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ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Assigned RHPs Nick Adenhart, Jose
Arredondo
, and Bob Zimmerman, and C-Rs
Brenton Del Chiaro and Brett Martinez to
their minor league camp. [3/13]

I have to admit, I’m just not enough of a Bob Dylan fan to say something
really humorous about the decision to demote Zimmerman. My taste for Dylan is like my
taste for Johnny Cash,
extremely limited at best. Okay, let’s try this: now that he’s been sent
back down to play in some flyover state ballpark, maybe it’s a good thing
that he loves that country pie. See, that isn’t funny, it’s just cryptic,
unless you really liked Nashville Skyline; Steven Goldman’s Zimmerman
gag in this year’s book is much, much better.

Meanwhile, perhaps we should take a cue from Sam Peckinpaugh,
and see if anyone wants to do an extra-gory super slo-mo highlight reel of
Zimmerman’s exploits in the equally dusty wastes of the minor leagues. I
seem to remember that Dylan has a scene where he threw a knife pretty well;
maybe that clip would make for a scoreboard distraction whenever Zimmerman
pitches. I suppose it beats trying to convince the people of Arkansas to
make sock monkeys to
wave frenetically as a demonstration of their patriotic enthusiasm for their
current affiliation with the Angels.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Reassigned LHP John Parrish and RHPs Orber
Moreno
and Ryan Keefer to their minor league camp.
[3/10]

Reassigned RHP John Stephens to their minor league camp;
optioned LHP Adam Loewen, and RHPs Brian
Finch
, J.J. Johnson, and Marino
Salas
to Bowie (Double-A). [3/13]

Stephens hasn’t impressed anyone this spring, not pitching for the Orioles
nor Australia, so his early dismissal can’t really be seen as a surprise.
Similarly, although I suspect that we’ll see Parrish, Keefer, and Moreno in
Baltimore at different points of the season, all three are either recovering
from a previous injury or trying to overcome something more recent, and all
three had to be taken out of the Orioles’ considerations for who’s actually
going to be on the staff come Opening Day.

It isn’t a question of whether or not the choices aren’t all that great as
much as that there simply just aren’t that many of them. Aaron
Rakers
will open the year on the 60-day DL after shoulder surgery,
and Todd Williams is hurting, which combine to leave the
Orioles with just Chris Ray and LaTroy
Hawkins
for right-handed relievers on the 40-man with big league
experience who haven’t broken down. Journeymen like Ricky
Bottalico
and Jim Brower were supposed to fill in
the gaps, but both have pitched badly enough to earn their releases in the
coming weeks. Among the lefties, with Parrish out of the running, it would
seem that Eric DuBose and Tim Byrdak are
locks for lefty bullpen jobs, although Sendy Rleal is
having a good camp, and let’s face it, the O’s could cut both Byrdak and
DuBose and not miss them. So opportunities exist for all sorts of NRIs or
farmhands. From the 40-man, minor leaguer Chris Britton is
getting a long look after striking out 110 in 78.2 IP in the Carolina League
(A-ball), and from among the NRI RHPs, Eddy Rodriguez has
had a few moments. From the comeback pool, onetime Braves prospect
Winston Abreu seems to be doing well with his reunion with
Leo Mazzone. Among the lefties, beyond Rleal (who’s on the 40-man),
Franklyn Gracesqui might stick, and journeyman John
Halama
hasn’t embarrassed himself. So consider this a camp where
several people really are working for jobs, and where GM Mike Flanagan might
have to both keep an eye on the waiver wire and also seriously shake up his
40-man roster before the season starts.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned LHPs Abe Alvarez and Jon Lester,
RHPs Edgar Martinez, Jermaine Van Buren,
and David Pauley, and OF-Ls David Murphy
and Brandon Moss to Pawtucket (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs
Tim Bausher and Franklin Nunez, 1B-Ls
Josh Pressley and Luis Jimenez, 3B-R
Rodney Nye, and OF-R Tyler Minges to their
minor league camp. [3/13]

No real surprises here, although naturally everyone’s going to watch Lester
wherever he goes. I would have liked to have seen Van Buren and Alvarez earn
longer looks, but Van Buren didn’t, and Alvarez seems destined for rotation
work in Pawtucket because of a rotation already crowded with seven plausible
options. Okay, six, considering the way Jon Papelbon
is pitching. I guess I’m a little more surprised that they didn’t give
Alvarez more thought as a long reliever, especially when the lefty relief
help in camp basically boil down to Lenny DiNardo and …
Mike Holtz? Craig Breslow? A decision to
just punt on situational obsessions? I doubt that, but then if they’d kept
Alvarez around, I’d hope they wouldn’t shove him into that particular player
usage cul-de-sac.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Reassigned OF-R Ben Francisco and OF-B Trevor
Crowe
to their minor league camp. [3/9]

Signed SS-R Jhonny Peralta to a five-year, $13 million
contract, with a club option for 2011. [3/10]

The Indians are also trying to lock in Cliff Lee and
Grady Sizemore, and after locking in Travis
Hafner
, C.C. Sabathia, and Victor
Martinez
to long-term extensions last spring, I think it’s safe to
say that GM Marc Shapiro has thoroughly learned the lesson of former GM John
Hart in locking up his team’s core talent early, and avoiding the needless
sturm und drang of arbitration, let alone the caprices of the
arbitrators. It isn’t necessarily very sexy, but the Peralta deal is
particularly smart in that buying out the $7 million option for 2011 only
costs the Tribe $250K. Some fellow GMs and owners might squawk, considering
that Peralta wasn’t even necessarily arb-eligible after this season, but Peralta’s breakdown season by season is pretty cheap: a $1.25 million
signing bonus, $500K this year, $750K next, $2.25M in ’08, $3.4M in ’09, and
$4.6M in 2010. That’s certainly within Cleveland’s budget, and not problematic
if Shapiro subsequently feels he has to shop Peralta;
say, if the Indians come up with an even better shortstop, or Peralta has to
move off of short, or Peralta struggles in 2008, making him available and
yet affordable to a potential bidder.

DETROIT TIGERS
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Reassigned C-R Chris Robinson to their minor league camp.
[3/12]

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Reassigned RHPs Philip Hughes and Darrell
Rasner
, C-R Jason Brown, OF-L Chris
Prieto
, and 2B-R Danny Garcia to their minor
league camp. [3/11]

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Optioned OF-R Javier Herrera to Sacramento (Triple-A);
reassigned RHPs Adam Johnson, Alex Santos,
and Mac Suzuki, UT-R Hiram Bocachica, OF-L
Danny Putnam, and C-B Raul Casanova to
their minor league camp. [3/13]

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Optioned RHP Carlos Hines and LHP Jon
Switzer
to Durham (Triple-A); optioned RHP Jeff
Niemann
to Montgomery (Double-A); reassigned C-R Josh
Arhart
, RHPs Jack Cressend, Bart
Miadich
, and Tony Peguero, and LHP Jose
Rodriguez
to their minor league camp. [3/11]

Assigned RHP Juan Salas and C-R Chairon
Isenia
to their minor league camp. [3/12]

Even with this many demotions from among the pitchers, the D-Rays still have
things to sort out with their staff. The bullpen is especially wide
open. There, long-in-the-tooth non-roster invites like Wayne
Franklin
and Travis Driskill are hoping to vulture
roster spots at the expense of equally dubious options like Jesus
Colome
, Chad Harville, or Shawn
Camp
. Franklin’s bid seems more likely still, since he’s one of the
few health lefties in camp, but farmhand Chris Seddon is
having a good camp, and is already on the 40-man. (And who knows, if
Edwin Jackson Pipps Mark Hendrickson out
of the rotation, maybe the gentle giant and former Piniella project will go
to the pen and become a lefty reliever.) Similarly, Jason
Hammel
might make the jump from minor league rotation to the big
league bullpen. And of course, there’s the wait for Shinji
Mori
, as he overcomes some persistent shoulder stiffness. So, no
differently than the Orioles, this is a camp where all sorts of things could
happen, and you might find some strange names on the Opening Day roster.

TEXAS RANGERS
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Optioned 2B/3B-R Aarom Baldiris to Frisco (Double-A);
reassigned C-R Mike Nickeas and OF-B Ruddy
Yan
to their minor league camp. [3/11]

Optioned RHPs Wes Littleton and Armando
Galarraga
to Frisco (Double-A). [3/13]

Littleton and Galarraga both might not rate with the DVD trio of
Thomas Diamond, Edison Volquez, and
John Danks among the organization’s top pitching prospects,
but they aren’t too far behind. Despite the demotions, both might rate
call-ups within this season, especially if Littleton continues to improve as
a reliever, and if Galarraga translates his appealing aggressiveness on the
mound into results at Double-A. On a more minor note, while I like Baldiris
as a potentially handy player who might possibly fill in for a team that
might otherwise do something expensive and pointless (like Joe
Randa
or Mark Grudzielanek), as a Ranger farmhand,
keep in mind that he’s really only a bargaining chip for the time being.
Let’s face it, it isn’t like he’s about to send notice to Hank
Blalock
or even Ian Kinsler that Ma Baldiris’ boy
isn’t a Met any more.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Optioned RHP Ryan Houston to Syracuse (Triple-A); optioned
RHP Vince Perkins to New Hampshire (Double-A). [3/13]

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Reassigned OF-B Jarred Ball, OF-R Marland
Williams
, and SS-R Justin Upton to their minor
league camp. [3/12]

Whatever futures they portend, stars don’t wax or wane, they just burn out
or blaze on. Which sort of illustrates the differing career arcs of Williams
and Upton. We all know about Upton, and how he already rates among the top
prospects in baseball despite not yet making his pro debut. Spring training
simply added to the sense of anticipation, as Upton ripped off a quick
six-for-ten with a couple of doubles and a triple. Sure, that can be camp in
Arizona, but nothing about seeing big league camp seems to have given Upton
anything other than another hint of his potential greatness. In contrast,
although not a 1st-round pick, Williams was once thought of as a clever
draft-and-follow pick, a promising speedster the Snakes signed almost a year
after taking him in the 36th round in the 2001 draft. Williams has yet to
really hit at any level, but because he was fast, he got touts, and
naturally, some people listened. But he’s never been a prospect, and while
he’ll only be turning 25 in June, does anyone think he’s going to finally
start hitting at Double-A in his third go-round at that level?

And what about Jarred Ball? Well, he just plays here, although he’s already
got a better future than Williams, having shown that he could put a few
runs on the board at Double-A last season as a 22 year-old (.253/.377/.363,
39 steals against 18 times caught). That’s not a prospect, though, just a
young guy who hasn’t done enough to put a dent in his future, the way
Williams already has. Neither Williams nor Ball is on the 40-man, so if an
NRI like Terry Mulholland, Kevin Jarvis is
going to stick, it won’t be at either Ball’s or Williams’ expense.

CHICAGO CUBS
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Reassigned RHPs Bryan Corey and Bobby
Brownlie
to their minor league camp. [3/11]

Acquired LHP Clint Brannon from the Rangers to complete the
Jon Leicester trade. [3/13]

Brannon’s not a bad little return. No need to get worked up, but he’s a
college lefty who had a nice
enough career at Arkansas
, he won’t have to be added to the Cubs’ 40-man
until after the year, and as this year’s improved and always handy Baseball
America Almanac reports, he limited lefties in the Cal League to a .190
average. Getting a possible future situational lefty for a possible big
league middle reliever isn’t a bad-looking exchange, not for Jim Hendry, nor
for his opposite number in Texas, Jon Daniels.

As for Bobby Brownlie, he doesn’t get mentioned along with Mark
Prior
and Kerry Wood, but you might consider him
the third man among the Cubs’ highly-touted 1st round pitcher picks,
the one whose disappointments trump theirs if only because he has yet to
overcome his perpetual arm problems after three seasons down on the farm. At
this point, the Cubs are left hoping that he does better than Orson
Welles
, and turns up before the last fifteen minutes of a season, any
season.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Optioned RHP Elizardo Ramirez and 2B/SS-B Rainer
Olmedo
to Louisville (Triple-A); optioned RHP Travis
Chick
, LHP Phil Dumatrait, C-R Miguel
Perez
, and 1B-L Joey Votto to Chattanooga
(Double-A); reassigned RHP Jimmy Journell and LHP
Ben Kozlowski to their minor league camp. [3/13]

Since William Bergolla is hurting, he and Olmedo never did
get to have that cage match to resolve the question of their
interchangeability, which in turn means potentially happy news for
Frank Menechino. Meanwhile, in the absence of any other
dark horses, the Reds get to be that much more serious about Tony
Womack
versus Ryan Freel. As much as I’m willing
to give new GM Wayne Krivsky plenty of rope in the early days of his reign,
if this is anything more than pantomime player management, and if Freel
isn’t more or less guaranteed his job, you have to ask what sort of
diagnostic skills the new brains of the operation will have brought to the
table. If you cannot quickly recognize that Womack’s worthless, and
certainly if you take longer than Joe Torre to notice, then the Reds’ load
of problems won’t be getting any lighter any time soon.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Reassigned LHP Jimmy Anderson, RHP Nic
Ungs
, and C-Rs Brad Davis and C Brett
Hayes
to their minor league camp. [3/10]

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Assigned OF-L Brad Nelson to Nashville (Triple-A);
reassigned C-B Carlos Corporan, C-R Lou
Palmisano
, and LHP Mitch Stetter to their minor
league camp. [3/11]

Optioned LHP Manny Parra to Huntsville (Double-A). [3/13]

The Brewers organization gets appropriate props for the top shelf talent
they’ve developed in recent years, but you do need to remember that when
they aren’t cranking out blue chippers, they do also have all those other
guys, and there, the news isn’t quite so consistently excellent. Nelson and
Parra are two of the organization’s second-tier prospects trying to avoid
becoming third-tier prospects, a level Palmisano has already sunk
to. Like D-list celebrity, it’s not a place you want to be.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned 1B/OF-L Paul McAnulty and CF-B Freddy
Guzman
to Portland (Triple-A); optioned RHP Jared
Wells
, LHP Sean Thompson, and C-L George
Kottaras
to Mobile (Double-A); reassigned RHPs Kenny
Baugh
, Cesar Carrillo, and Mike
Thompson
, LHP Erick Burke, and SS-R Matt
Bush
to their minor league camp. [3/13]

It seems like a bit of a surprise that McAnulty and Guzman both got shipped
out this soon, but I’m guessing that Bruce Bochy is focusing on other
issues, like getting Ryan Klesko reps at first, and sorting out
whether or not he wants to keep both Ben Johnson and
Terrmel Sledge as outfield reserves beyond Eric
Young
. Johnson isn’t having a good spring, and Sledge has barely
played, so again, I am perhaps more surprised that Guzman was sent out this
quickly than I am that McAnulty was. Both remain prospects, but with so many
other things requiring Bochy’s attention, I suppose it was almost a matter
of just getting a few things out of his hair. Bochy pointed out that
McAnulty and Guzman both need reps they won’t get in big league camp, and
both will have all sorts of opportunities to earn call-ups within the
season, after Johnson or Sledge falter, or should the Pads stumble out of
the gate and decide to deal Klesko early.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Optioned RHPs Kelyn Acosta, Jon
Coutlangus
, and Alfredo Simon, LHPs Jesus
Reina
and Erick Threets, 1B-L Travis
Ishikawa
, and CF-L Fred Lewis to their minor
league camp; reassigned RHPs Jeff Miller, Billy
Sadler
, and Brian Wilson, LHP Jonathan
Sanchez
, C-R Todd Jennings, 2B-B Derin
McMains
, and OF-L Adam Shabala to their minor
league camp. [3/13]

There’s nothing really shocking here, and most of the names aren’t ones
you’re likely to have followed. Ishikawa and Lewis you should know about,
and Ishikawa’s probably got a good shot at being fast-tracked, at least for
as long as the Giants are pretending that they can get by with Lance
Niekro
as their everyday first baseman.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Optioned OF-R Reid Gorecki to their minor league camp;
reassigned OF-L Prentice Redman and C-Rs Brian
Esposito
and Iker Franco to their minor league
camp. [3/12]

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Signed 1B-L Nick Johnson to a three-year, $16.5 million
contract extension. [3/11]

Although being one of the world’s most vociferous Nick Johnson fans is an
experience that has had more lowlights than high, I cannot claim to feel his
pain. Any of them, for that matter. Nevertheless, it pains me to see the
Nats make this sort of commitment to him. Don’t get me wrong, I like having
Johnson around, and I certainly hope that he can remain healthy enough to
put up three more years with performance akin to last season’s. I do like
that Johnson’s got some not-insignificant bonuses for games played and plate
appearances, but the $5.5 million he’ll get in each of the next three years
isn’t chump change for a ward of the 29-man junta that owns the ballclub.
However the battle between Jose Vidro ($23 million owed
over the next three years) versus Alfonso Soriano ($10
million this year, arb-eligible and free agency-bound after the season)
plays out, this is a club that also has significant financial commitments
already made to Brian Schneider ($16 million over the next
four years) and Cristian Guzman ($13.35 over the next
three), all of which adds up. Not that all of the non-Guzmans I’ve mentioned
don’t have their uses, but does that sound like the core of a contending
ballclub? Vidro’s already 31, Soriano is 30, Johnson turns 28 this year,
Schneider 30 after it. These aren’t the future stars of an up-and-coming
team, they’re the guys as good as they’re going to be right now, and last
year’s 81-81 high water mark should tell you what you need to know about
this core. How well is Washington going to cope with a teardown? Is GM Jim
Bowden going to do that himself, or keep his mind on skedaddling ASAP? At
least we’ll get to see a lot of Ryan Zimmerman, and that’s
beginning to seem like the sort of thing worth the price of admission, on
this or any ballclub.