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IN THIS ISSUE


American League


National League


ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Placed RHP Kevin Appier on the 15-day DL (strained flexor),
retroactive to 4/20; activated 2B-L Adam Kennedy from the 15-day DL;
recalled OF-B Jeff DaVanon from Salt Lake; optioned 2B-B Chone
Figgins
to Salt Lake. [4/22]

Placed RHP Francisco Rodriguez on the bereavement list; recalled LHP
Rich Rodriguez from Salt Lake and RHP Derrick Turnbow from
Arkansas (Double-A); optioned OF-R Julio Ramirez to Salt Lake. [4/23]

Derrick Turnbow… David Holdridge… Angels, Phillies… my mind works
mainly on mnemonics (okay, that, and coffee, Guiness or Stoli, depending on
mood), memories that recall memories which summon up unfortunate
cross-references that ultimately mean nothing to anyone save me. I’m sure
somebody wiser than I would immediately cite this as a data storage and
compression issue, but as a result, some lines get blurred, and I think of
Derrick Turnbow and David Holdridge and Lance Parrish and the really cute
co-worker I was coveting at the time when the Holdridge-Parrish deal was
made, and our mutual friend we worked with who was a Phillies fan, and
tooling around in that really cool white K-car with ‘University of Chicago
Physical Plant’ stenciled on the side, a time in life devoted to drinking
and depravity and rollicking good fun that never did lead to any
indictments, and none too surprisingly, I start thinking nice things about
Derrick Turnbow that have nothing whatsoever to do with Derrick Turnbow.
Okay, forgive me my stumbling through memory lane in my limitless capacity
for self-indulgence, and let’s skip ahead to the wisdom of Joe Friday, and
get to just the facts.

The largest question is how long they’ll be without Kevin Appier. Scot
Shields is apparently going to be tabbed for Ape’s missed start this
weekend, and then the Angels won’t need a fifth starter again until next
Saturday, May 3, which is still before Appier can be reactivated (as if,
with the game in Toronto, he’d asked to be), but theoretically, it could be
in time for F-Rod (“The Immaculately Postseason-Eligible”) to come
back from his bereavement stint. Or they could turn to Scott Schoeneweis,
which would please him to no end. Replacing Appier is less the problem than
how they’ll paper over their now-shallow pen. Troy Percival hasn’t been
particularly effective, Shields will have to start, Schoeneweis has
struggled, Mickey Callaway is already in the rotation, so they’re really
down to Brendan Donnelly and Ben Weber in terms of relievers that Mike
Scioscia can comfortably turn to for the time being. As much as you can tell
anything from 14 innings, Turnbow was doing well as the main setup man to
closer Joel Peralta in Arkansas, but Turnbow has that mid-90s velocity that
floats everybody’s boats, so he’ll get a serious look for the time being.

The other moves boil down to undoing an idiosyncatic bit of roster goofery.
Initially, the reasons given for choosing Julio Ramirez for the Opening Day
roster over Jeff DaVanon were defense and speed. At the end of the day, the
need for a switch-hitter with some offensive value on the bench, and who
wasn’t such a bad corner outfielder himself, outweighed the infrequency with
which Scioscia find himself ever taking advantage of Ramirez’s purported
assets.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Recalled RHP Andrew Good from Tucson; optioned RHP John
Patterson
to Tucson. [4/17]

Placed LHP Randy Johnson on the 15-day DL (sprained knee),
retroactive to 4/12; recalled RHP Brandon Webb from Tucson; signed
LHP Greg Swindell to a minor league contract. [4/21]

Panic is like a brussels sprout; it doesn’t smell good, and you wish it upon
others. But can you blame the Snakes? They’re in last place, and after their
decision to be conservative with the Big Unit’s back, and Curt Schilling’s
appendectomy, they’re in a tough spot. So why not turn to John Patterson?
Why call up Aaron Good? Because of one bad start? Now they both have one bad
start under their belts. And now a start for Brandon Webb too? Yet Randy
Johnson’s supposed to be back on Sunday, and Schilling will pitch at the
beginning of next week, so… so they managed to fill two rotation slots
with three of their best young pitchers, without giving any of them a second
look-see? What kind of usage pattern is that? Certainly not one conducive to
getting a sense on who they should turn to if anybody breaks down for any
length of time. Hopefully, the Snakes already have confidence in which one
they want to keep, but given the current roster scramble, they could just as
easily be flying by the seat of their pants. Admittedly, Byung-Hyun Kim’s
swollen ankle complicated things a bit this past week, but one of these
three should be given more than a start to earn the fifth slot in the
rotation, which is still wide-open.

Complicating the issue is that all three have earned their opportunities. As
a former college pitcher out of the University of Kentucky, Webb might be
the most reliable of the bunch, but he’s also not positioned to get a second
start before Johnson and Schilling are ready. Patterson has the most big
league experience and arguably the most up-side, and you would think he’d
already earned his turn. A former high school pitcher drafted in 1998, Good
is more than two years removed from Tommy John surgery. Since making a full
recovery, he’s become a nifty control pitcher for somebody who won’t turn 24
until September. Although he doesn’t have great velocity, somebody who can
post a 5-1 strikeout to walk ratio while also giving up less than a hit per
inning in El Paso knows a thing or two about pitching. It’s a nice problem
to have, picking between them, but the Snakes have to make a choice and
stick with it for a few swings through the rotation, wherever they are in
the standings.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Placed OF-R Marty Cordova on the 15-day DL (bone chips – elbow);
recalled 1B/3B-R Jose Leon from Ottawa. [4/23]

What’s more disappointing–the idea that the Orioles are paying Marty
Cordova money that somebody like Kevin Witt or Fernando Seguignol might kill
for, or that replacing him with Jose Leon will mean squat in terms of
results, or that this is supposed to be the major league team that services
two major league markets?

“Colin, get the Ambassador from the Republic of Korea on the horn, I
want to catch a ballgame.”
“The Ambassador says he can see better in his own country, and he’s
washing his hair tonight, Mr. President.”
“Shee-oot. Hrm, can we fly him to Texas?”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, aren’t you and Mr. McLane supposed to
avoid being seen speaking with each other in public?”
“Did we have an extra spoonful of smart-ass with our corn flakes this
morning, General?”

On a more serious level, this probably just helps the Orioles, because they
get an infield reserve for the corners that they otherwise lacked.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Optioned C-R Josh Paul to Charlotte; recalled LHP David
Sanders
from Charlotte. [4/23]

A tough week for third catchers, what with Raul Chavez, Josh Paul, and Jason
Phillips all going down. So who still has a third catcher? The Twins (Matt
LeCroy), Angels (Shawn Wooten) and Jays (Jayson Werth) have people who do
other things than catch, so that’s not what I mean. I mean, which teams are
still making the mistake of carrying three people who do nothing but catch?
I suppose it depends on what you think Todd Greene is, but the Rangers are
using him as a catcher more than anything else, so that isn’t quite the same
thing; it isn’t like he’s like Mike Kinkade or Tyler Houston, someone who
could notionally put on the pads if you asked. So let’s count the Rangers,
and who else, then? The Braves have Johnny Estrada, and the Marlins have
Ramon Castro. The Brewers don’t have any catchers worth mentioning, so you
could argue it all evens out, and there are 60 people in the major leagues
who you can call “catcher” and not “catcher, slash, something
else too.” I think this calls for a memo to Czar Bud to have Ramon
Castro and Henry Blanco assigned to the Brewers forthwith, with a
million-dollar fine on anyone who complains about it. It’s all in the best
interests of the game, obviously.

But the Sox were on the spot for that most galling of roster choices: third
catcher, or twelfth pitcher? They’d slowly come to the realization that
third catchers never play (which means they accrue service time without
playing, which might actually help depress salaries… perhaps Bud will
determine that’s in the best interests of the game), and they’ve
already got two effective lefty relievers in Kelly Wunsch and Damaso Marte.
So they… brought up a third lefty for the pen anyway, I guess to make up
for the two struggling veteran right-handers (purported super closer Billy
Koch, and former super closer Flash Gordon). To their credit, Sanders has
had a nifty career in the organization as a lefty relief prospect (if there
is such an animal), flashing good velocity and a slider with bite. He looked
good in Arizona last fall, and had a good camp, so why not? If Jerry Manuel
can bring himself to let some or all three of them pitch outside of
situational usage patterns, it might not be such a bad thing to carry three
talented lefty relievers. It isn’t like the three of them have to worry
about facing the Sox’s righty-heavy lineup, and teams like the Mariners or
A’s or Yankees or Red Sox or Twins might not enjoy facing an opponent with
that much lefty quality in the pen.


CINCINNATI REDS
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Announced RHP Josias Manzanillo and LHP Jimmy Anderson
accepted assignments to Louisville; claimed LHP Eric Cyr off of
waivers from the Angels and optioned him to Chattanooga (Double-A). [4/23]

Here’s the advantage to cleaning out space on the 40-man, you get to make a
random snag off of waivers. Eric Cyr is still a bit of a risk, since he’s
had to have surgery on his elbow twice in the last three years, but there
aren’t a lot of lefties who throw hard lurking on waivers, and better to
take the flyer and see what you get.


NEW YORK YANKEES
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Designated OF-B Chris Latham for assignment; recalled UT-R Charles
Gipson
from Columbus. [4/21]

Placed RHP Antonio Osuna on the 15-day DL (strained groin); purchased
the contract of RHP Al Reyes from Columbus; transferred RHP Jon
Lieber
from the 15- to 60-day DL. [4/23]

Antonio Osuna, on the DL? What’s next, death? Taxes? Death taxes? To be
fair, they’re already short Mariano Rivera and Steve Karsay, and once they
get Rivera back in another couple of weeks and Karsay by (perhaps) sometime
in June, it probably won’t be too soon, because how long can the non-Pettite
portion of the rotation go undefeated? Of course that assumes you take the
Red Sox seriously. I mean, it’s statistically within the realm of
possibility, right? If it wasn’t, folks in Massachussetts would chant
‘Devils suck!’ at moments of public euphoria and PTA meetings and whatnot,
right? In the meantime, Al Reyes is a completely serviceable journeyman who
could luck into a playoff roster spot with a few well-timed good outings
over the next couple of weeks, which would only be the most important thing
that ever happened to him in a career otherwise wasted in places like
Milwaukee. He’s always been a bit homer-prone, but that’s in part because he
can get predictable about trying to finish people off with his changeup. As
his PECOTA card hints, he’s worth taking a chance on, so he isn’t your
average roster filler.

Replacing Chris Latham with Charles Gipson is a strange move of discretion,
if you ask me. Although Latham is about to sign with Yomiuri for good money,
the Yankees could use him, lacking as they do a reliable backup to Bernie
Williams for center field. Gipson has next to no value as a hitter and isn’t
really an alternative in center if anything happened to Williams, but to his
credit, he can inspire teary-eyed memories of Clay Bellinger.


NEW YORK METS
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Placed RHP David Cone on the 15-day DL (strained hip) and OF-L
Jeromy Burnitz on the 15-day DL (broken bone – hand); recalled UT-R
Joe McEwing and RHP Pat Strange from Norfolk; purchased the
contract of OF-R Raul Gonzalez from Norfolk; optioned C-R Jason
Phillips
and RHP Pat Strange to Norfolk; designated RHP Heath
Bell
for assignment; activated RHP Pedro Astacio from the 15-day
DL. [4/23]

What’s more amusing, the notion that Jae Seo’s job was ‘saved’ by the injury
to David Cone, or the suggestion that moving Roger Cedeno to right is a good
thing? Whose career is more over, Cedeno’s or Cone’s? Although it might be
news to Roger Angell, Cone’s career ended during the Clinton presidency,
minus a Sean-Connery-in-worst-film-ever-made star turn (Highlander 2,
for those of you keeping score at home) in the dullest World Series of my
lifetime in 2000.

Burnitz is going to be out four to six weeks with his broken hand, which is
all the more unfortunate since, on the basis of his modest good start, it
looked like he might have been the team’s first good-hitting outfielder the
Mets have had since Benny Agbayani at least, and arguably since Cedeno and
Rickey Henderson manned the corners in 1999. It was probably too much to
expect that he was going to keep it up, but even if it meant that he was
going to have a modest comeback, it would still make him the best
contributor from the trio of himself, Cedeno, and Mo Vaughn. I guess there’s
some solace that Roberto Alomar is getting on base at a good clip, but with
the Mets the worst offensive team in baseball outside of the Pirates and the
incomparable Tigers, an outfield employing the Timo-Shinjo platoon in one
spot and Cedeno in another isn’t going to help.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Activated RHP Jim Mecir from the 15-day DL; designated LHP Micah
Bowie
for assignment. [4/23]

This is just the first part of what might become a problem. See, Micah Bowie
was a marked man, not merely because of his own lackluster performance, but
because Rich Harden’s slowly hoving his way into view as far as the big
league picture, and that means John Halama would get bumped into the pen.
Since they’re only carrying eleven pitchers, and don’t have the space for a
twelfth, somebody’s gotta go whenever somebody comes onto this staff,
especially with Rule 5er Mike Neu barely getting any time at all. Jim Mecir
may well have been rushed back, but at this rate, he might also never be
quite right again, since weight problems and knee problems seem to interact
in a way that eventually create arm problems. He might end up being the guy
who returns to the DL once Harden is ready, or Neu could come down with
whatever the excuse injury of the moment might be for Rule 5 players this
week. Scrofula, anyone? French monarchs are in pretty short supply these
days, he might have to hit the 60-day DL until MLB can get one crowned.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Placed INF-R Placido Polanco on the 15-day DL (finger), retroactive
to 4/16; recalled 2B/3B-L Chase Utley from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
[4/23]

Wisely, the Phillies are taking the opportunity to let Chase Utley play
every day against right-handed pitching. The question is whether Nick Punto
or Tomas Perez will get the at-bats against lefties, but if Utley has a good
week before Polanco’s ready to be reactivated, the Phillies will have a nice
problem on their hands. They could convert Polanco to the semi-regular
utility infielder, and keep Utley to start against right-handed pitchers
three or four times per week, and demote Nick Punto or cut Tomas Perez. I
don’t see cutting Perez as fitting within Bowa’s or Wade’s M.O. with veteran
players, and Utley does still have options to burn. More likely, the
Phillies will send Utley back after a week good or bad, and have a little
more reason to bring him back once Polanco cools off or Utley keeps pasting
the ball in Scranton. Eventually, Chacido Putley might be one hell of a
platoon, but it remains to be seen if the Phillies will have the stones to
phase it in while they’re in the middle of their best shot at contention
since 1993.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Placed RHP Josh Fogg on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); recalled
RHP Brian Meadows from Nashville. [4/22]

Okay, losing Josh Fogg isn’t good news, but it also isn’t a major arm
injury, and the Pirates have a perfectly qualified journeyman ready to step
into the rotation in Salomon Torres. I probably talk about the ’84 Pirates
more than anybody in their right mind should, but as a model for a team that
had a nifty rotation which was wasted on a team with a collection of
inoffensive puds in the lineup, it certainly bears a similarity to a
Giles-less Pirates lineup. Kris Benson looks healed up, Kip Wells is doing
fine, and Jeff Suppan has been one of the winter’s best bargains. Jeff
D’Amico hasn’t broken down yet, but to be extra-frosty, he will, and Torres
will have had the opportunity to inherit his job in the meantime. Fogg’s
supposed to miss at least three starts, which gives Torres a nice window of
opportunity to re-fire his spring battle with D’Amico. Regardless, as long
as the Pirates aren’t scoring runs, there will be a lot of frustration in
terms of pitchers earning wins, both for the men themselves, and for fantasy
leaguers. It’s sort of a shame, since this team was already good enough to
win 75 games. With a little bit of offense, they’d be able to run with the
Cubs, Cardinals and Astros deep into the season. If Jason Kendall really
does rebound, and Aramis Ramirez follows, things could get interesting.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Placed RHP Jason Schmidt on the bereavement list; purchased the
contract of RHP Luis Estrella from Fresno. [4/23]

Does anyone else remember the controversies from 2001, when Bernie Williams
wasn’t allowed to be taken off of the active roster during his father’s
illness, while Dennis Cook was ‘for personal reasons’? It isn’t often that I
have much sympathy for the Yankees, but that was a pretty clear
double-standard, and it appears that a product of the new CBA is the new
‘bereavement list.’ I’d consider this progress on a couple of levels. First,
it eliminates discretion from MLB’s offices, almost invariably a good thing.
Second, by creating a set rule (almost certainly at the player’s behest),
there’s less chance of abuse by the teams themselves, or at least no moreso
than they already abuse the DL for certain players or types of players. And
there’s the obvious good will of allowing a player to deal with family
tragedies in a way that doesn’t have him worry about whether or not the
team’s going to get cranky for looking after the ones he loves.

In Schmidt’s absence, there’s some speculation that Jerome Williams will get
a spot start this weekend, but there are few pens as well-prepared for an
emergency start as that of the Giants. Joe Nathan, Jim Brower, Scott Eyre,
and Chad Zerbe have all started at point or another during their careers, so
if Felipe Alou just wanted to go with a ‘pen start’ and give a couple of
them three-inning days to cover Schmidt’s absence, that could work, as long
as they’re not left too short-handed for Jesse Foppert’s second start on
Sunday.


SEATTLE MARINERS
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Placed RHP Kazuhiro Sasaki on the 15-day DL (strained back). [4/23]

There’s nothing really pithy for me to add to a situation where the Mariners
are doing the obvious. They plan on handing the save opportunities to both
Arthur Lee Rhodes and Jeff Nelson, not reserving either for the role, and
basically just going with the situation. In other words, trying to win games
instead of giving the team saves generator saves to generate.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Placed DH-L Ben Grieve on the 15-day DL (thumb infection) and OF-R
Damian Rolls on the 15-day DL (fractured thumb); purchased the
contract of 3B-R Chris Truby from Durham; designated RHP Luis De
Los Santos
for assignment. [4/23]

There’s something really troubling here, with the initial story that Grieve
will be out three to six weeks, and the Rays seeming very tight-lipped about
the matter. It needs to be said that an infection in a major joint like the
thumb that standard regimens of antibiotics hasn’t killed is potentially
career-threatening. If nothing works, a hitter without a functioning thumb
just doesn’t seem like a likely comeback success. Basically, let’s hope that
Grieve recuperates fully from his latest surgery, and doesn’t have to end
his career on the note of being a faded Ray. Rolls is more straightforward,
in that he’s gone for three months, at which point his career as a Ray or
his space on the 40-man roster might be in trouble, but he’ll land
somewhere.

In the twin absences of Grieve and Rolls, there’s playing time to dole out.
The big winner seems to be Terry Shumpert, who will get a lot of the playing
time that was going to go to Rolls in right field as George Lombard’s
platoon partner. That’ll only last until Travis Lee is reactivated at the
beginning of next week. That’s when Aubrey Huff will move back to right or
DH, with either Lombard or Al Martin losing at-bats as a result. Beyond that
dirty little lineup challenge, with Damion Easley’s continued slumpery,
there’s a chance here for Chris Truby to win a major portion of the third
base job. It would probably be the best short-term solution, but the
organization doesn’t really have a long-term solution at third base.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Optioned OF-R Reed Johnson to Syracuse; recalled OF/C-R Jayson
Werth
from Syracuse. [4/21]

Everyone’s happy. Jayson Werth was apparently promised his recall once he
was fully rehabbed and ready, Carlos Tosca still really wanted to have a
third body on the roster who could catch in an emergency because of his
concern that neither Tom Wilson or Greg Myers were everyday players, and
Werth will get to platoon with Frank Catalanotto in right field, so he won’t
go to seed waiting for those emergency catching situations. It will make for
some strange lineup juggling late in games if Werth has to move to catcher
from right because Tosca pinch-hit for his starting catcher, and then had to
again, but as long as he’s tactically flexible enough to play Werth and not
be afraid to pull the trigger on these sorts of maneuvers, it’s actually
sort of cool. Ideally, they’d have the space on the roster for a fifth
outfielder, but until Mike Bordick retires or the Jays get longer outings
from their pitchers and come down from twelve, there wasn’t the space to
carry Reed Johnson.