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American League


National League


BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Placed 2B-R Jerry Hairston on the 15-day DL (fractured foot);
recalled 2B/SS-B Brian Roberts from Ottawa. [5/21]

Purchased the contract of 1B/C-R Carlos Mendez from Ottawa; claimed
INF-R Felix Escalona off of waivers from the Devil Rays, and optioned
him to Bowie (Double-A); transferred OF-R Marty Cordova from the 15-
to 60-day DL. [5/19]

Losing Jerry Hairston for a month or two hurts. Think about that, because it
has more than one meaning. On the most superficial level, it hurts because
Hairston was having the best year of his not-so-young career. He was walking
and hitting enough to make him not just a useful player for a second
baseman, but one of the 10 best hitters at the position in MLB, and
arguably the best second baseman in the AL not named Alfonso Soriano or Bret
Boone. Considering he’s just about to turn 27, the timing was right, and the
injury’s especially ill-timed if the Orioles wanted to avail themselves of
the opportunity to trade him by the July 31 deadline. That may sound
cynical, but it’s pretty clear that Hairston will not develop into a great
player, and if the Orioles can get anything close to a blue-chip prospect
who might contribute to a competitive Orioles team–which is far off in the
future as is–they’d be doing the smart thing.

The question is what they’ll do in his absence. Sadly, they seem to be
inclined to do the predictable thing, which is keep finding ways to get
Deivi Cruz onto the field. Since they had the wisdom to play Brian Roberts
at short a bit at Ottawa this year, it would be interesting if they elected
to play Roberts at short in the majors to see if he can handle it, and Melvin Mora at second to leave him alone at a position he can handle. Or they could find ways to spot Jose Morban at short once a week or so. Unfortunately, the
reflex seems to be to play Cruz at short and slap Roberts into Hairston’s
job, and call it good enough for Angelos work.

As for the rest, Carlos Mendez comes up after putting in a long career, in
the Royals organization for the most part, without getting much of a look.
There was a point, in 1997, where you might have considered him a prospect:
he was 23, and in his debut season in Double-A, he hit .325/.346/.464,
including 32 doubles and a dozen home runs. He wasn’t catching much then,
either, spending more time at first base and DH, because Wichita’s backstops
were the ill-fated Sal Fasano, organizational pet Hec Ortiz, and Ramy
Brooks. The next year, in Omaha, he didn’t catch much because of Fasano and
the great Henry Mercedes. It’s easy to pick on the Royals about this stuff,
because it might have been worthwhile to give Mendez at least as much of a
shot as a catcher as they ended up giving to the likes of Ortiz or Jorge
Fabregas. But to be fair, nobody really thinks Mendez makes a great catcher,
although in Sacramento last year, he did get into a semi-platoon situation
with Cody McKay. Basically, he’s a free swinger who makes contact and hits
for a wee bit of sock, and that’s useful on a team that doesn’t have a good
starting catcher or a great first baseman.

Lastly, nabbing Felix Escalona didn’t give the organization a future
all-star, but the Orioles’ organization needs to think of its lack of depth
as a handicap that they can turn to their advantage when it comes to waiver
claims. Just as they can afford to spend a spot on Jose Morban on the off
chance that he’ll turn out to be something that saves them from the Deivi
Cruz’s of the future, it’s worth taking a peek at Escalona on the chance
that sticking him at a single position and letting him hit could turn him
into something of value. He’s supposed to have only just turned 24, and
spending a good chunk of time out of the majors, playing every day, could be
what he needs to be able to shine next spring.


BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned RHP Jason Shiell to Pawtucket; purchased the contract of RHP
Rudy Seanez from Pawtucket. [5/20]

Rudy Seanez is useful; he’s been known to pitch for weeks at a time,
donchaknow. That isn’t a defense of Jason Shiell, of course; although he
might have outpitched Chad Fox or Mike Timlin or Steve Woodard, he still
hadn’t pitched all that well. Take this as another one of the Red Sox’s
wacky flyers on the game’s talents best known for being healthy once in
a while. Pete Ladd can’t be far behind, can he? Will the Twins ship them Mike
Fetters? Eventually, you lump together enough bodies, and
Re-Animator-style, you’ve got something close to a complete human
being to fill a roster spot over the season’s long march. “Traction
Action” Seanez will get his chances, and might actually give the Sox a
good month or two. After that, they’ll need to give serious thought to
putting him on the Gene Nelson plan, and shipping him off to a long, low-intensity rehab assignment until September. That is, if they want to have a
shot at having him available in October, but even then, given that Seanez’s
working parts are as reliable as Italian machine-tooled engineering, he
could break down at any point, rested or no, used or no. It’s the neat thing
about Rudy Seanez; he’s the mound equivalent of a lottery. You know you’ll
lose at some point, you just have to hope you actually catch him on one of
those multi-month stretches where he’s ambulatory and useful and stuff.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Named Greg Walker hitting coach. [5/19]

Much as Gary Ward might have been scapegoated, I’m sort of glad to see Greg
Walker get this opportunity. First, because of the tragic way his career
sort of petered out, marred by an on-field seizure and a slump that crimped
the happy memory of one of the game’s better young stars at first base from
1983-1987. Second, because as a hitter, he was a Hriniak guy, releasing his
top hand at contact and bopping at a time when it was fashionable to deride
the style as power-sapping. It will be interesting to see if Walker will
encourage his charges to try the Lau-Hriniak philosophy he employed as a
player. It was something Frank Thomas always liked
well enough that he engaged Hriniak for a refresher long after the Sox had
excused the old codger for his inveterate crustiness, so it’s worth hoping
that this might help Thomas and the other Sox hitters scuffling in the early
going. And finally, while historical cachet has its perils, particularly in
the way that it breathes life and employment into ex-players and ex-stars
while reducing them to cronydom, it still has its cachet, which boils down
to it just being a wee bit cool for those of us who enjoyed watching the guy
hit way back when to see him wind up back with the team in some capacity. Now, hopefully,
he’ll do the job.


CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Announced that RHP Jerrod Riggan has declined his assignment to
Buffalo, and has become a free agent. [5/21]

Heck, the Bisons just signed Danny Miceli, why would they need Jerrod
Riggan? Seriously, Riggan made the right choice, in that there are other
organizations that could use a reliever with big league experience, not all
of it bad.


KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Placed RHP Miguel Asencio on the 15-day DL (inflamed elbow),
retroactive to 5/16; recalled LHP Scott Mullen from Omaha. [5/21]

My colleague Will Carroll has been sounding the warning bells about the
Royals’ young rotation for a while now, and I have to tip my cap to him.
Asencio’s elbow doesn’t appear to be a laughing matter, and Runelvys
Hernandez and Chris George have both been struggling the last few times out.
Not just struggling, but laboring, which is the real concern. It’s easy to
carp that Asencio broke down shortly after pitching a 114-pitch complete
game where nothing of significance was at stake; Asencio gave up a run in
the second and fifth, so there wasn’t even a shutout to perk him up.
Hopefully, Asencio will be OK after a couple of weeks of rest, and the
Royals will get by with Darrell May in the rotation in the meantime.

The organization’s continuing mission this year is to keep breaking in new
talent, not that that has anything to do with May or Mullen, to see if most
of it survives (among the pitchers) and/or makes it (which goes for
everybody). But given their odd good fortune in the early going, Allard
Baird’s crew also gets to see if they can really keep their threat to finish
at or above .500 live, thereby locking in Mike Sweeney through 2007 right
now, undoubtedly to the surprise of all concerned. Seeing as they’re about
to start a stretch where they play Oakland, Seattle, and the Dodgers over
the next 12 games, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that target start to
stall even worse than it already has against Toronto, Seattle, and
Minnesota. They shouldn’t let themselves get too bent out of shape worrying
about .500; this team isn’t that good, and this organization has a long way
to go. They’ve made progress from last year, and they’re finally well into
life after the Gunnery Sergeant. Every rebuilding project has its share of
premature hope, so as long as the Royals don’t go Bonifay on us, I’d bear
with them.


NEW YORK YANKEES
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Recalled RHP Jose Contreras from Columbus; designated RHP Al
Reyes
for assignment. [5/20]

Well, as Joe Sheehan has cracked, Jose Contreras is apparently Spanish for
‘Ed Whitson’, so getting him back isn’t exactly good news. Hell, beyond the
question of the Whitson-like performance, like Whitson, Contreras has even become an
issue between front office management and field management, all on the basis
of his maximum whitsonocity. His ugly first performance coming as it did in
the wake of the news that Steve Karsay’s out for the year has Yankee haters
chortling about how they can keep choosing to employ their financial
advantage thisaways, because it does do wonders for any opponent’s faith and
hope to have the pinstriped menace out tens of millions while providing runs
to said opponent. By contrast, boring old Al Reyes was a plain reliever,
pretty good from the stretch, knew how to set up his off-speed stuff, nothing
at all about him smacking of being from the land of forbidden leaves rolled
on virgin thighs. That image alone has to be worth millions, right? Simple
functionality just doesn’t play in New York, not when there’s the
opportunity to airlift in an Eskimo or Albania’s finest pitching prodigy or
something.

Needless to say, I’m less than sanguine about how Joe Torre’s in-season
project to build a better bullpen is going.


SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned LHP Mike Bynum to Portland. [5/18]

Activated RHP Adam Eaton from the 15-day DL. [5/20]

As if there was such a thing as too many reminders about why reality is
better than fantasy, the Padres’ in-season rotation wrangling is fascinating
on the level that it defies anticipation or planning. It simply keeps
getting cobbled and re-cobbled, reminding me of my car’s semi-annoying
tendency to reward me with a high-speed blowout now and again. Fortunately,
these sorts of situations are survivable, and entertaining in their own way,
although you can pretty much count on terrifying passengers, peers, and the
presumed innocent. After all, have you really lived if you don’t prove to
yourself that you can change a flat inside of 20 minutes on a highway
shoulder? I think not.

So tip your cap to the Pads. As of right now, the front end of their
rotation is the talented trio of Adam Eaton and Brian Lawrence and Jake
Peavy, not really at their best, but still not a bad place to start. And
then you’ve got the pair of retreads from last week’s call-up-a-thon, the
reconstructed Randy Keisler and multiply-reconstructed Carlton Loewer. On
the surface of it, that sounds like how a team is supposed to build a good
rotation: three talents you scared up yourself, and fourth and fifth slots
stocked with retreads. But it sounds a lot easier in principle than it was
in practice, and it remains to be seen what tomorrow holds. Eventually, that
happy time when Oliver Perez and Dennis Tankersley can help will come, but
in the meantime, Kevin Towers can enjoy that funhouse sensation when the
wheel just suddenly goes the way you want it to.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Acquired RHP Mike Wilson from the Phillies for 1B-L Damon
Minor
. [5/19]

One random live arm for someone who could be a useful bench bat, and this on
a team with two crotchety first basemen? No, this won’t help the Giants’
pennant chances, and it sort of defies explanation as to what this is
supposed to do for the team in-season. It isn’t like you can flip Wilson for
something of value. Wilson has flipped back and forth between starting and
relieving, and he’s big, and he’s wild, so he fits just about any need the
Giants might have for him at Double-A. But did they really need this, now or
into the future, more than they might end up needing Minor?


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Acquired 1B-L Damon Minor from the Giants for RHP Mike Wilson;
assigned Minor to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/19]

A solid pickup for the Phillies. They need a lefty pinch-hitter with Tyler
Houston out for a while
, and if something happened to Jim Thome, they were
otherwise stuck with choices like Dave Hollins’ unsuccessful resurrection,
or the recent fiddling with Eric Valent at first. Valent isn’t hitting, and
Hollins wasn’t ever going to prior to his storming off in a huff and
retiring for not getting a call-up, so the Phillies and the Red Barons are
better off having Minor around. It’s just a bit surprising that the Phillies
didn’t put Minor on their roster right now, given their need for another
lefty pinch-hitter, and the unlikelihood that Larry Bowa is going to find a
way to get either Joe Roa or Nick Punto into a game. Bowa isn’t using his
full roster, which merits a conversation between himself and his GM to
decide if there’s a better way to structure it to give the Phillies
whatever weapons Bowa will put to work in-game.

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