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BALTIMORE ORIOLES Return to Top

Placed OF-R Eli Marrero on the 15-day DL (sprained thumb);
recalled UT-L David Newhan from Ottawa. [7/27]

Losing Marrero isn’t going to help the Orioles’ diminishing fortunes. Not that
a platoon outfielder is a critical cog, but Rafael
Palmeiro
, Larry Bigbie and Jay
Gibbons
all aren’t doing much damage against lefties, and outfield
reserves like Newhan and B. J. Surhoff hit lefty as
well. That leaves Lee Mazzilli with a solution that involves putting
Sammy Sosa in the field and getting utility infielder
Chris Gomez into the lineup if he wants another
right-handed hitter against the Randy
Johnson
s of this world. And no, someone like Keith
Reed
or Ramon Nivar won’t fill the bill.

Presumably, Mr. Newhan did not respond to the news of his call-up by telling
the people of Ottawa how much John Waters movies suck, or how much The
Wire
made him afraid to go out at night. Conversely, let’s hope he
didn’t remind them what he really thinks of their city, and instead had the
good sense to slip away quietly, like an Irsay in the night.

BOSTON RED SOX Return to Top

Signed RHP Craig Hansen to a major-league contract;
transferred RHP Matt Mantei from the 15- to the 60-day DL.
[7/25]

Designated LHP John Halama for assignment; purchased the
contract of RHP Manny Delcarmen from Pawtucket. [7/26]

Placed OF-L Trot Nixon on the 15-day DL (strained oblique);
recalled LHP Lenny DiNardo from Pawtucket; claimed RHP
Luis Mendoza off of waivers from the Padres, and assigned
him to Wilmington (A ball). [7/27]

The legend of Manny Delcarmen is one of those things that seems to keep
happening to the Red Sox, like the long-rumored greatness of Reggie
Harris
or Josias Manzanillo or Andy
Yount
. But in Delcarmen’s case, Tommy John surgery is something we
understand considerably better these days, and anyone who can dial up heat
into the high 90s is worth giving the time of day to. I see this as less
a case of showcasing him and more one where the Sox may well just plug him in
and let it ride. They’ve seen plenty of veteran relievers fail this season,
and the only guys who deserve any job security on the basis of what they’ve
done for Boston this year are Mike Timlin and side-arming
lefty situational specialist Mike Myers. Between Double-A
and Pawtucket, Delcarmen has struck out 59 hitters in 47 innings, while walking
23 and allowing 40 hits (three of which have left the park). Wild? Sure, but
keep in mind, struggling through regaining your command is
part of the process after surgery.

Less happy is Nixon’s latest breakdown, in no small part because
Kevin Millar‘s power is still on vacation. It’s way too
soon to talk about calling up Brandon Moss or David
Murphy
, which leaves Theo Epstein waiting on getting Nixon or
Gabe Kapler back. Kapler is crushing the ball at Pawtucket,
so this may finally be his big opportunity to do something for the Sox more
regularly than last season’s exercise in simply suiting up. Still, Nixon’s a
critical cog in a lineup that can’t afford to lose any lefty power, so keep
an eye on Will Carroll’s Under the Knife columns for regular updates on his
condition.

CLEVELAND INDIANS Return to Top

Placed DH-L Travis Hafner on the 15-day DL (concussion),
retroactive to 7/17; purchased the contract of DH-L Jeff
Liefer
from Buffalo; recalled LHP Brian Tallet
from Buffalo; optioned RHP Fernando Cabrera to Buffalo.
[7/26]

As much as it sucks to have Hafner out (and here’s hoping for a complete and
speedy recovery for Hoss; he’s expected back in another week or so), this is
exactly the situation in which you want to have a guy like Liefer around.
Although stretched to play any position, Liefer can at least hit well enough
to earn his keep, and he was shining in Buffalo by hitting .321/.388/.595.
About to turn 31, Liefer has no real career horizons, but it’s still worth
pondering leaving him at DH, moving Hafner to first base upon his return, and
getting Ben Broussard‘s increasingly slack bat out of the
lineup. Certainly, with both Casey Blake and Aaron
Boone
enduring awful seasons, and Coco Crisp
providing nice pop for a center fielder who’s unfortunately expected to be a left
fielder, the Tribe needs all the offensive help that it can get. Blake and
Boone are chaff, while Crisp seems a better choice to peddle to someone who
needs a center fielder so that the Indians can make room for a bat to stick
into left. Jason Dubois, perhaps? As it stands, the Indians
are a
middle-of-the-pack offense
; they shouldn’t keep settling.

DETROIT TIGERS Return to Top

Outrighted LHP Doug Creek to Toledo. [7/26]

NEW YORK YANKEES Return to Top

Signed RHP Hideo Nomo to a minor-league contract. [7/27]

If the Yankees are the gray lady of baseball franchises, she’s fallen to the
roster move equivalent of a life lived on bathtub gin and the fleeting
“generosity” of a down-at-his-heels carny barker like Chuck
LaMar. Turning to a Devil Rays castoff in a pennant race? Humiliating as it
may be, when they’re relying on Aaron Small in the interim,
I guess I can’t blame them for taking a flyer. Carl
Pavano
isn’t rehabbing so well or so quickly, and the rumors about
Kevin Brown‘s season-ending back-breakdown seem to be about
to come true.

I know I’ve been stuck on how this season seems to convey
echoes of the early ’80s and their sense of foreboding for Yankeedom, but
from the Pavano and Wright pickups to this, the whole thing is even more sordid than
the desperate deals of 1982, when they had to swap for three starting
pitchers in the first two months getting Doyle Alexander,
Shane Rawley and, finally, Roger Erickson
to patch up a rotation that had started falling apart the previous season.
None of it worked: Alexander joined Rick Reuschel on the
DL, while Erickson and Rawley were adequate for a team that needed more than
that. There’s even less chance that Nomo can be adequate, but at least it’s
a minor-league deal, and if they don’t think Billy Connors or whoever can
fix him, they can always cut him loose.

SEATTLE MARINERS Return to Top

Activated PH-L Dave Hansen from the 15-day DL; optioned
OF-L Chris Snelling to Tacoma. [7/26]

In the best of all possible worlds, this is a move with a shelf life of 10
days, which is how long it will take to bring Snelling back barring a swap
of Randy Winn. As if the danger that Winn exercising his
half of a mutual option for next season wasn’t incentive enough, they’re
better off taking a look at Snelling to see if he has a shot at winning the
job in left for ’06. Hopefully, this is just a way to get Snelling at-bats
before plugging him into the lineup subsequent to a Winn deal, but then I’d
also like to see Jamal Strong and Shin-Soo
Choo
back before rosters expand. As much as I like Jeremy
Reed
, he hasn’t earned himself that much job security, and I’d
rather see an open competion among Reed, Choo and Snelling for the
playing time in center and left fields in a post-Winn world.

As for Hansen, like Scott Spiezio, he’s roster clutter, but
unlike Spiezio, he’s relatively inexpensive, and whether Bill Bavasi decides
to keep him or deal him, neither would present any particular difficulty. He
still has more value to a National League team hunting for a pinch-hitter
than he does to the Mariners, and if it brings the Mariners cash (to help
ease the burden of being stuck with Spiezio) or a live arm (to help ease the
burden of scragging almost every farmhand over the years), it’s a net gain.
Although Greg Dobbs is no Snelling in terms of promise, the
M’s are better off seeing if there’s some as-yet undiscovered reason that he
should be on their 40-man.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS Return to Top

Activated 3B-L Corey Koskie from the 15-day DL; optioned
RHP Chad Gaudin to Syracuse. [7/26]

Now that Koskie’s back and Shea Hillenbrand is at DH, is
there any chance that Hillenbrand gets moved? For the right deal, I don’t
see why not, but with the Jays still on the fringes of the wild-card race,
there’s probably a political cost with their fan base to appearing to give
up and make a deal now. In that case, why not hold out for a sweet deal? Aaron Hill is riding pine, although having
him around does serve as a reminder that J.P. Ricciardi is free to entertain
offers for Orlando Hudson as well as Hillenbrand.

In the
meantime, the lineup presumably gets a little better, which makes the Jays’
shot at contention seem that much more realizable, which ups the ante on
anyone asking after Hillenbrand and Hudson. Since I still don’t take the
Jays that seriously while Roy Halladay is on the DL,
I’d end up making the move, but if the Jays stand pat, and wait to see what
they can get this winter, I wouldn’t blame them.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS Return to Top

Designated OF-B Jose Cruz Jr. for assignment; purchased the
contract of 1B/OF-R Conor Jackson from Tucson. [7/27]

It’s interesting that Joe Garagiola Jr. decided to dump Cruz, settling for
perhaps getting no more back than the sliver of the minimum he’ll be paid by
whoever snags him, but do not mistake this as a case of the Snakes running
up their skins in surrender. Anyone who struggles to keep his nose above the
Mendoza line in the BOB isn’t hitting the ball with much authority, and Cruz
wasn’t fulfilling the most basic duties in the outfield. Add in that his
back problems had probably poisoned whatever interest in him that there
might have been, and Arizona was better off moving on and taking their shot at
contending in the increasingly feeble NL West by turning to their own. While
31 isn’t considered “old” these days, Cruz is hitting like an old man, and
frankly hasn’t hit well for a corner outfielder since 2001 (yes, I know, his
age-27 season). When you’re someone who’s been benched in ’04 by the D-Rays,
and discarded by the Snakes in ’05 after losing time to Quinton
McCracken
, you shouldn’t need to look at the bottom of your
Starbucks travel mug to see if the grounds will divine your future, because
you don’t have one.

There is, of course, the broader question of whether the D’backs wouldn’t have
been better off holding onto Casey Fossum, and finding
somebody who might have cost less in blood or treasure last winter to man an
outfield slot until someone like Jackson or Carlos Quentin
was ready. Expecting Jackson or Quentin to be ready at some point this
season wouldn’t have been unreasonable, and as difficult as it can be to
pitch in Arizona, and however many whispers there have been about Fossum’s
aptitude for coachability, he seems to have gotten pretty well sorted out
pitching for the D-Rays, no easy feat in itself.

So now, instead of going with their standard-issue graybeard, the Snakes are
starting to turn to their own. I’m not quite so enthusiastic about Jackson
as some; hitting .354/.457/.553 is nice, but it also says he wasn’t hitting
for all that much power. Hitting eight home runs in the PCL isn’t all that
special, although 38 doubles hints that he might not be far removed from
doing more with his power stroke. (For the curious, among the other
Sidewinders who you might expect to see up, Quentin’s hitting
.307/.424/.545, while last year’s “top prospect” flavor
Josh Kroeger is struggling along at .267/.329/.455.) As
patient as Jackson has been, I guess I’m still skeptical, and want to see
him hit for more power. Ideally, he won’t just be the next Mike
Hargrove
. In his defense, he is still just 23, and he has been
pushed pretty agressively, having gone from starting ’04 in the Cal League
to making the majors little more than a year and a half later.

So what does this do on the diamond? Jackson will take over at first, while
Chad Tracy stays on the Graig Nettles
career path by getting pushed even further from his best position (third
base) so that he can start patrolling right field. The other half of the
first-base platoon, Tony Clark, goes from platoon partner
to veteran caddy, but having someone who can get the ball up and out
consistently makes for a useful bench weapon in Arizona’s thin air, and if
Jackson struggles, it’s better to have Clark in the lineup than Cruz. Will
Tracy play a good right field? It’s not easy to say, although the move has
been rumored for months. While he’s been worked out at the position, he
enters the experiment without game experience. Perhaps Garagiola is being
guided by his success with moving Tony Womack to right
field during the Snakes’ championship season. Keep in mind that Tracy is a
platoon hitter, and will still need a partner, and it isn’t like McCracken
or Luis Terrero can fill that bill. Because of that,
Jackson might not only end up playing first base, which would at least mean that
the Tracy/Clark platoon would remain in the lineup, just
stretched across two positions.

I’m not as worried about asking Shawn Green to patrol
center. Even if he hasn’t spent considerable time there since ’98, this year’s
defensive data
seems to indicate that last year’s limited range was an
anomaly.

ATLANTA BRAVES Return to Top

Returned LHP Mike Hampton to the 15-day DL (lower back),
retroactive to 7/18; recalled C-B Brayan Pena from
Richmond. [7/26]

Hampton’s latest breakdown should not be reason to panic. Not only have the
Braves been through all this before, John Thomson might
be a mere 10 days to two weeks removed a return from the DL, and Kyle
Davies
is just a phone call away in the meantime. They could even
use former starter Blaine Boyer to lead off a pen start, as
a way of forestalling a decision between Thomson and Davies until they know
how soon Thomson will be back. When you’re the Braves, why worry? The rest
of the division is finding new and interesting ways to gut themselves or
melt down, as they all fret over whether they can catch the Braves, or
whether they’ll keep up with the Astros and Cubs in the wild-card race, and
what they have to do to help themselves. In contrast, the Braves can just
keep on being themselves, working homegrown goodies into the mix while
keeping an eye on a veteran reliever or two to pick up before the deadline.

COLORADO ROCKIES Return to Top

Recalled 1B-R Ryan Shealy from Colorado Springs; cancelled
the previous decision to call up RHP Scott Dohmann. [7/26]

An injury to Todd Helton forced the Rox to rain on
Dohmann’s parade, and instead sucking Shealy up into the breach. Although he
never pops up that highly on Rockie prospect lists, Shealy has been
murdilating the PCL to the tune of .331/.392/.604, and he didn’t get overlooked
during his previous call-up to fulfill DH duties during the interleague
portion of the schedule. Like Brad Eldred, he’s another
titan at first base, which helps
PECOTA generate some interesting comparisons
to a young Frank
Howard
or Andres Galarraga. If ever there was
another reminder that signing aging first basemen to big contracts is a
mistake, Shealy (and Brad Hawpe for that matter) serves as
one, while the Rockies can kick themselves over their untradeable
now-to-forever commitment to Helton. Helton’s signed through to almost the
end of the presidency of whoever gets elected in ’08, which is another way
of saying that Shealy is either going to have to try to make a move to the
outfield (like Hawpe), or he’s an object for barter the organization needs
to capitalize on sooner rather later.

FLORIDA MARLINS Return to Top

Activated RHP Antonio Alfonseca from the 60-day DL;
optioned RHP Randy Messenger to Albuquerque; transferred
RHP Nate Bump from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/26]

The pen has been a season-long problem for the Fish, although I wouldn’t
blame that on Alfonseca’s absence. Beyond Todd Jones‘s nifty season, nobody’s been good enough to bother writing home about.
More was reasonably expected from Guillermo Mota, and
should have been from John Riedling as well, but unlike the
successful gambles on retreads in ’03, very little has gone right for the
Fish pen. Home-growing a supporting cast hasn’t worked out either, although
at least partially to blame has been the organization’s unwillingness to
commit to any of their own farmhands for more than week or a game or two at
a time, and it’s awfully hard to thrive in “Pitch or Die!”
situation if you’re just breaking in.

As for Alfonseca, “Pulpo” is always given bigger billing than he deserves, so while
he’s ridden into the rescue to offer six fingers’ worth of help, the Marlins
are really in a situation where no one reliever is going to fix things.
Instead, perhaps the accumulation of having everyone healthy and here might
finally leave them well prepped for the stretch, or ready to peddle if
Jeffrey Loria prefers to retrench and think about next year.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS Return to Top

Purchased the contract of RHP Rick Helling from Nashville;
designated RHP Ricky Bottalico for assignment. [7/27]

Helling’s career seems to stop and start quite a bit these days, having gone
off the rails since his getting a ring with the Fish in ’03. Flitting
between the Rangers and Twins organizations last year, he didn’t get called
up when he wanted to be, and chose to walk away. Since he’d shown people he
can still really help in a bullpen role down the stretch with Florida in
2003, and given the permanent perception that pitching is in short supply,
I’m a little surprised that he had to lose most of the last two years, but
having shown that he’s in shape and still has some zip (105 Ks in 130 2/3 innings
as a rotation regular at Nashville), he should be ready to step in with the
Brewers and give them the set-up man that Bottalico was not.

As for Bottalico,
don’t be surprised when a contender picks him up. Not that the Brewers
should have held out for something, because nobody would make an offer, but
as a waiver claim, we are in an environment where even Nomo seems desirable.

What I’m annoyed by is the disappearance of Mike Adams, and
since he’s struck out 35 in 25 innings (against only seven walks), you’d think
he’d shown people that he’s still got his good stuff. There’s always roster
expansion to look forward to.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS Return to Top

Placed OF-L Larry Walker on the 15-day DL (herniated disk –
neck); recalled OF/1B-R John Gall from Memphis. [7/26]

So how much ground do you think the Astros and Cubs can make up if the Cards
play with one arm tied behind their back? How about two arms? How about two
arms, and they have all their teeth pulled? How about two arms, no teeth,
and trying to chicken fight while riding on the shoulders of Hank Hill’s dad, Cotton?

Yeah, I’d still bet on the Cardinals, too, although at least it does make
things interesting. But keep in mind, this team still has its rotation
intact, and I do think it’s fun to see the Cards maintaining their lead
while relying on an organizational soldier like Gall (.272/.342/.441) and
free-talent acquisitions like Scott Seabol and John
Rodriguez
(the man who might have been your center fielder and done
quite well at it, Yankees fans). Having Walker and Scott
Rolen
on the DL in the meantime seems like preventive maintenance,
as Walt Jocketty and Tony LaRussa avoid Leo Durocher’s mistake of ’69, and
keep from playing everyone into the ground. Walker and Rolen should both be back
before rosters expand, and the Cards can get back to building their cushion
back up at that point.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS Return to Top

Activated 1B-L Nick Johnson from the 15-day DL; designated
OF-R Kenny Kelly for assignment. [7/26]

Outrighted OF-R Kenny Kelly to New Orleans; announced that 1B/OF-R
Wil Cordero has been released. [7/27]

Johnson’s return lets Brad Wilkerson return to an outfield
corner, which in turn gets the Nats back to having the luxury of having the
platoon of Ryan Church/Marlon Byrd (Maryan
Byrdchurch? sounds too much like a B-list British society princess) on the
bench. There, they’re ready for Johnson’s next breakdown, or a decision that
Jose Guillen isn’t only mad as hell, he’s also not going
to take it any more
. I’m not sure if there’s an advantage to be accrued
as far as Guillen’s wrist should he get to rest two days a week, but the
Nats do have the depth to do so if they decide there’s something to be
gained by doing so.

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