|IN THIS ISSUE|
|ANAHEIM ANGELS||Return to Top|
Signed LHP Yoshitaka Mizou to a one-year contract; designated C-R Tom Gregorio for assignment; reassigned C-R Wil Nieves to their minor league camp. [3/29]
Mizou will start off in the minors, but will apparently fill the club’s need for a situational lefty shortly, assuming he shows he can get people out in the PCL. Maybe the Angels filled their need, and maybe not. They deserve credit for looking around, and few teams do as well as the Angels do when it comes to digging up useful relievers. However, it’s worth snorting some rock salt to go with that particular wishcast; some players from the Japanese Leagues can cut it in the majors, but that doesn’t mean all of them can or will. Mizou’s about to turn 36, and he hasn’t exactly been dominant over there. He could be an early-season success merely because almost nobody has seen him over here, after which the league will adjust. If the league doesn’t have to even adjust, but simply belts him around like he was Jamie Walker, well, you don’t need to shop in those fancy stores stocked with them imported goodies to get that sort of sweetness.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||Return to Top|
Optioned LHP Erik Bedard to Ottawa. [3/30]
Optioned C-R Geronimo Gil to Ottawa; reassigned INF-B Eddy Garabito and LHP Rob Ramsay to their minor league camp.
Except for the inappropriate use of the word ‘mighty,’ you can reflect on how the mighty have fallen in Bal’mer. A year ago, Gil was being toasted as a solution; now, he’s merely crisped. That’s not entirely his fault, of course; Gil can only be as good as he can be, and Javy Lopez wasn’t exactly going to have his career thrown off the tracks by whatever stumbling block Gil might represent. No, what’s stranger here is that Keith Osik, formerly on the wrong side of the picket line back in the spring of 1995, won a job as the backup catcher with the team that would not have employed him that year, because Peter Angelos refused to play along with the strategic cat’s paw that MLB was going to try to hold games without the MLBPA. That said, I’m pretty tolerant of the presumed strikebreakers, since they weren’t going to break the strike on the one hand, and most of them were vulnerable and/or needed a break or the money. This is just another little echo from an unhappy time.
More importantly for the here and now, the Orioles made the wrong choice. Osik isn’t a great defensive catcher, and he isn’t a holdover with any familiarity with the staff to justify his retention as Lopez’s caddy. Gil is not a prospect, and has no future to protect or aid by getting regular playing time in the minors. He is, however, a very good catcher and he’s familiar with last year’s Oriole moundsmen. Considering Javy’s issues with leather, Gil should have made a fine backup.
|BOSTON RED SOX||Return to Top|
Optioned LHP Mark Malaska to Pawtucket. [3/30]
Placed SS-R Nomar Garciaparra on the 15-day DL. [3/31]
Remember when New England was known for flinty American originals? You know, real Yankees, not the ones in pinstripes, the sorts of people who would chuckle drily at Henry David Thoreau because he was living in a shack down the road and calling it a nature experience? I’m a-guessin’ we only find those people on the covers of frozen seafood boxes, or generated out of central casting to pitch Pepperidge Fahms carbomunchies. Because we haven’t even reached Opening Day, and already, the ululations of Red Sox Nation do more to conjure up the amphiboid freaks of Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, as inner ugliness and envy and despair boil over from their usual simmer. Yes, not having Nomar for a few weeks will hurt, and all Pokey all the time in the lineup at shortstop will put an early end to a few innings at the plate. But the Red Sox are still going to score runs, and in the same way that the Yankees could endure last season’s loss of Derek Jeter, the Red Sox aren’t going to lose their shot at the playoffs because Garciaparra and Nixon are out for the time being. This isn’t the Phillies, where a slow start could get ugly.
Heck, overlook Pokey for a minute, and think on their ability to score some runs if they played Mark Bellhorn at short and Cesar Crespo at second. Yes, it would kick some balls around the infield, but when a pitcher as defense-independent as Pedro or Curt Schilling is on the mound, why not take some risks? Bah, they’ll probably avoid doing it, figuring that Schilling or Pedro won’t need the extra runs, and they’re probably right. But it’s fun to think about.
If there’s a camp surprise, it’s at second lefty, where they picked Bobby M. Jones over Frank Brooks. Sure, Jones has had a nice camp, but you can’t tell me that part of the decision isn’t based on the knowledge that you can pass Jones through waivers when Kim comes off of the DL. Generally speaking, you know what you’ll get from Jones, and it isn’t good. A nice spring training is nice, but he’s roster scrapple.
|CHICAGO WHITE SOX||Return to Top|
Mark my words, Rivera will be back. Sure, between wondering whether Miguel Olivo will hit enough, or picking the date when Sandy Alomar will shatter a hip because his Clapper™ broke and he tripped over the coffee table on the way to his evening bunion rub, I have to like my odds of being right, but Rivera can sock at the plate now and again. Surprising none of you, Reed and Borchard will be back too.
|CINCINNATI REDS||Return to Top|
Outrighted LHP Juan Cerros to Louisville. [3/29]
Placed 3B/OF-R Brandon Larson on the 15-day DL. [3/30]
I’m more than a little disappointed to see Hummel go down. Not that Ryan Freel hasn’t had a great camp, and I suppose ought to be handed first crack at the job at third while Larson is on the DL. But I suppose it depends on how optimistic about how often Barry Larkin’s bones can get into uniform and be tossed on the field. Larkin needs a defensive caddy, so Juan Castro or Rainer Olmedo have to be kept around for a utility infield job, so that’s two roster spots spent covering short. Add in that it looks like they’ll break camp with a dozen pitchers, and the ongoing charade of Wily Mo Pena, big league ballplayer, and you run out of roster spots pretty quickly.
|CLEVELAND INDIANS||Return to Top|
Acquired LHP Jeriome Robertson from the Astros for OF-L Luke Scott and the waiver rights to Rule 5 pick OF-R Willy Taveras. [3/31]
Not a bad move by the Tribe, in the sense that they acquire a slightly more reliable trencherman as innings-eaters go. Robertson will start the year at Buffalo, but he’ll be the stalking horse just up Erie’s shore, waiting for when Jeff D’Amico or Jason Stanford slip up. Robertson isn’t a great addition, but he didn’t cost them much, and if he takes on a regular rotation slot while allowing guys like Jeremy Guthrie and Kyle Denney to develop, that’s better than having to put your faith in Jason Bere.
|COLORADO ROCKIES||Return to Top|
Released INF-R Benji Gil. [3/30]
When you’re on a 12-pitcher sort of team, once it became clear that Royce Clayton had the shortstop job, Gil was left to compete with Denny Hocking for a lone infield reserve role. Hocking switch-hits and can play seven positions reasonably well; Gil might put the fear of the patron saint of dust bunnies into the souls of generally nondescript lefties. That has its uses-some people are really into dust bunnies-but it doesn’t cut much ice in the face of someone as namby, pambidextrous as Hocking. Theoretically, an outright release now frees Gil to pick his employer, but how many people remain interested in him anymore?
|DETROIT TIGERS||Return to Top|
|FLORIDA MARLINS||Return to Top|
Released UT-B Brian Banks. [3/30]
I’m usually among the ranks of Jack McKeon’s believers, but keeping both Lenny Harris and Damion Easley over Banks is about bad as decision-making on the little things can get. Banks was a very useful last man on the bench last year, pinch-hitting, filling in at first or in the outfield; he’s even an emergency catcher. A switch-hitter who can get on base, he’s handy. Harris has been useless for years, and has no position he can handle adequately. He’s a pinch-hitter without the ‘hitter’ part. If you want pinching, buy a crab. Easley is equally indefensible, years removed from effectiveness, and an infielder without a position he’s good at any more. Mike Mordecai’s here, so they didn’t need both Harris and Easley as backup infielders. In short, it’s a bad move, and one that will hurt every time Harris has to bat.
|HOUSTON ASTROS||Return to Top|
Acquired OF-L Luke Scott from the Indians for LHP Jeriome Robertson, while retaining Rule 5 pick OF-R Willy Taveras by acquiring his waiver rights. [3/31]
You might wonder why the Astros would be so much in need of keeping Taveras, but keep in mind that Jason Lane isn’t really a center fielder, that they lost Colin Porter and Henri Stanley on waivers, and that Charlton Jimerson might not be any more special as outfield prospects go than Mike Rosamond or Barry Wesson, and you sort of see why they might take an interest. Robertson is pretty replaceable as mound talent goes.
|KANSAS CITY ROYALS||Return to Top|
Acquired RHP J.J. Trujillo and Jaime Cerda, RHPs Joey Dawley and Ryan Bukvich, and OF-L David DeJesus to Omaha; placed RHPs Kevin Appier, Runelvys Hernandez, Miguel Asencio and Kyle Snyder on the 15-day DL; reassigned RHPs Zack Greinke and Rudy Seanez to their minor league camp. [3/31]
Some of this is pretty cool, at least in terms of what some of these moves mean for other people. Dennys Reyes will get a chance, probably even to start an April game or two, and he won’t get too many more opportunities like this. It was surprising to see neither Cerda or Greg Swindell stick, and demoting a temporarily healthy Rudy Seanez is a senseless delusion, a bit of pretending to claim that you know he’ll be around for you to call up later, instead of in yet another recovery room. But journeymen Shawn Camp and Nate Field, both on-staff for Opening Day? That’s sort of cool, and while it took injuries to help them get here, it’s a nice reminder that sometimes, spring training games provide answers you couldn’t have expected. I wouldn’t bet on either finishing the season, not when Seanez is in Omaha and Appier will be back soon, but at least Royals fans shouldn’t have Chris George haunting their hope and faith anytime soon.
It’s interesting to see the Royals trade for Trujillo. Will it help? I don’t see why you should think it will. Some sidearmers never amount to anything, the same as other pitchers. Jay Tessmer, anyone? At any rate, Trujillo wasn’t effective last season, and doesn’t have the control you really want. Maybe he’s here for some mentoring, but it’s an odd little pickup.
|LOS ANGELES DODGERS||Return to Top|
Purchased UT-L Jason Grabowski from the Athletics. [3/29]
Released OF-R Bubba Trammell. [3/31]
As Ringo always said, I get by with a little help from my friends. Paul DePodesta needed bats, and courtesy of his colleagues in Oakland and Toronto, he has some. I think a Grabowski-Werth platoon in an outfield corner would do quite nicely, so if Shawn Green has to move to first, or the Dodgers can escape the madness of leaning on Juan Encarnacion in a key offensive role, they now have alternatives. Add in that Werth makes a nice defensive replacement, or that he could platoon in center with Dave Roberts, which also frees up Jolbert Cabrera for infield play, or that Grabowski can handle the infield corners or catch in an emergency, and you’ve just given Jim Tracy a sweet range of in-game options and lineup variants to kick around. In this division, with nobody 10 games better than anybody else, that’s going to help. That all it took was cash (Frank McCourt can borrow more) and a shorty righty reliever is one of those contretemps that has everything to do with receiving favors. Friends may not call this sort of thing debts, but they do expect an assist now and again, and turnabout’s fair play.
|MILWAUKEE BREWERS||Return to Top|
Reassigned RHPs Matt Wise, OF-B Chris Magruder, C-R Alex Delgado, C-L Mark Johnson, DH-L Jeff Liefer, and OF-L Jon Nunnally to their minor league camp; acquired RHPs Carlos Villanueva and Glenn Woolard from the Giants for LHP Wayne Franklin and RHP Leo Estrella. [3/30]
I’m a little surprised to see them keep only four outfielders; I have to think that Jon Nunnally’s bat would have come in handy, especially without a good lefty stick on the bench. It’s semi-cool to see them keep Trent Durrington for superscrub and pinch-running responsibilities; he can play eight positions, and he can run, and he’s gotten patient at the plate with age, but it seems strange that a team playing in a hitter’s park didn’t keep some power on its bench, especially when they’re not a very potent offensive lineup.
I’m a little more surprised about the deal, not in that moving Wayne Franklin isn’t sensible, but that they got so little in exchange from a desperate suitor. Villanueva has talent, but he’s so far off, he barely rates a mention for now, while Woolard is hardly a prospect as much as a college pick with a mediocre assortment and a lot of unlikelihood. What the trade really does for the Brewers right now is get them two spots on the 40-man roster, with the hope that eventually Woolard or Villanueva might do something to remind people how smart Doug Melvin was right now. OK, there’s another cool thing about it, which is that Chris Capuano gets a rotation slot out the deal, and that’s as it should be.
|MINNESOTA TWINS||Return to Top|
Optioned OF-R Lew Ford to Rochester; reassigned C-R Chris Heintz and INF-R Alex Prieto to their minor league camp.
It’s a shame to see Lew Ford get sent down, because he effectively lost out to Jose Offerman and Mike Ryan, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Offerman’s a DH on a team that will have to get regular at-bats to Matt LeCroy somewhere if Joe Mauer is all that right now, and the only thing Ryan does that would put him ahead of Ford is hit lefty. Sadly, the leftyness is important for a team that still has a candle lit for the memory of Randy Bush, but if it was a question of keeping Ford and Ryan, that would be fine. That they’re instead going to keep Offerman and Ryan and a third catcher (Henry Blanco, finally in a role he can pretty much handle) is unfortunate, but correctable.
|NEW YORK YANKEES||Return to Top|
Optioned RHP Scott Proctor and OF-R Mike Vento to Columbus; purchased the contract of LHP Donovan Osborne from Columbus; reassigned OF-L Darren Bragg, 2B-R Homer Bush, INF-R Felix Escalona, and C-R Joe Girardi to their minor league camp; placed RHP Steve Karsay and RHPs Jon Lieber, and Orlando Hernandez on the 15-day DL. [3/29]
For all of the psychodrama that seems to involve all things Massachusetts, if you’re a Red Sox fan or one of the legion of Yankee haters, just remember that the AL champs really do have Donovan Osborne on their team, and they plan to use him and everything, just like he was a major league pitcher. Call Disney! This is even better than the Jim Morris story! Call Roger Angell, this has to be as good as the lamentable Cone season diary! It’s, it’s… it’s desperate, and I don’t think we need to extend much sympathy.
|OAKLAND ATHLETICS||Return to Top|
Optioned OF-R Mike Edwards, 1B-L Graham Koonce, and SS-L Mike Rouse to Sacramento; reassigned RHP Wayne Gomes and C-R Steve Jackson to their minor league camp; sold OF-L Jason Grabowski to the Dodgers. [3/29]
|PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES||Return to Top|
Acquired RHP Clay Condrey from the Padres for INF-RTrino Aguilar. [3/29]
Released LHP Victor Alvarez. [3/31]
I can name at least one happy Padres fan glad to see his team now has the opportunity to hit off of Clay Condrey, instead of watching and wincing through watching it get done to him. Every start last year resembled Mel Gibson’s sort of ritualized gorefest, and after a while, even the most hardened Pad person had to beg to hide the spectacle from the children. Why the Phillies, with their fans’ well-established tradition for compassion and understanding, would want to truck in Condrey’s brand of mound mayhem defies description. Hopefully, he’ll be a rotation rock for Scranton, and not trouble a season already overshadowed by memories of ’64 or ’93. (Why doesn’t ’83 have its own special place in the Philly fan’s collective unconscious of citywide psychic wounds? Have we forgotten John Denny so completely?)
|PITTSBURGH PIRATES||Return to Top|
Released OF-Ls Henry Rodriguez and Orlando Merced, and LHP Mark Guthrie; reassigned RHPs Willis Roberts and Juan Acevedo, and OF-L Andy Abad to their minor league camp; optioned RHP Mark Corey to Nashville. [3/29]
Released LHP Joe Beimel. [3/30]
Kudos to the Bucs for killing off a few of baseball’s undead. Orlando Merced and Henry Rodriguez aren’t really useful bench players these days, and there isn’t a lot of reason to carry them when there are other veterans on the club to do those ‘old hand’ routines that allow new Pirates like Jason Bay to see how it’s done or whatever. But that also means people like Raul Mondesi have that many fewer counterpoints, and I don’t know if that’s really a good thing at this point. I’m a little surprised to see Beimel cut outright, since he might be at least semi-useful in the lefty situational role, but since some of the local press had elevated him to symbolic whipping boy for all the Pirates’ ills, I suppose once you reach Stoudt-like infamy in Pittsburgh, you have to go.
|ST. LOUIS CARDINALS||Return to Top|
Acquired OF-R Brian L. Hunter from the Padres for OF-L Kerry Robinson. [3/29]
Picking up Speedy Hunter just so that they can exult over Kerry Robinson becoming someone else’s problem strikes me as some pretty small beer, but if there’s a manager who splits hairs and smallens his beer more than Tony La Russa, it’s news to me. Well, maybe Frank Lucchesi, but he was abrasive and fairly random about it, and has been gone forever and a day. By contrast, La Russa’s methodical and passionate about it. Probably pours his beer into a shot glass and everything, and then only making sure it won’t hurt the leaf-eating rain forest ballerinas. What I guess I’m trying to say is that I have no explanation for a pretty random, uninspired, and uninspiring deal.
|SAN DIEGO PADRES||Return to Top|
Acquired OF-L Kerry Robinson from the Cardinals for OF-R Brian L. Hunter; released LHP Kevin Walker and C-R Tom Wilson; outrighted RHP Brian Sweeney to Portland; reassigned RHP Bart Miadich and Edgar Huerta to their minor league camp. [3/29]
Acquired a PTBNL from the Royals for RHP
I have no idea why the Pads want to have Kerry Robinson around. They’ve already got Terrence Long and Gene Kingsale, so what’s with the stockpile of lousy outfield reserves? Doesn’t baseball in Portland have enough problems already, that they now have to worry about this menace to the south, threatening all local interest in baseball with the mind-numbing miseries of watching this collection of out-tastic water bugs? There’s some talk that Robinson could make the Opening Day roster, but there’s no reason to prefer him to Kingsale, and probably no reason to have preferred him to Speedy Hunter. It’s a mystery, and one Portland waits to see resolved with trepidation.
|SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS||Return to Top|
Signed RHPs Dave Veres and Mike Crudale to minor league contracts with a spring NRIs; placed LHP Scott Eyre and RHP Robb Nen on the 15-day DL; acquired LHP Wayne Franklin and RHP Leo Estrella from the Brewers for RHPs Carlos Villanueva and Glenn Woolard. [3/30]
Like a Shriner at a convention, looking for love in all the wrong places at 9:30 PM (gotta hit the hay early to get up for a Grand Slam breakfast, donchaknow), the Giants were trapped in a loveless menage with their bullpen and their shortstops. Tired of settling, they went for broke, which at this late hour leaves you learning to like Deivi Cruz, or at least willing to overlook the weak conversation. That’s the hell the Giants put themselves in, however. It’s an angels-pinheads type of argument over the relative merits of Cruz, Neifi Perez, and Cody Ransom, to which the answer should be working the phones, asking Chris Speier or Eddie Jurak what they’re up to, and still keeping an eye on the wire for your Opening Day starter.
The bullpen is notionally better off, but Veres and Estrella aren’t really all that useful. Crudale might be something, and the China Basin Ballpark (Your Name Here!) can be a forgiving place to work for those cursed with slow gas and straight breakers. Franklin is an arm, a lefty one even, and while he won’t miss Miller Park (22 home runs allowed last year in only 91 IP), he wasn’t necessarily a good pitcher on the road (5.38 ERA). But I guess if you’re already counting on Dustin Hermanson, you’re in a world of hurt, and will take talent where you can find it. The point here is that there are few indictments more klaxon-blaring loud than the failure of Brian Sabean and the Giants organization to develop and keep any semi-useful arms for the pen and back end of the rotation, and their additional failure to sign some useful minor league free agents to at least paper over the development failure. If ever a team was one player injury away from 90+ losses, it’s the Giants and Barry Bonds.
|SEATTLE MARINERS||Return to Top|
Released OF-R Eric Owens. [3/31]
No QMcC be he, he be Mar’ners history.
OK, I admit, I’m about as unlikely and unskilled a rapper as Al Gore, but what do you expect, I didn’t invent it.
|TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS||Return to Top|
Purchased the contract of OF-R Charles Gipson to Durham. [3/30]
Yes, I know, everything’s supposed to be getting better in Tampa, but who takes an entire spring training to reach a point where you say Waechter’s won a job in the rotation, only to notice a week later that the number of off-days in April mean that Waechter won a fifth starter’s job that won’t exist on the roster until May, if then, because he’ll have to pitch well in Durham in the meantime? That sneaky schedule, done pounced on Lou at the end of March. It must have been hiding in a desk drawer or something.
|TEXAS RANGERS||Return to Top|
As unlikely hostage situations go, there’s probably nothing more depressing than watching the Rangers go through the exercise of showing everyone how very, very, very endangered Einar Diaz’s job with the club has gotten. Look, here’s Rod Barajas! We’re really going to throw Einar in a well, just you wait and see! You’ll rue the day you didn’t trade for Einar… yeah, pardon me if I can’t suspend my disbelief. It’s Einar Diaz. If you drop him down a well, the two questions that arise are about the pity of the expense, and whether or not the well’s still usable.
|TORONTO BLUE JAYS||Return to Top|
Optioned UT-L Howie Clark to Syracuse. [3/29]
Traded OF-R Jayson Werth to the Dodgers for RHP Jason Frasor. [3/30]
I’m always going to mope in Howie’s name, but I guess the cool news is that Simon Pond is on the team in the roster spot freed up by the trade of Werth. I think Clark’s a little more utile, since he can handle infield duties where Pond is better off only waving at balls headed his way when he’s at third, but Pond might give them a bit more power as a lefty-hitting alternative to Reed Johnson in right field. Either way, it’s a temporary fix, as the Jays wait on someone at Syracuse to break through.
As for discarding Werth, I’m not too busted up about it. I would have liked to see him plugged into a role as Frankie Catalanotto’s platoon partner, but the organization had gotten disappointed in him, and stathead expectations (and mine) were ratcheted up too high. Apparently, Frasor’s the sort of guy you might normally expect the Angels or Astros to pick up: according to John Sickels, he’s got nasty breaking stuff and a delivery that helps make it hard to pick it up; he’s also an unusually short righty, well under six feet. Frasor could be something useful, or not, but that’s about what can be said for Werth at this point.
I’m not a big Douglass fan, but it’s a sensible pickup. None of the other right-handed arms the Jays have in their pen are long relievers, and while Valerio De Los Santos would profit from some long outings, he and Jayson Kershner make for an uncertain pair of lefties who will be given the inevitable situational duties as often as not. So Douglass should draw mop-up work and spot starts for the first four or six or eight weeks, or until somebody on the farm looks good.