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Edmonds Down, Soon Will Be Out


What happened to the bizarre gag order that the Angels’ front office
imposed about discussing player injuries? It looks like they temporarily
rescinded it after the announcement that Jim Edmonds’ right shoulder
would require surgery and that he wouldn’t be back in the lineup for at
least four months. Immediately, a number of players and coaches questioned
Edmonds’ motives for not having the surgery performed over the winter.


Of course, getting bad-mouthed by his teammates is nothing new for Edmonds,
who despite being the best player on the team, is obviously disliked by the
Angels’ “gamer” contingent (led by Gary Disarcina and Coach Larry
Bowa). After Anaheim’s annual stretch drive stumble last year, Edmonds was
singled out for not "playing with enough intensity", despite
leading the team with a .340/.400/.585 performance in September.


Since the injury, the Halos have been lauded for having the foresight not
to trade any of their outfielders during the off-season. Nice reframing,
but the fact is that the Angels are screwed as a result of this injury and
the organization seems very willing to let Edmonds take the fall for it. In
the grand Disney tradition, they over-hyped their product following the
Mo Vaughn signing. Rolling the dice with a suspect pitching staff,
the Angels gambled that a surplus outfielder would fetch a better arm in
July than in January. They lost. Edmonds will be on the disabled list until
after the trading deadline and since a player can’t be traded while on the
DL, Anaheim is left with Grade C prospects and waiver-wire fodder to swap
for pitching help, unless they elect to weaken their lineup somewhere else.


With his present consisting of public floggings and painful rehab, what
about Edmonds’ future? Anaheim could let him leave as a free agent after
the season (he won’t get the necessary 320 plate appearances to guarantee
his contract), but the club option for 2000 is at the bargain-basement
price of $4.65 million. Expect the Angels to pick up the option while the
Disney PR machine spews out drivel about "putting the past behind
them". Not too long afterward, the Angels really will put the past
behind them when they send Edmonds packing.


And yet, as if some omnipresent corporation controlled it, the media spin
continues. Recently, Manager Terry Collins heaped praise on Garret
Anderson’s
performance this year, noting that he has been "playing
the game hard" and "going after balls in the outfield". Of
course, Edmonds has been doing those things for years, along with getting
on base, hitting for power and playing great defense. His loss costs them
more than they want to admit.


Oates’ Texas Two-Step


Down in the Lone Star State, Johnny Oates continues to tinker with his
misfiring pitching staff. In the last couple of weeks, he announced two
changes designed to make things run a little smoother.


Oates’ first move is a good idea whose time has come. After the initial
week of the season, in which the relievers logged as many innings as the
starters, the Rangers went to a twelve-man staff by recalling reliever
Jeff Zimmerman from Oklahoma City. Immediately, Zimmerman was used
against the Mariners as the first man out of the bullpen on consecutive
nights. The 26-year-old righthander shut the Mariners down in both games,
allowing one single in four-plus innings.


After that performance, the neurons fired in Oates’ brain. Oates announced
that Zimmerman was going to be the Rangers’ "short long man", a
reliever used when the starter is struggling in the early innings, but the
game is still close. With the Rangers’ high-octane offense, Zimmerman could
log double digits in wins. Oates deserves credit–not only for quickly
identifying Zimmerman’s talent, but for bucking conventional wisdom and
recognizing that the pivotal point in a game often happens before the late
innings.


Oates’ second decision is a high-risk maneuver that could create more
problems than it solves. He’s moving the Rangers to a four-man rotation.
The announcement came in the wake of John Burkett’s recent trip to
the DL with shoulder problems. Of course, the way Burkett has pitched for
the last year, the notion may have been rattling around Oates’ noggin for
awhile.


With no attractive starting options in the bullpen or Triple-A, a four-man
rotation may seem the best way for the Rangers to seize the moment and put
some distance between themselves and their struggling division rivals. But
Oates is considering it as a longer-term solution, through at least early
June and perhaps even the rest of the season. The problem is that his
starting pitchers aren’t accustomed to working on three days’ rest, thus
increasing the likelihood of injury and reduced performance. Last year,
major league starters posted quality starts only 29% of the time on three
days’ rest, as compared to 48% of the time with four days’ rest.


Oates is taking a couple of prudent steps to maximize the chance of the
four-man rotation succeeding and minimize the risk of injury. Starters will
be limited to between 90 and 100 pitches and no member of the rotation will
start more than three consecutive times on three days’ rest. Overworking
the Texas bullpen is almost as great of a concern as wearing out the
starters. Oates has addressed this by carrying eight relievers and showing
a willingness to use all of them.


Recent attempts at a four-man rotation have generally ended quickly, and
without significant success, so don’t expect great things from Texas’ effort.