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ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Recalled LHP Joe Saunders from Salt Lake. [8/15]

Purchased the contract of RHP Greg Jones from Salt
Lake;
optioned LHP Joe Saunders from Salt Lake. [8/16]

Although he only came up for a spot start, it’s
worth noting that we had low expectations for Saunders coming into this
season.
In part, that’s because we were being cautious about the ambitious
rehab
program that seems to have made memories of the twin tears in his shoulder (labrum
and
rotator cuff) that cost him 2003. This wasn’t a case of
simply
calling up a former top draft pick, either. In 24 starts between the
Texas
League and PCL, Saunders allowed 150 hits in 144 2/3 innings, with 104
strikeouts, 43 walks and 11 home runs allowed. Although he’s basically
a
lefty command type, he’s got a hard sinker that helps keep him out of
trouble, with another one of the funky deliveries that the organization
seems to favor. He’s probably still just a fourth or fifth starter in
the
making, but better to see for yourself, and if need be, keep him in
mind for
the postseason roster. The Angels don’t have a lefty in the pen, after
all,
and while that shouldn’t be a serious source of concern over 162 games,
it
might be one in a short series. Saunders looked good in his debut
against
the Blue Jays, so at the very least, I think we can expect him back
once
rosters expand.

Jones’ comeback from various arm woes that derailed his ’04 seems to
be
complete. In extended rehab work at both Double- and Triple-A, he
allowed 19
baserunners in 23 innings while striking out 21. He’s a bit of an
organizational
favorite, beyond the tough-luck story of the guy who made it to the
majors
in ’03 before last season’s multiple setbacks. Picked by the Angels out
of
high school in ’95, then as a juco draft-and-follow in ’96, he’s been that
rarest
of items, the career-long reliever who may actually stick as a big-league
reliever. Not that’s he’s overpowering, but Kevin
Gregg

didn’t look like much until the last two weeks or so, while
Joel
Peralta
seems to have inherited Gregg’s struggles. The last couple
of
spots in the Angels’ pen should be up for grabs, particularly where the
postseason roster is concerned.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Outrighted RHP Mike Koplove to Tucson. [8/17]

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned 3B-R Kevin Youkilis and RHP Manny
Delcarmen
to Pawtucket; recalled RHP Jon
Papelbon

from Pawtucket; activated 1B-L John Olerud from the
15-day
DL. [8/16]

Moxie junkies have a habit of evaporating as soon as their quality of
choice
doesn’t seem to be associated with the people they’re so quick to award
it
to, so while Schilling’s failure as a reliever might make the palaver
about
his having a closer’s heart or a warrior spirit or that he’s a combat engineer
squad
that never fails its morale roll
or whatever amalgam he’s supposed
to
possess that makes pitching a simple triumph of the will for him appear
to
be so much bunkum, there is the wondering about whether or not
Schilling
will be a success in the rotation either. The Red Sox should still be
able
to win the division, but I’m not so sure that the next six weeks will
provide the answers to their questions about who should be starting
games in
October.

I certainly wouldn’t rule out that Papelbon could be among those
choices.
Promoted into the rotation for the time being, that he was being prepped for
relief work in Pawtucket hints at his more likely role once Miller and
Keith Foulke are healthy, but between the uncertainties of
Schilling’s performance and Wade Miller‘s shoulder,
the
opportunity is there for Papelbon to make himself part of the
postseason
picture.

Somewhat less major is the question of who should start at first base
now
that Olerud is back, particularly against most right-handed pitching.
Some
would like to believe that Olerud’s good weekend before he pulled his
hammy
was a sign of things to come, although that means ignoring his
struggles to
do much in either of the previous two seasons. Roberto
Petagine
has done exactly what his boosters would expect of
him,
having hit, helped put runs on the board, and helped the Sox win five of six games
he’s
started while averaging nine runs per (even scoring six in the one
loss) in those. I
wouldn’t think there’s a choice, but as ever, the former famous person
seems
to get the benefit of the doubt. And then, I suppose we have to mention
that
Kevin Millar still has all his fingers and toes, and
still
remains ready to play first whenever asked. Although you’d expect him
to be
part of a platoon-minded playing rotation, Millar isn’t hitting
lefties. He
can’t really play first or right, but he is a memento of last season,
and as
long as Trot Nixon is out, I suppose sitting him more
often
isn’t an issue.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Placed UT-R Ryan Freel on the 15-day DL (knee);
purchased
the contract of INF-R Aaron Holbert from Louisville.
[8/16]

Freel is only expected to miss the next two or three weeks after having
his
knee scoped, but his absence creates another opportunity
for
Rich Aurilia. I mean, that’s why the Reds are playing
the
games, isn’t it? The fascination with Aurilia is one of the more
unfortunate, consistent symptoms of a season that has gone from
setbacked to
salvaged, and something that should really make sure no one gets overly
high
or low about their fortunes. I suppose he’s going to end up being one
of the
players blamed for saving Dan O’Brien’s front office regime, but
finding
people who can hit well enough in a bandbox like the Great American
Ballpark
to resemble a useful player isn’t difficult. Once Freel returns, the
Reds
can go back to wondering whether Aurilia should start in front of any
of the
other three infielders, but you can always hope he’ll simply revert to
a
reserve role, so that a left side of Lopez and Encarnacion can be left
alone, while Freel gets plugged into the leadoff slot while spending
most of
his time at second base.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Claimed RHP Jason Young off of waivers from the
Rockies and
optioned him to Buffalo; designated RHP Francisco
Cruceta

for assignment. [8/17]

Coming into the season, right-handed pitching depth didn’t really seem
to be
a problem for the Indians organization. However, with Jeremy
Guthrie
‘s struggles, Kyle Denney‘s slow
recovery
from having his skull fractured by a linedrive, Adam
Miller

still working through elbow problems, and J.D. Martin
looking at another year off after having his elbow TJ’d. On top of all
that,
some of their top righty arms have struggled, like Cruceta. Happily,
there
are still guys like Fausto Carmona, not to mention
Jason Davis, but the injuries and struggles highlight
the
nature of the beast. Sometimes, you really just can’t have enough
pitching.

Although Young has been awful at Colorado Springs (6.13 ERA), he’s
still
fooling some people some of the time with his low 90s fastball and
slider
combo. On the rest of the ledger, he logged 92 strikeouts in 105.2 IP,
accompanied by 44 walks and 16 homeruns, so not a great
defense-independent
spread, but interesting enough to take a look. Besides, Buffalo is in a
tight race with Rochester in the International League’s Northern
Division,
and the Indians like to keep their top affiliate happy. Let’s face it,
beyond Young’s talent, there’s also the question of retaining the
logistical
advantage of having your Triple-A team just upshore on Lake
Erie.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Optioned RHP Ryan Speier to Colorado Springs;
activated C-R
Todd Greene from the 15-day DL. [8/16]

One of the great things about The Good, The Bad, and The
Ugly
was that we accepted the way in which all three men
entirely
filled their roles, and how they stood in contrast from one another
despite
basic similarities: pistol-packing, all with loose interpretations of
law
and morality, but two with lines they wouldn’t cross, leaving Lee Van
Cleef
as the one of the three who truly represented an absolute Bad. Bad
wasn’t
merely uncomplicated, he relished in his basic nature, and if he simply
had the skill and the sense to shoot Clint Eastwood first, he’d have
been
better than Good.

Unfortunately for the Rockies, none of their three catchers is Bad, or
bad.
None of them are all that good, either, and sadly, that leaves the
obvious.
If all that Danny Ardoin, J.D.
Closser
,
and Greene had wrong with them were things like personal hygiene,
faking a need for an eyepatch, or not writing home, there wouldn’t be a problem.
Each
has more relevant shortcomings that make no one of them the easy
favorite in
a three-sided duel for the prize of being the catcher of the Colorado
Rockies. Although tabbed as the franchise’s catcher of the present as
well
as the future this spring, however obvious Closser is as the choice,
for
whatever reason, he’s struggled to hit well in Coors Field this season
(slugging over .500 on the road, and .316 at home). That’s created just
enough uncertainty in the perpetually uncertain Rockies, so that
everyone
gets taken seriously. However, Greene can’t really catch, and at 34, he
isn’t an everyday player. Ardoin has always been a great
catch-and-throw
reserve in the making, but there’s nothing in his track record to make
anyone think he can really hit well enough consistently enough to
start. The
job really should be Closser’s, but I guess the one thing Dan O’Dowd
has in
common with Sergio Leone is an ability to create suspense about the
outcome.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Placed SS-B Carlos Guillen on the 15-day DL (sore
knee),
retroactive to 8/11; recalled 1B-L Carlos Pena from
Toledo.
[8/17]

The Tigers seem convinced that Guillen’s knee just needs resting up,
and
that he’ll be back by Labor Day, but I would suggest they’re better off
taking their time, because few players are more critical than he for
the ’06
season they’ve been talking up as their actual goal for getting into
contention. (This year and last were all happy circumstance. Really.
No,
really.) It’s not all for naught, though, since I think the
playing
time is well-spent if it’s used to see whether or not Omar
Infante
can get his season back on track. If he does, Dave
Dombrowski can shop him that much more effectively this winter, since
Guillen owns the present and (presumably) Tony
Giarratano

has the future, making Infante either a bargaining chip or a frustrated
and
frustrating utility infielder.

So Guillen’s departure makes space for one of this season’s other major
disappointments (beyond Infante). Although Pena has hit .311/.424/.525
in
his Toledo exile, I wouldn’t go out of my way to bench either
Dmitri
Young
or Chris Shelton to get him into the
lineup.
With Young’s contract running through next year (not counting a
club
option for ’07), the question is whether or not the Tigers have the
space on
the 40-man to keep both Pena and Infante, since both are in danger of
becoming so much organizational garbage. Admittedly, both represent
useful
enough insurance for the immediate future, against Guillen’s knees and
Young’s earned reputation for fragility, but with players from the ’03
draft
nearing their needing to be added to the 40-man this winter, it isn’t
going
to be easy to keep everyone. Besides, don’t we all expect Pena to wind
up as
a Devil Ray at some point?

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Recalled 1B-L Prince Fielder from Nashville; placed
OF-R
Brady Clark on the 15-day DL (sore knee), retroactive
to
8/11. [8/17]

Although Clark’s injury has created the opportunity, I’d like to think
that
the Brewers are not seeing themselves as having to face the same
dilemma
that the Giants had in the late ’50s and early ’60s, when they had both
Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda. By
Opening Day next year, first base should belong to Fielder, and I
wouldn’t
go out of my way to put Lyle Overbay in the outfield.
Overbay’s numbers are already flagging, and he’ll be 29 next year. The
sooner he’s moved, the sooner the Brewers will have done something to
actually help make themselves that much better in the future. Overbay
and
Fielder are the team’s problem in a nutshell: transitioning from the
players
who helped make the club respectable again to the ones who will
actually be
a part of an active challenge to the Cardinals.

The other thing that losing Clark does, beyond help a friend’s already
doomed Hacking
Mass
team
, is create that much more of an opportunity for Corey
Hart
to show if he can handle center field. No, he did not
perform
feats of strength in Coors Field the way I’d hoped he would, but I’m
happier
that this might end up being an actual trial, as opposed to a brief
cameo.
If Hart looks good enough to mount a challenge for next season’s job in
center, he’ll join Fielder as one of those who might propel the team to
a
better destiny than 78 wins and self-respect.

NEW YORK METS
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Recalled C-L Mike Jacobs from Binghamton (Double-A);
designated RHP Jose Santiago for assignment. [8/17]

Jacobs won’t be here for long, since Mike Piazza
should be
back in working order shortly. However, Jacobs is wrapping up a season
that
would be a build-up season after a year in which he won the
organization’s
player of the year award. Unfortunately, he won the award in ’03 in
Double-A
for having hit .329/.376/.548, then lost most of ’04 to a knee injury,
and
has hit .323/.378/.590 this year. So it’s less progress than
demonstrating
that he’s still here. He’ll be 25 next season, so between his hitting,
his
hitting like that, and his hitting lefty, he should still have a big
league
future. There are concerns about his ability to catch, usually focusing
on
his problems with controlling the running game, but if the world had
space
for Matt Nokes, it should have space for Jacobs.

The real question is whether Jacobs can be part of next season’s
catching
situation. Piazza is a free agent, and one worth letting walk away, but
only
if the Mets spend the money they’d save there on a first baseman.
More’s the
pity that they didn’t spend the money to have Carlos
Delgado
already, eh? It might have made all the difference in
the
division and wild-card races, but so be it. For next year, a catching
combo
of Jacobs from the left side and Ramon Castro from the
right might not be Piazza of yore, but it could be very well be one of
the
most productive catchers in the league. Additionally, Castro would
fulfill
all of the extra requirements: a catcher who speaks Spanish, a veteran,
and
a good receiver to compensate for Jacobs’ perceived shortcomings. Who’s
to
say he can’t play Mike Heath to Jacobs’ Nokes
impression,
for those of you who still remember the tasty platoon that the ’87
Tigers
had behind the plate? Or Nokes-Mike Stanley Strat-O-Matic.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Activated LHP Mike Gonzalez from the 15-day DL;
optioned
RHP Ian Snell to Indianapolis. [8/16]

Oh, it is so easy to get enthusiastic about the Pirates and their
options,
especially when they say things you want to hear, like their
willingness to
consider Gonzalez as an alternative to Jose Mesa in
the
closer’s role. The Pirates could certainly use the help, since all of the right-handed relievers in the pen in front of Mesa have
flopped this year
. The question for Mesa as he enters free agency
again
will be one of whether or not he wants to stick around to be a part of
that
program, or if there’s someone else willing to pay him a goodly chunk
of
change and assume a lot of risk that he can keep up his high wire act
as a
closer. As for Snell, while he hasn’t enjoyed the same sort of success
as
Zach Duke, he’ll be back in the rotation, presumably
after
the Pirates non-tender Josh Fogg and decline to pick
up
Mark Redman‘s option this winter.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Activated C-R Yadier Molina from the 15-day DL;
optioned
OF-L Skip Schumacher to Memphis. [8/18]

Although Molina’s future remains promising, his necessity in the here
and
now has less to do with how the Cardinals approached this season. They
handed him the job anticipating that he’d struggle as a hitter, but
they
expected that their lineup could carry him as they’d carried
Mike
Matheny
in years past. That’s not so much the case now that
Larry Walker and Scott Rolen aren’t
around, and added to that, there’s the problem that Einar
Diaz
was about as bad a choice for a backup catcher as could
have
been made. So now Molina isn’t just a kid cutting his teeth, he’s a
major
upgrade on the dreck the Cardinals have had to rely on in his absence,
and
coming in at a time when the offense seems to be losing steam. No, I
wouldn’t get all excited about this if I was the Cubs or Brewers, but
at the
moment, the Cardinals need as many healthy bats as they can get,
especially
with speculation that Rolen’s done for the year.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Purchased the contracts of LHP Justin Thompson from
Oklahoma and RHP Scott Feldman from Frisco (Double-A);
released RHP Aaron Sele from Oklahoma; designated RHP
James Baldwin for assignment; optioned RHP
Kevin
Gryboski
to Oklahoma. [8/16]

Optioned RHP Scott Feldman to Frisco (Double-A);
recalled
1B-L Adrian Gonzalez from Oklahoma. [8/18]

It isn’t often that a team recycles its own retreads, but Thompson is a
special case, a guy who had so much talent back when he first came up
with
the Tigers, a pitcher who could show off one of the best overhand
curveballs
you’re ever going to see. If you want to ignore the innumerable
failures in
getting more mileage out of a retread in Texas over the last couple of
decades, just let your eyes glaze over into that horizonless plateau
vision
the Lone Star state is known for, and hope that this is the next
Frank Tanana coming out of the haze. Although Thompson
hasn’t pitched in the majors since 1999, and I doubt he’ll ever make it
back
as a starter, left-handed pitchers are permitted even more colorful
pasts
and long absences than their right-handed cousins, and there’s
always
room for help in a big league bullpen. After pitching effectively as a
reliever for Frisco in ’04 (a 2.61 ERA, 26 Ks and 11 walks in 38 IP),
he
showed some measure of durability in the role between Frisco and
Oklahoma
this summer, tossing 54.2 IP while striking out 40 and walking nine. As
much
as I can and do deride a lot of retreads, let’s face it, this is the
Rangers, and they’re counting on Doug Brocail. Why not
see
if Thompson can do anything? If he’s just another husk tossed into the
pitcher pulper this organization seems to be, it wasn’t like anyone
else was
willing to give him the chance, and the fan in me would love to see
that
curve one more time.

On the less wistful side of things, it looks like the Rangers have
finally,
grudgingly, decided to give A-Gonz a shot at some at-bats at first base
and
DH. That a 34-year old Phil Nevin was not the answer
seems
to have only recently occurred to them, which is unfortunate, but let’s
face
it, the pitching staff’s meltdown was what was certain to kill off the
team’s bid in the AL West this season, not wasting their time with
Nevin.
What’s important is to simply make playing Gonzalez a priority, because
his
hitting .338/.399/.561 in the PCL this year should pretty much rule out
a
return engagement there from here on out. He is one of the
players
the Rangers should be building around, and it’s long past due for John
Hart
to have noticed.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Optioned OF-L Brandon Watson to New Orleans; purchased
the
contract of LHP John Halama from New Orleans. [8/18]

This exchange has less to do with Ryan Drese‘s
inadequacy
as it does with Tuesday’s rainout and last night’s double-header,
because
that keeps Drese from starting/losing Sunday’s game against the Mets.
Enter
Halama, not that he’s pitched with any great distinction in New Orleans
to
make people forget how he’d pitched for Boston, or Tampa Bay, or
Oakland.
Good thing the Whiz Kid got rid of Tomo Ohka. That’s
only
cost the Nats a game or two in the standings, and who really wanted to
win
something this year anyway? Not when we can acquire a reputation for
hyperactive, glorious failure right at the start. It’s more in keeping
with
the storyline of both the general manager and the city, I suppose. As
for
Watson, surprising nobody, he looked punchless in his brief trial, and
as
is, Frank Robinson’s having a hard time finding playing time for
Ryan Church in an outfield stocked with Jose
Guillen
, Brad Wilkerson, and Preston
Wilson
.

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