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Selected the contract of LHP Joe Saunders from Triple-A Norfolk [9/1]

Moderately good news for the 54 of you who chose Saunders for your Hacking Mass teams but had long given up hope he’d be “contributing” any more this year. Saunders returns to the big leagues after three months of wandering, including a three-week stop in the Royals’ organization. (Baffle your friends with that bar trivia question. “Can you name all six teams Joe Saunders has pitched for?” “Who the hell is Joe Saunders?” Oh, your friends.) A few things have changed: He’s now a reliever, most notably, with 10 of his 11 career relief appearances (at any level) coming in the past month. The Orioles plan to use him in that role, as a longman who (moreso than incumbent left-handed longman T.J. McFarlane) can also start a game on 40 minutes notice.

What hasn’t changed, or doesn’t appear to have: Even in relief, Saunders doesn’t miss bats. Batters at Triple-A whiffed on only 6 percent of his pitches, which is the same rate he managed as a starter last year in Seattle. Overall just 53 percent of his pitches in relief were strikes, which puts him considerably worse than position players pitching this year (57 percent). So Saunders in relief doesn’t appear to be any more useful than the Saunders who started eight games for Texas this year and produced the worst FIP in baseball (minimum 30 innings) and, via his sinker, the lowest whiff rate of any single pitch in the sport.

Expect a spot start out of him, around the time of the Orioles’ scheduled doubleheader this month. Otherwise, he’ll likely be kept in reserve on the bullpen bench, awaiting the call in case a game pushes 16 innings.

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Called up RHP Taijuan Walker from Triple-A Tacoma [9/1]

The Mariners have brought Walker along slowly since he missed the first two months of the season with shoulder inflammation, and the unexpected success of Chris Young covered them. But Young has been a notorious peripherals slayer and works with what we would generally consider sub-MLB stuff. It’s impossible not to worry that like, say, a very tall tree toppling over, Young’s regression could be sudden and resolute.

In which case the Mariners might be fortunate that Walker is peaking at the right time. After topping 100 pitches just once all year, and pitching past the fifth inning just three times, he finished his time in Tacoma with four consecutive starts of six innings or more, 100 pitches or more, and six strikeouts or more, including a 13-K, seven-inning performance on August 4th that followed his worst outing of the season. In an unanticipated first post-recall outing, Walker appeared in the second inning after Young couldn’t get out of the first on Monday. The 22-year-old hit 98 in his fifth inning of work and completed six efficient innings. He was more comfortable going to his changeup than in earlier big-league outings.

“Hopefully he’ll get to the point where he’s so dominating so that he’s in the rotation, but we’ll see,” his manager, Lloyd McClendon, said. “I had a talk with him today, and that’s totally up to him.” McClendon overestimates the strength of his own hand. It’s quite possible that Seattle will be forced to turn to Walker by the end of September, just as they were forced to on Monday. McClendon should find himself relieved that Walker’s as prepared as he is.

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Called up 1B-L Ben Paulsen from Triple-A Colorado Springs [9/1]

We decided Paulsen didn’t merit a comment in the BP Annual last winter, on account of his being a 25-year-old first basemen with a career OPS in the minors that was still one monster year from even challenging .800. He’s had one monster year, hitting .294/.378/.533 in Colorado Springs, which (thanks to a humidor) isn’t nearly the offensive absurdity it was a few years ago. In 14 major-league games he is now hitting .417/.447/.694 (after a home run on Monday), with a higher WPA this year than Brandon Moss. He’ll get a comment next year.

That comment might (well, probably won’t, now) note that Paulsen traces his turnaround to some advice he got from Jason Giambi, just like Joey Gallo does. One portion of that advice is even similar for the two:

“He told me that I would be my best hitting coach," Paulsen said. "He said I had to learn that because your coaches always aren't going to be there. That stuck with me.”

Paulsen's no Gallo. But the presumption all along was that he was no sort of prospect. Compared to actual prospects, maybe he's not, but that doesn't rule out a two- or three-year peak that coincides with regular playing time in Colorado.

Sound at all familiar? Here’s what Giambi said he taught Joey Gallo:

“The biggest thing I wanted to teach Joey was self-awareness of his swing, where he didn’t really need anybody to help him,” Giambi says. “Where he could get that mind-body connection.”

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Called up 2B-R Alexander Guerrero from Triple-A Albuquerque [9/1]

Guerrero’s batting line would make you wonder how he could have been stuck in the minors all year, ear laceration or not. As is always the case with Albuquerque stats, the context takes some shine off. Guerrero’s numbers relative to those of his teammates:

Overall: .287/.358/.473

Now, you can’t knock a guy for slugging only .613, especially as a middle infielder, no matter where he’s playing. It’s just that, with Dee Gordon having deflated severely (.267/.288/.327 since the break), the Dodgers are more or less where they were before the beginning of the year: Without anything certain at second base, Guerrero is arguably the most exciting option but also unproven, with poor assessments of his defense and an aggressive approach that hasn’t truly been tested yet. One might also note that, in what amounts to a second spin around the PCL, Guerrero hit just .286/.313/.500 in 32 games after his ear was bitten off.

Still, it’s easy to clamor for him, and at a pregame press availability yesterday it sounds like the reporters in attendance did. Quotes Eric Stephen,

At this time during the pregame session, Mattingly grew increasingly annoyed at questions regarding playing time for the call-ups.

"Right now I'm not comfortable starting him ahead of any of our guys anywhere. I have a second baseman that's an All-Star player," Mattingly said. "Right now we're not looking to try people out, not looking to get extra guys at-bats. We're not trying to be fair to anybody. We're trying to win games."

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