean a shot at re-establishing himself that Christenson is going to get.
I suspect Glanville’s paycheck will preserve some element of job security
once he’s ready to come back off of the DL, so for Christenson this isn’t
really a chance to stick with the Rangers–they’ve got a spare DH and
a third catcher and a twelfth pitcher, so they hardly have room for a fourth
outfielder on the active roster. But if he has a good gig, there are enough
teams hard-up for a spare outfielder who can play center and put some runs
on the board that he can hope to pick an even better one next winter.

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