|IN THIS ISSUE|
|ANAHEIM ANGELS||Return to Top|
Transferred DH-R Tim Salmon from the 15- to the 60-day DL; placed RHP Kelvim Escobar on the 15-day DL (strained elbow), retroactive to 3/31; purchased the contract of INF-R Lou Merloni; optioned 1B-L Casey Kotchman to Salt Lake. [4/2]
No real surprises, as the Angels will line up with Robb Quinlan at third and Chone Figgins at second while Adam Kennedy and McPherson heal up. There’s a lot of advantage to this; if Quinlan can handle third well enough to start for longer than the interim, they’ll have a choice which won’t be driven entirely by Troy Glaus’ absence. Not that Quinlan really should impede McPherson’s progress, but it does put the pressure on McPherson to win the job, with the outcome if he does being that then the Angels will have a second nifty utility man on their hands, with Quinlan joining Figgins in giving the Angels a lineup that can run 11 deep for the eight non-catching lineup slots.
If there’s a pressure on the roster, it’s the battle between the two infield reserves against the three interchangeably weak catchers. Los Dos Molinas and Josh Paul seem like an awful lot of roster space spent on three non-starring catchers, especially since Scioscia wasted the roster spot on Paul for so much time last year. If you accept that Merloni is the primary infield reserve, it’s still promising to see Scioscia using Maicer Izturis as a pinch-runner, while keeping him in circulation. Not that a Paul vs. Izturis roster fight is going to make any pulses race, but it’s nevertheless interesting for what it might say about Scioscia’s thoughts on his roster and how he plans to make use of it.
With Kelvim Escobar on the DL and set to miss a lone start, Scioscia can turn to Kevin Gregg easily enough. Taking Gregg’s place for middle relief chores is Jake Woods, but he should only stick until Escobar comes back, after which he’ll head back to Salt Lake. Happily, Woods will have the benefit of this two-week taste, which ought to be enough to erase any jitters should he need to come back up at some point later on. If any of the Angels’ rotation regulars break down in the next few months–and let’s face it, somebody is always going to break down, even playing for los Angeles de Los Angeles.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||Return to Top|
Optioned LHP Eric DuBose and UT-R Ramon Nivar to Ottawa; placed OF-L Val Majewski on the 15-day DL (torn labrum – shoulder); placed RHP Kurt Ainsworth on the 15-day DL (partially torn labrum & rotator cuff); placed RHP Jason Grimsley on the 15-day DL (Tommy John surgery); reassigned RHP Jay Witasick and INF-B Enrique Wilson to their minor league camp. [4/2]
So your Opening Day program reads Bruce Chen every fifth day, DuBose in Ottawa, Bauer in the pen, and Riley in Texas… which makes Riley the lucky one. I guess it’s the choice of Bauer over both DuBose and Riley that disappoints most, because it’s the stolid and perhaps even pragmatic selection. It isn’t that Bauer’s bad news as much as he seems the least promising of the quartet. Admittedly, in its wisdom, PECOTA sees him as the third-best option, rating ahead of whatever is left of Riley, but the system’s a bit more upbeat about his upside. So perhaps we should give Bauer a break, in that if he lacks stale touts on his resume, he makes for a useful enough long reliever and spot starter. DuBose gets to try to get his career back in order in Ottawa, where perhaps he’ll live up to the projection that he’s the best of the bunch, but with a bit of Riley so recently left on the organizational palate, the Orioles might have lost their taste for injury-prone wacky lefties, whatever their up-side.
Even if we have to accept that Riley was doomed, why ditch him for Nivar? A work in progress in center, and he cratered at the plate last season, Nivar isn’t even their best possible fallback if Luis Matos falters. He is only six months younger than Tim Raines, Jr., after all. Moreover, Nivar’s purported breakthrough in 2003 involved no power, little judgment on the bases, and 29 unintentional walks in 542 plate appearances. Riley may never become all that was hoped for him, but it really looks like Nivar’s undesirability has a much larger degree of certainty.
|BOSTON RED SOX||Return to Top|
Acquired C-R Charles Johnson and LHP Chris Narveson from the Rockies for RHP Byung-Hyun Kim; optioned Narveson to Pawtucket; designated Johnson for assignment for the purposes of giving him his unconditional release. [3/30]
Placed RHP Curt Schilling on the 15-day DL (ankle), retroactive to 3/26; placed RHP Wade Miller on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 3/25; placed OF-L Adam Stern on the 15-day DL (fractured thumb), retroactive to 3/25. [4/1]
Purchased the contract of 1B/OF-R David McCarty; designated LHP Mark Malaska for assignment. [4/2]
These aren’t the moves that win you a division, but some of it is helpful, so let’s give credit where credit is due. Yes, Kim’s been dumped, but there was little chance that the Sox could ever put that roster spot to work with him in it. He wasn’t going to pitch for Boston any time soon, and the pressure on him had they even given him a chance would have been immense. I guess this is one of the benefits of having won it all, not to mention winning with a move as bold as last summer’s Nomar deal. If you think moving Kim is something that you have to do, why let a half-baked excuse keep you from doing it? A contract? Pride? Emotional attachment? Skip all of that, those are all yesterday’s events; we’ve got a different sort of 86 years to look forward to, right?
The more trivial elements of Epstein’s roster jiggering are driven by fear of uncertainty, and acquiring the sorts of things you feel you can be certain about. Mike Myers and David McCarty won’t win you a division, and neither is so significant that you can’t replace them if push comes to shove. But as scripted spare bits with which to fill out a roster that’s pretty set, you can do worse. McCarty might be a destitute man’s Kieschnick, and Myers an extreme situational tool, but their uses are understood, and they themselves know their limits. It might seem formulaic to retain so much of last year’s supporting cast, but if these are the roles you have in mind for the last pair of spots, why not stock them with those who know how to do it? I know, it would have been interesting to see if Malaska could handle the situational role over a full season, but the dime’s worth of difference between him and Myers was a dime the Sox could afford to spend once they’d decided this was how they wanted to spend a spot. There’s a time to acknowledge that willingness to accept a roster risk is not automatically a good thing.
|CHICAGO WHITE SOX||Return to Top|
Optioned OF-B Joe Borchard and RHP Jon Adkins to Charlotte; reassigned C-R Jamie Burke and RHP Brandon McCarthy to their minor league camp; placed RHP Felix Diaz on the 15-day DL (strained abdomen), retroactive to 3/25. [3/30]
Outrighted C-B Ben Davis to Charlotte. [3/31]
I’d be a little more comfortable with Widger as the backup catcher too, because at this late stage in the professional life of Ben Davis, it’s hard to expect much from him beyond a few very breezy at-bats. Besides, as a complement to A.J. Pierzynski, Widger might be the right guy to have around as a spot-starter against tough lefties.
The superficially strange choice is the decision to keep Ozuna, but the experiment of having Willie Harris play short hasn’t necessarily taken, so having a reserve on the roster who might actually be able to fill in at short for more than an emergency but less than two weeks’ time on the DL is understandable. If Harris’ ability to play center enters into the equation, then the real competition here isn’t between Harris and Ozuna, but between Ozuna and Timo Perez. And what are Perez’s uses? There isn’t much space for a glovey pinch-runner who bats lefty on this team. The Sox have a starting left fielder who can move over to center (supposing that we can afford Scott Podsednik that much credit), Ozuna and Harris can run, and if you had to summon up a lefty-hitting bat off of the bench, who you gonna call, Ross Gload, Harris, or Timo?
|CLEVELAND INDIANS||Return to Top|
Acquired RHP Ronald Bay from the Cubs for LHP Cliff Bartosh. [3/29]
Placed DH-R Juan Gonzalez on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring). [3/31]
Optioned 2B/SS-R Brandon Phillips to Buffalo. [4/1]
The regulars? Jhonny Peralta won the job at short, pushing Phillips back to Buffalo. In turn, Alex Cora will be an infield supersub, spot-starting at second for Ronnie Belliard and at short for Peralta now and again. Cora might see a bit more playing time than anybody might initially comment on publicly, by virtue of his glovework versus Peralta’s bat-first reputation.
C.C. Sabathia’s on the DL, which is news, and so is Juan Gonzalez, which is not. Because of this team’s depth, neither loss is crippling. Sabathia’s not out for any great length of time, so Jason Davis’ return to the rotation will be brief. In JuanGo’s absence, Grady Sizemore will get a good chunk of playing time, accumulating a case for why should be the starter in right.
The pen? As noted before, it’s a gray group, not without talent, but not with much star power. It’s a little annoying to see a seven-man pen this early in the year, but with Davis in the rotation at the moment, nobody left is really a long reliever. The tough call will be who from among this group goes down when Sabathia returns. If nobody gets hurt, Mark Shapiro might be in a bit of a fix.
The bench? … is pretty tasty. Beyond having Cora flipping between infield slots, Casey Blake can always shift back in to third base from his new roost in left. Jose Hernandez can mash lefties and spot-start anywhere but pitcher and catcher. Ryan Ludwick and Josh Bard are both former top prospects, and not guys you need to be afraid of playing.
Anything funky? Nothing really. The early-season injury issues are covered, the bench is a good unit, the pen an improvement on last year. It’s a nice starting point.
|DETROIT TIGERS||Return to Top|
Placed RHP Fernando Rodney on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation). [3/29]
Outrighted RHP Gary Knotts to Toledo. [4/1]
|KANSAS CITY ROYALS||Return to Top|
The regulars? The biggest events are the victories of Denny Bautista in the rotation (over Mike Wood and Jimmy Gobble) and Calvin Pickering (over Ken Harvey) in the lineup. Mark Teahen basically outlived the competition at third, but I like his chances to more than fill in adequately for Joe Randa. Add in Ruben Gotay at second and David DeJesus in center for a full season, and the Royals will be worth following, if something less than great. Runelvys Hernandez’s comeback from injury has been pretty overlooked, but he could end up being a major part of the reason for that sinking feeling that I should have risked putting the Royals ahead of the White Sox in our preseason picks.
The pen? Jeremy Affeldt, closer, and damn the torpedoes! It should work out just fine. It’s an odd assortment of good stuff of various vintages. Affeldt, Shawn Camp, Mike MacDougal, and Jaime Cerda have all rightfully been considered prospects, and all have faltered in one way or another. Nevertheless, they’re all worth looking at. Rule 5 pick Andy Sisco stuck, which makes sense given that expectation are low for the entire team.
The bench? Tony Graffanino in the infield, Matt Stairs as a spare bat, and Eli Marrero as a spot-starter and lefty masher in the outfield and behind the plate? The Royals might finish in fifth place, but that’s a pretty sweet set of stuff to use in-game or as replacement parts. Alberto Castillo might be useless, but he’s effectively only the co-backup catcher since they have Marrero.
Anything funky? Bautista’s victory in the rotation fight is a triumph of talent over experience, and if it’s a risk, it’s one you might expect from a former catcher who had a tremendous rep as a handler of pitchers in his day. Emil Brown’s making it is a great story for the twelve-year veteran, not that this opportunity represents a better one than his on-again, off-again stints with the Pirates. As fifth outfielders go, he has a nice enough assortment of speed, patience, and power, and if he can’t fly in center the way he used to, that’s what DeJesus is supposed be doing daily, right?
|MINNESOTA TWINS||Return to Top|
Released LHP C.J. Nitkowski; reassigned RHP Willie Eyre and C-R Chris Heintz to their minor league camp; optioned 3B-B Terry Tiffee and INF-B Augie Ojeda to Rochester; received back Rule 5 RHP Angel Garcia from the Devil Rays. [3/31]
Purchased the contract of LHP Terry Mulholland. [4/2]
The regulars? The Twins are holding their collective breaths over the two Joes, Mays and Mauer, and whether or not either can handle regular roles. Jason Bartlett won the job at short, surprising few, and Luis Rivas kept his job at second, disappointing many.
The pen? Nothing really of note; like the roster as a whole, much of the pen was already set in January. Terry Mulholland was going to stick, despite settling for the NRI this winter. The foursome of Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, J. C. Romero, and Juan Rincon might be the best group of relievers on any single team in baseball.
The bench? Carrying three backup catchers might seem like a lot, but Joe Mauer can’t play every day, and Matt LeCroy doubles as a part-time DH and reserve at first base. So really, it’s two backup catchers, Mike Redmond and Corky Miller, and Miller’s out of options. Since the roster doesn’t have a real reserve outfielder (fourth OF Lew Ford is also the regular DH), LeCroy and Mauer are likely to soak up at-bats at DH every time one of the starting outfielders needs a day off, so the whole idea works, even if it seems odd.
Juan Castro stuck over both Tiffee and Ojeda, despite demonstrating no reason to be here other than to soak up Pohlad pesos. Terry Ryan isn’t the sort of GM to sink a cost, so expect Castro to hurt the cause as often as he’s asked.
Anything funky? Maybe Matt Guerrier winning a slot in the pen, but J. D. Durbin earned an early demotion by showing exceptionally poor control.
|NEW YORK YANKEES||Return to Top|
Optioned RHP Scott Proctor and C-R Wil Nieves to Columbus; outrighted LHP Alex Graman to Columbus; reassigned LHP Buddy Groom, INF/OF-R Damian Rolls, OF-L Colin Porter, C-R Joe Depastino, RHP Aaron Small and INF-R Russ Johnson to their minor league camp. [4/1]
Signed RHP Peter Munro to a minor league contract. [4/4]
|OAKLAND ATHLETICS||Return to Top|
Placed RHP Chad Bradford on the 15-day DL (back surgery), retroactive to 3/30; outrighted RHP Tim Harikkala to Sacramento; optioned RHP Seth Etherton to Sacramento; reassigned RHPs Kirk Saarloos and Britt Reames, UT-R Hiram Bocachica and UT-L Jermaine Clark to minor league camp; purchased the contract of RHP Huston Street; signed RHP Rich Harden to a four-year contract with a club option for 2009. [4/2]
The regulars? After a topsy-turvy camp, Nick Swisher won the job in right field. He remains an interesting study in contrasts, a player known among his teammates for being a bit on the effervescent side of enthusiastic, yet being a stolidly patient Three True Outcomes hitter at the plate. He’ll still have to watch for Charles Thomas and Bobby Kielty sneaking up on his playing time. The rotation got sorted out, with Danny Haren and Joe Blanton taking an early lead on Meyer, Keiichi Yabu and Etherton, and Saarloos bringing up the rear to win the last slot away from all three of them.
The pen? Two very different rookies stuck, Street and Yabu. Yabu made it, but not really through merit, and will be in a middle relief and mop-up sort of role, and even then, he’s the second choice for that work behind Justin Duchscherer. Street will get ogled by every saves-minded fant-head in the country, but he’ll get spotted sparingly at the start, while the A’s really rely on Kiko Calero and Juan Cruz in the setup roles. Ricky Rincon is the sole situational lefty on hand.
The bench? Remains tasty. It boasts a potentially very good pair of outfield reserves in Thomas and Kielty, a useful enough pair of infield reserves in Marco Scutaro and Mark Ellis, and Adam Melhuse, a multipositional thumper backing up Jason Kendall, so he’ll be available for other uses.
Anything funky? Street’s breakthrough, although every prospect maven on the globe anticipated something of the sort. In retrospect, it wasn’t too surprising that both Ellis and Scutaro got kept, not when at-bats for guys like Bocachica or Clark or Bobby Smith would be pretty scarce.
|SEATTLE MARINERS||Return to Top|
Claimed SS-R Wilson Valdez off waivers from the Mets. [4/1]
Placed RHP Scott Atchison on the 60-day DL (strained elbow); placed RHP Joel Pineiro on the 15-day DL (shoulder), retroactive to 3/27; placed OF-L Chris Snelling on the 15-day DL (knee); placed SS-R Pokey Reese on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); purchased the contracts of RHPs Aaron Sele and Jeff Nelson. [4/2]
Released LHP Ryan Anderson and RHP Rett Johnson. [4/4]
There’s so little to say here… it’s mildly interesting that Greg Dobbs earned a spot, and it’s also worth noting that Wilson Valdez is temporarily the shortstop, from which you can infer extra humiliation over the Carlos Guillen deal, since Ramon Santiago didn’t get the job once Pokey Reese broke down. But Dobbs isn’t going to steal any of Jeremy Reed’s thunder in the RoY debate, and Valdez will get swapped out for Reese soon enough. It’s a thoroughly conventional team bound for the formerly conventional spot for all Mariner teams: last place.
|TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS||Return to Top|
Signed OF-L Carl Crawford to a four-year contract with club options for 2009 and 2010. [4/1]
Placed RHP Franklin Nunez on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis), retroactive to 3/25; reassigned INF-R Luis Ordaz to minor league camp; released OF-L Dee Brown; purchased the contracts of OF-Ls Chris Singleton and Alex Sanchez; placed C-R Kevin Cash on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis), retroactive to 3/26; placed CF-R Rocco Baldelli on the 15-day DL (knee surgery), retroactive to 3/25. [4/2]
The regulars? Various aspiring kings of the road, emperors of the north, or suitcase simpsons have drifted into town, seeking regular work. Travis Lee and Josh Phelps get what might be their last big chances to get their careers ironed out, the rest of the infield boasts four interchangeable infielders who, save for Jorge Cantu, could be dumped wholesale and not really hurt the team. The duel to the death between Chris Singleton and Joey Gathright provides some form of entertainment, sort of like a Spartacus reenactment that uses plastic utensils. Basically, they’re the Devil Rays. Still.
The rotation is a mishmash of talent and vanity projects. Scott Kazmir is the kid with promise, Dewon Brazelton the object of Chuck LaMar’s hopes, while Mark Hendrickson fulfills Lou Piniella’s fascination with the very tall. Rob Bell and Hideo Nomo are basically slinging for their suppers, on the off chance that some contender decides to liberate them.
The pen? Generally an interesting lot, with a good blend of talent with different amounts of experience. On a team with so few strong points, this may be its strongest.
The bench? Nothing to write home about; the seven-man pen makes it a short unit. The daily loser in center field’s wrasslin’ match joins backup catcher Tim Laker. Eduardo Perez makes a nifty platoon partner for Lee at first, and Nick Green should be he least-frequently played guy in the Rays’ amazing Transformer infield, where all the combinations produce something not very dangerous.
Anything funky? Trading for Green didn’t really add anything the team needed, but leave it to former Brave exec LaMar to feel good about picking up a Brave fieldhand and talk about how this helps the franchise (except in any real, material way). Picking up Charles Johnson is sort of goofy, unless they’re just flat-out tired of Toby Hall; it certainly wasn’t worth discarding Restovich to let C.J. crawl home to his home state to inter the remains of his career. Since Johnson is AWOL at the moment, it seems especially unfortunate. Nabbing Munson was pretty sweet, since the team doesn’t really have a third baseman, certainly not as long as Aubrey Huff is in right field.
|TEXAS RANGERS||Return to Top|
Acquired LHP Matt Riley from the Orioles for 2B/OF-R Ramon Nivar; acquired C-R Keith McDonald from the Orioles for future considerations; acquired SS-R Cody Ransom from the Cubs for a PTBNL; optioned RHP Ricardo Rodriguez to Oklahoma; reassigned OF-L Jason Conti and INF-Rs Manny Alexander and Esteban German to their minor league camp. [3/30]
Recalled RHP Nick Regilio from Oklahoma; optioned CF-L Laynce Nix and C-R Gerald Laird to Oklahoma; reassigned CF-B Andres Torres, 2B/SS-R Ian Kinsler, SS-R Cody Ransom, and RHPs Vladimir Nunez and Keith Stamler to their minor league camp; designated RHPs Travis Hughes and Agustin Montero for assignment; purchased the contracts of OF-R Chad Allen and INF-R Mark DeRosa; placed RHP Joaquin Benoit on the 15-day DL (sore shoulder), retroactive to 3/25; placed RHP Carlos Almanzar on the bereavement list; placed RHP Pedro Astacio on the 15-day disabled list (strained groin), retroactive to 3/25; placed 1B-R Greg Colbrunn on the 15-day DL (wrist soreness). [4/3]
The regulars? Gary Matthews Jr. beat out Laynce Nix for the job in center, which seems extraordinary, except that Nix struggled in camp after a 2004 season in which his OBP plummeted 40 points after the All-Star break. Otherwise, it’s the same gang as last year, although Adrian Gonzalez stuck, and should press for time at first base and DH.
The rotation should be improved, which seems like one of those permanent bits of wishful thinking, except that I really mean it this time. Regardless of whether or not Chan Ho Park even provides value, I like the risk taken on Pedro Astacio, and Chris Young could sneak into Rookie of the Year consideration if he gets a better-than-average measure of run support. It isn’t a great group, but it doesn’t rely upon…
The pen? Nick Regilio? Yikes. Happily, that didn’t last long. Still, while there are interesting projects (Riley, Ryan Bukvich), and human interest stories (Doug Brocail, Brian Shouse, Ron Mahay, R.A. Dickey), it’s not a great supporting cast for closer Francisco Cordero. Once Carlos Almanzar and Frank Francisco return, it will be a slightly improved unit, but the general modesty of the talent involved is the reason Buck Showalter is carrying six spear carriers for Cordero. Riley and Dickey should get a good amount of work as middle relievers.
The bench? Mark DeRosa stuck as the top infield reserve, and with bodies like Chad Allen and Sandy Alomar Jr. lying around, it’s a collection of tenured types, not stuff that makes the guy in the other dugout sweat.
Anything funky? Finding at-bats for Gonzalez, but hopefully, it’ll happen at David Dellucci’s expense.
|TORONTO BLUE JAYS||Return to Top|
Reassigned UT-R Julius Matos to their minor league camp. [3/30]
|ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS||Return to Top|
Placed RHP Jose Valverde on the 15-day DL (irritated biceps tendon), retroactive to 3/25; optioned RHP Oscar Villareal to Tucson. [4/2]
Quinton McCracken isn’t like a cat, he is a cat, the coolest of cats, the one who has so many lives you could ask him if his number is nine or some power of nine, and all you’d get for your troubles is a wink and a Cheshire’s smile. Admittedly, he’s only here as a disposable pinch-hitter, while Luis Terrero is the indispensable outfield reserve who will have to sub for Jose Cruz Jr. in center. The nice thing about a pinch-hitting job is that as long as you don’t suck at it too terribly, you might not have a care for your security on the roster. It’s worked out pretty nicely for Lenny Harris, Mark Sweeney, and Dave Hansen for most of the last few years, after all.
|ATLANTA BRAVES||Return to Top|
Released OF-L Roosevelt Brown. [3/29]
Released LHP Gabe White. [3/30]
Purchased the contract of RHP Adam Bernero from Richmond; reassigned RHPs Buddy Hernandez, Kevin Barry, Matt Childers, and Zach Miner, C-R J.C. Boscan, OF-R John Barnes, and OF-B Esix Snead to their minor league camp. [4/2]
|CHICAGO CUBS||Return to Top|
Acquired LHP Cliff Bartosh from the Indians for RHP Ronald Bay. [3/29]
Waived LHP Stephen Randolph for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release; placed RHP Joe Borowski on the 15-day DL (broken wrist), retroactive to 3/25; purchased the contract of RHP Scott Williamson; optioned LHP Will Ohman to Iowa; reassigned OF-Rs Angel Echevarria and Calvin Murray to their minor league camp. [3/30]
Acquired a PTBNL from the Rangers for SS-R Cody Ransom. [3/30]
Purchased the contract of RHP Chad Fox. [4/3]
Signed 3B-R Aramis Ramirez to a four-year, $42 million contract with an option for 2009. [4/4]
The regulars? As everyone knows, the Cubs’ hopes are dependent on the joints that roar, with Kerry Wood and Prior directly under the media microscope, and the rest of us wondering if Carlos Zambrano has a bit of Livan Hernandez’s endurance in him, or a date with Doc Jobe in the future. There’s the hopefully short-lived agony of making Ryan Dempster a rotation regular, and the future fun of having Jason Dubois in a position to win a major chunk of the playing time in left, having earned an initial platoon role with Todd Hollandsworth.
The pen? As expected, we’re living in a world where a dependency on Chad Fox is still assumed to be a good thing by some people. Picking up Cliff Bartosh was tasty, insofar as he can be the pen’s presumptive second (and more expressly situational) reliever, allowing Glendon Rusch to be employed in turn as the long reliever and spot starter this team is going to need. The young duo of Jon Leicester and Michael Wuertz is a place where Cubs fans can invest some hope, and with righty veterans like Fox, Williamson, Joe Borowski, and Ryan Dempster around for uncertain lengths of time, they might become small-s saviors.
The bench? Incomparable. Unrivaled. Without peer. And easily baseball’s weakest. It’s the sort of outfit that Cody Ransom can make a space for himself as the bench’s second most-dangerous bat, behind Jerry Hairston, Jr.
Anything funky? Ramirez’s contract is a big deal, but it’s structured creatively, so that a fifth can vest with unhindered regular playing time in the third and fourth years of the deal, with a player option to opt out after 2006. Other than that, not really anything out of the ordinary. Cutting Randolph was a positive. Yes, reshuffling the pitching staff will need doing, but that’s in the future, Dusty having already cast this particular die. It’s surprising that Kelton sailed through waivers, but this is the time of year to try that particular stunt, as everyone is trying to figure out how to set their 40-man after spring training.
|CINCINNATI REDS||Return to Top|
Placed SS-B Anderson Machado on the 15-day DL (knee); placed LHP Jung Bong on the 60-day DL (shoulder); placed INF-B Rainer Olmedo on the 60-day DL (Tommy John surgery); placed RHP Josh Hancock on the 15-day DL (groin), retroactive to 4/1; placed RHP Luke Hudson on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation); purchased the contracts of OF-L Jacob Cruz and SS-R Rich Aurilia. [4/2]
|COLORADO ROCKIES||Return to Top|
Acquired RHP Byung-Hyun Kim from the Red Sox for C-R Charles Johnson, LHP Chris Narveson and cash; placed RHP Aaron Cook on the 15-day DL (blood clots – lungs), retroactive to 3/25; outrighted RHP Aaron Taylor to Colorado Springs. [3/30]
Released LHP Darren Oliver; reassigned RHP David Cortes and C-R Pascual Matos to their minor league camp; placed RHP Chin Hui Tsao on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 3/25. [3/31]
Placed INF-B Desi Relaford on the 15-day DL (knee), retroactive to 3/25; placed LHP Matt Merricks on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 3/25. [4/2]
The regulars? The rotation wound up as it should, so nothing fancy there. Clint Barmes won the job at short, although at 26 he’s less a prospect than a demonstration of the virtues of not overpaying for less-than-mediocre veterans like Royce Clayton. The outfield boasts rookie Brad Hawpe, and J.D. Closser is starting behind the plate, so this might be the first young, interesting team in franchise history.
Atkins broke down with a bum hammy at the last moment, so the label of ‘infield prospect’ goes to Baker for the time being. Sentimental thing that I am, I’m rooting for Baker, but that’s because I couldn’t help it after talking with him and his father about his growing up a military brat, with Dad forming the first t-ball league on the Arabian peninsula during one assignment. That’s not to say that Atkins can’t hit once he returns, but it will be interesting to see what the Rox do if Baker earns the right to stay, and the Rox have to sort out where to put Atkins. An outfield corner, perhaps, even if it involves addressing Matt Holliday’s ephemeral prospect status? The problem gets worse, although not in a bad way, when you anticipate that by the end of 2006, we’ll be wondering when Ian Stewart will be ready for the bigs.
The pen? It’s closer du jour, as Clint Hurdle will get to deal with the day-to-day heartache of sorting out a hot hand while fending off roto-minded questions from the chattering classes on who gets to rack up saves. Simpsonian sound effect Scott Doh(!!!)mann got his shot last week, and Kim will get his in the weeks to come. Once Tsao comes off of the DL, he’ll get a few chances, and Ryan Speier will no doubt get mixed up in all of this. By the end of the year, Rox fans can be forgiven if they wonder if the save was made by Professor Plum, with the garrote, in the library.
The bench? It’s a weak unit, but the injuries to Mohr and Relaford don’t help. Luis Gonzalez exists, which is an important thing as far as the Census Bureau and the IRS are concerned, and until Relaford returns, he won’t have to wonder whether or not he can hold off Alfredo Amezaga for the utility infield slot.
Anything funky? Rule 5 pick Marcos Carvajal sticking at the back end of the pen is probably the biggest surprise. As long as the team is doing the young and fresh out of the wrapper theme season, it’s a solid use of a roster spot, although between Coors Field and never pitching higher than A-ball, it’s going to be rough for the young flamethrower. Dumping Charles Johnson was overdue, and it gave the Rox an experienced alternative to a maddening collection of alternatives in the pen, and it provides the added benefits of bringing in some cash while clinching Closser’s opportunity to establish himself.
|FLORIDA MARLINS||Return to Top|
Placed RHP Tim Spooneybarger on the 15-day DL (Tommy John surgery); placed RHP John Riedling on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder); reassigned SS-B Wilson Delgado and OF-R Mark Little to their minor league camp. [4/1]
|HOUSTON ASTROS||Return to Top|
Placed OF-B Lance Berkman on the 15-day DL (knee). [3/30]
The regulars? It’s a lineup of leftovers, what with Jeff Kent in some other sunny spot, and Berkman on the DL. Craig Biggio’s return to second base is a bit surprising, since his defense had gone south before he moved to the outfield and made people remember that Steve Sax and Juan Samuel hadn’t done all that well with that particular move. It does create opportunity for Willy Taveras, Jason Lane, and spring star Luke Scott to keep fighting for the outfield playing time that will get short once Berkman returns, but the fact that Chris Burke is playing outfield and Biggio second base reflects a deeper confusion about what makes sense for the Astros in the months and years to come.
The pen? Russ Springer and John Franco washed up here like so much driftwood. This team really needs Chads Harville and Qualls to work out well, so that the Brad Lidge Show doesn’t have to start early every game, every night. That would just to an early cancellation, or something as ugly as the long, slow, agonizing disappearance of Suzanne Somers from Three’s Company.
The bench? Other than clearly identifiable reserves like Jose Vizcaino and backup catcher Raul Chavez, it’s hard to say who gets to do what. That’s usually a good thing, but here, it reflects a lot of half-baked ideas, and those don’t usually turn out well. There are times when it pays to make a choice.
Anything funky? Adam Everett, leading off, but that’s Phil Garner, doing stuff for yucks. I mean, it worked with Pat Listach, right? Brandon Duckworth’s return to the organization’s good graces is a happy thing, though, and he should still end up being an asset as the fourth or fifth starter.
|LOS ANGELES DODGERS||Return to Top|
Sold C-R Dave Ross to the Pirates. [3/30]
Placed RHP Eric Gagne on the 15-day DL (sprained elbow). [4/1]
Acquired OF-R Todd Donovan from the Padres for INF-R Brett Dowdy; designated 1B-L Brian Myrow for assignment; purchased the contracts of RHPs Scott Erickson, Buddy Carlyle and Steve Schmoll and LHP Kelly Wunsch; placed LHP Wilson Alvarez on the 15-day DL (shoulder tendonitis); placed RHP Brad Penny on the 15-day DL (biceps); placed OF-R Jayson Werth on the 15-day DL (broken wrist); reassigned RHP Ryan Rupe, LHP Mike Venafro, 3B-R Norihiro Nakamura, 3B-R Mike Edwards and C-B Mike Rose to their minor league camp; optioned OF-R Cody Ross to Las Vegas.[4/2]
The regulars? With Penny, Gagne, Alvarez, and Werth all out for various lengths of time, it’s fair to say that the Dodgers won’t be putting their best feet forward at the start. In the lineup, they’re taking the equally bold steps of entrusting full-time play to Hee Seop Choi at first and Ricky Ledee in left; that might not impress people who have it out for Paul DePodesta, but both guys can hit, and not every position can be filled by a suddenly available Milton Bradley or a capital investment in hitters like J.D. Drew or Jeff Kent. Even with the injuries, they’ll score runs.
The rotation is temporarily less promising, what with Penny’s absence. Erickson is a flop waiting to happen, same as last year, although Elmer Dessens should work out as a fifth starter. Journeyman Buddy Carlyle might get an opportunity after Erickson washes out and if Dessens struggles. With Penny coming back sometime after Tax Day, the Dodgers’ problems should really only be down to one slot, and Dessens or Carlyle can cover that.
The pen? Yes, Gagne’s out, and that leads to wailing. But the situation isn’t hopeless. Yhency Brazoban and Duaner Sanchez can pitch, and in Giovanni Carrara and Carlyle, they’ve got a pair of vets to soak up the middle innings. They’ve got that de rigeur status symbol of the present, matching righty and lefty side-armers in Wunsch and Schmoll. Rule 5 pick D.J. Houlton has made it, at least for the time being. And however murky Gagne’s status is, at least Alvarez will be back soon.
The bench? Jason Grabowski and Olmedo Saenz made for one of the best lefty-righty reserve hitting duos in the game last year, so the Dodgers can feel good about at least that much. Jason Repko’s sticking as an outfield reserve is pretty cool, even if it’s only in a reserve role and might not survive Werth’s eventual return.
Anything funky? Repko, the pair of sidearmers, and Carlyle all make for good stories, but I’ve already mentioned them. Selling Ross, I guess, considering that represents a commitment to Paul Bako, of all people.
|MILWAUKEE BREWERS||Return to Top|
The regulars? The last two slots in the rotation are enough of a source of concern that they’ve got three bodies to man them: Victor Santos, Gary Glover, and Wes Obermueller. None of them are lasting solutions, but if Ben Hendrickson and Jose Capellan aren’t ready, somebody has to be asked to try. The left side of the infield will be fun to watch, with Russell Branyan getting a chance to put his ultimate Three True Outcomes skills set in a lineup everyday as a third baseman, and well-nigh forgotten prospect J. J. Hardy coming back from injury to take over at short.
The pen? Token graybeard Rick Bottalico aside, it’s an interesting collection. Mike Adams and Jorge de la Rosa have great stuff, and Derrick Turnbow might finally stick. Journeymen Phelps and Matt Wise could become seven-figure relievers if they take advantage of the opportunity they have here.
The bench? Magruder, Wes Helms, Chad Moeller, Bill Hall… it isn’t a bad bunch, but it also isn’t a source of strength.
Anything funky? It’s mildly funky that Brady Clark is an everyday center fielder, but nobody should entertain any confidence that Krynzel will hit enough to hold the job, and the organization doesn’t really have an alternative for the time being. The attempted rehabilitation of Jeff Cirillo might reflect some deeper nobility, but it’s also a confession of weakness. At best, he’s notionally a right-handed person who can spot-start at third for the lefty-hitting Branyan, and who might come in for defensive purposes. Unfortunately, that’s a bit redundant when those are Wes Helms’ qualities, and he’s already here.
|NEW YORK METS||Return to Top|
Purchased INF-RBenji Gil from the Mariners>; claimed SS-R Wilson Valdez off of waivers from the White Sox; signed C-R Kelly Stinnett to a minor league contract; announced the retirement of 1B-R Andres Galarraga. [3/29]
Optioned OF-R Victor Diaz and RHP Aaron Heilman to Norfolk; reassigned OF-R Gerald Williams and C-R Joe Hietpas to their minor league camp; signed C-R Mike DiFelice to a minor league contract; purchased the contracts of LHP Mike Matthews and INF-R Chris Woodward; placed RHP Steve Trachsel on the 60-day DL (herniated disc – back); released OF-L Kerry Robinson. [3/31]
Acquired LHP Steve Colyer from the Tigers for RHP Matt Ginter; placed RHP Tyler Yates on the 60-day DL (torn rotator cuff); placed RHP Alay Soleron the restricted list; purchased the contracts of RHPs Roberto Hernandez and Manny Aybar and C-R Ramon Castro from Norfolk. [4/2]
Purchased the contract of 2B/OF-L Marlon Anderson from Norfolk; placed RHP Kris Benson on the 15-day DL (strained pectoral muscle); placed RHP Bartolome Fortunato on the 15-day DL (strained back); recalled OF-R Victor Diaz from Norfolk. [4/4]
|PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES||Return to Top|
Optioned 1B/OF-L Ryan Howard to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; waived OF-R Shane Victorino and RHP Amaury Telemaco; placed RHP Vicente Padilla on the 15-day DL (triceps tendonitis); reassigned C-R A.J. Hinch and OF-L Mark Budzinski to their minor league camp. [3/30]
Purchased the contract of UT-B Jose Offerman. [4/1]
The regulars? Chase Utley won the job at second, and ideally, he’ll get on base often enough to make it work out. I certainly like his chances, in that he’ll be a lefty power source in the bottom of the lineup on the days he’s in it. Charlie Manuel’s choices at second base (Utley or Placido Polanco?) and in center (Kenny Lofton or Jason Michaels?) make for some interesting pairings, since the days Utley’s in the lineup, Lofton’s probably going to be batting second, and the days Polanco is in the lineup, Michaels might get to start at the bottom of the lineup. Padilla’s breakdown created an opportunity for Gavin Floyd right out of the gate; Padilla’s due back next week, however, so as opportunities go, Floyd’s window is pretty small. Ryan Howard didn’t win a job, so he remains the Phillies primo bartering chip.
The pen? Aaron Fultz and Terry Adams on top of Tim Worrell and Rheal Cormier? This isn’t a pen merely long in the tooth, it’s old enough to make you think the Phillies were filling out the pen with refugees from a Peter, Paul & Mary concert. At least there’s Ryan Madson for the statheads, and Wagner for the stat-hungry.
The bench? Jason Michaels might be the best fourth outfielder in baseball, in the unkind sense of the word, since he’s good enough to start instead of being a fourth outfielder. He’s not the only star bench player, what with Polanco marooned here, Todd Pratt being one of the game’s better backup catchers, and Tomas Perez serving as a nice pinch-hitter and utility infielder. Jose Offerman gives them a spare… well, a spare Tomas Perez, only less so.
Anything funky? Offerman, for starters, but he has his uses in a world that preserves Lenny Harris. It’s just surprising to see him here when the Phillies didn’t carry a fifth outfielder, having sent Marlon Byrd down. Pedro Liriano slipped in at the back of the pen. Sending down Byrd and Howard might make you think the Phillies really believe this is their year, the future is now, yaddayaddayadda. Same as last year.
|PITTSBURGH PIRATES||Return to Top|
Placed C-R Humberto Cota on the 15-day DL (strained oblique), retroactive to March 26. [4/2]
Placed LHP Sean Burnett on the 60-day DL (Tommy John surgery). [4/3]
|SAN DIEGO PADRES||Return to Top|
Optioned LHP Randy Williams to Portland. [3/29]
Placed CF-L Dave Roberts on the 15-day DL (groin injury), retroactive to 3/29; optioned C-R Michel Hernandez, 1B-L Robert Fick, INF-Rs Jesse Garcia and Damian Jackson, and RHPs Joe Dawley, Brian Falkenborg, and Steve Sparks to Portland; optioned RHP Andy Ashby to Lake Elsinore (A-ball). [4/5]
|SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS||Return to Top|
Purchased the contract of LHP Jeff Fassero; placed LF-L Barry Bonds on the 15-day DL (knee), retroactive to 3/25; reassigned UT-R Brian Dallimore, C-R Yamid Haad, SS-R Donaldo Mendez, OF-R Julio Ramirez and OF-L Adam Shabala to their minor league camp; optioned RHPs Jesse Foppert, Kevin Correia, and Scott Munter and 1B-R Lance Niekro to Fresno. [4/2]
The regulars? Other than the big guy’s absence, and how that’s created playing time for Michael Tucker and Pedro Feliz in the outfield, the Giants you’ve seen are the Giants you’ll get. The rotation worked out exactly as planned.
The pen? Like the front of the roster, it’s the guys you would expect in the roles everyone anticipated for them. It’s a good unit, from Armando Benitez through to its situational lefties or a middle reliever like Tyler Walker. Jeff Fassero’s stint of roster roachdom didn’t come to an end, as he skittered here from Colorado, via a brief sojourn in Arizona.
The bench? With Bonds out, Feliz isn’t really a supersub any more. Instead, Felipe Alou can call on Jason Ellison, Tony Torcato, and Deivi Cruz for pinch-hitting chores. The towel will have been officially thrown in once Ellison and Torcato start getting regular playing time.
Anything funky? Fassero sneaking onto the roster is as funky as this team gets.
|ST. LOUIS CARDINALS||Return to Top|
Reassigned LHP Kevin Jarvis to their minor league camp. [3/30]
The regulars? There weren’t any battles to sort out where the lineup and rotation were concerned, so camp really was nothing more than a tune-up. Morris’ shoulder problem won’t keep him from returning to the rotation by the end of the month.
The pen? Seems short to me, since Julian Tavarez and Cal Eldred are taking on much more significant setup roles. Happily, Al Reyes is getting a crack from the start, and he might end up taking on a good chunk of the responsibilities for the seventh or eighth innings. Ray King and Randy Flores should both be sweet LaRussian situational weapons, straight out of the Rick Honeycutt mold.
The bench? Abraham Nunez and Hector Luna? So Taguchi? Einar Diaz? Once again, John Mabry’s the team’s lone significant weapon off the bench. Roger Cedeno is still with us, in case you were wondering. Somebody’s likely to be dropped once Morris comes off the DL; bet on it being one of the spare infielders, or Cedeno if he’s done something unusually noisome.
Anything funky? Bill Pulsipher made the team, and while he superficially has some of the elements that might make you believe he’d be a worthwhile retreading project for Dave Duncan, between the scar tissue and the spotty performance record, I’m not enthusiastic about it.
|WASHINGTON NATIONALS||Return to Top|
Reassigned PH-B Carlos Baerga to their minor league camp. [4/1]
The regulars? Maybe it was the loud, assertive robot noting Chavez in the lineup slot and blaring “DANGER, FRANK ROBINSON, DANGER!” Whatever it was, even Jim Bowden, in his best Professor Smith bit, found that the end of Endy justified the end, and besides, who cares if you leave him on some airless rock to be named later? At any rate, the move puts Brad Wilkerson in center field, and creates at-bats for Terrmel Sledge and Ryan Church, making this a much more interesting lineup, particularly because Robinson seems inclined to fix his top o’ the order issues by batting Wilkerson and Nick Johnson in the front two slots. In the rotation, as expected, John Patterson is plugged in for Tony Armas.
The pen? No real surprises here; some people treated Chad Cordero “winning” the closer’s job as a story, but it was a slow news day.
The bench? J.J. Davis is here, and along with Church or Sledge, gives the Nats a nice pair of bats to call on from off of the bench. Jamey Carroll’s the primary infield reserve, which works. Rule 5 pick Tony Blanco stuck, which is worthwhile, especially considering the organization’s lack of talent.
Anything funky? Sending Chavez down. Not only was it merited in terms of a focus on scoring a few runs, it was understandable in baseball terms: Chavez wasn’t paying attention to what people were asking him to do, so in addition to his not being able to do it, he couldn’t even be troubled to give the impression of a willingness to try. When you don’t paper over suckitude with some suck-uppery, people run out of reasons to keep you around pretty quickly.