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ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Reassigned RHPs Jason Bulger and Scott
Dunn
to their minor league camp. [3/28]

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Purchased the contract of RHP Jim Brower from Ottawa
(Triple-A); reassigned LHP Vic Darensbourg, RHP
Andy Mitchell, UT-R Napoleon Calzado, OF-B
Esix Snead, 3B-R Fernando Tatis, INF-B
Eddy Garabito, and UT-L Howie Clark to
their minor league camp; placed RHP Aaron Rakers on the
60-day DL. [3/28]

Don’t mistake purchase for progress: Brower has a job because he’s
right-handed and has a functioning right arm for the time being, and the
Orioles seem to have found themselves in a predicament where they’re a wee
bit short of those kinds of people. Maybe Leo Mazzone thinks there’s a
reason to give Brower an ‘Incomplete’ for last season’s work with the
Braves, and that he’s going to bounce back to his groundball-y goodness from
his Giants days. At 33, Brower isn’t that old, so it’s worth hoping.
Better than taking a ride with Ricky Bottalico, at any rate.

BOSTON RED SOX
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Optioned RHPs Manny Delcarmen and Craig
Hansen
to Pawtucket (Triple-A); lost INF-R Tony
Graffanino
on waivers to the Royals. [3/28]

Both demotions are a little disappointing, since both pitchers had good
camps. But with Jonathan Papelbon rounding into good form,
the only thing that was going to get either of them onto the Opening Day
roster was an injury to one of the veteran relievers–which didn’t
happen–or a fit of pique over how bad David Riske has been
in camp. But even if that would have been temporarily gratifying, dumping
Riske was never in the cards, not when the team has to count on reliable
good health from guys like Curt Schilling, David
Wells
, and Rudy Seanez. So this is dull and
sensible. It’s what might happen later, when Delcarmen and Hansen are mowing
people down in Pawtucket while one of the relievers does a convincing
Ramiro Mendoza impression, that things will get
interesting.

As for losing Graffy on waivers, I’m more than a little surprised, because
there are teams out there who could use him. That Theo Epstein and company
couldn’t swing even a minor deal is another minor disappointment, not really
the sort of thing to get worked up over, but sort of a head-scratcher,
because the Royals should be able to turn around and flip Graffanino for
something they could use.

CHICAGO WHITE SOX
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Reassigned LHP Javier Lopez and RHP Tim
Redding
to their minor league camp. [3/27]

And just like that, we have a not-in-book guy to talk about. Unlike our
mistake in not having the Rockies’ Luis Gonzalez in the
book–blame me, it’s an oversight I should have caught–I don’t think anyone
expected Boone Logan to essentially make a leap from the
Pioneer League to The Show. A 20th round pick in the 2002 draft, despite
wearing a name most male soap opera leads would kill for, Logan was closer
to washing out than making Double-A before last season. He’d struggled at
short season Great Falls in both 2003 and 2004, but he’s left-handed and
he’s big, and the Sox didn’t give up on him. Instead, they got him to change
his arm angle and come at hitters from something between side-arming and a
three-quarters delivery, and that plus a steady role in the bullpen suddenly
made a pitcher out of him last season.

That said, consider me a skeptic on the subject of this particular
Cinderella story. This isn’t just a big jump, this is a kamikaze call-up. In
his first appearance at any level above the Pioneer League at the end of
last season, Logan struggled in the Carolina League, which you’d expect,
considering he’d only just turned 21 and had less than a half-season’s worth
of working with a new set of mechanics.

So now the pen is set, and it’s interesting that the Sox are going with a
50-50 split, three lefties and three righties, at least while Dustin
Hermanson
is on the DL. That mix might make a Strat manager
slobber, but in the early going of a real life season, I think it just means
that Neal Cotts gets to be the lefty you use with a lead,
Matt Thornton gets a few straightforward middle relief
gigs, and Logan gets used sparingly until Hermanson gets reactivated, at
which point the Pumpkin Train goes back to the Carolina League, or perhaps
Birmingham, and the Sox get to see what real progress Logan can make
beyond earning a major league junket after a big spring adventure.

As for Lopez and Redding, it isn’t like they don’t have command and control
issues of their own to iron out, so we’ll see how they do in Charlotte. It’s
perhaps better that the Sox didn’t turn to one of them too quickly, lest
they resemble the Yankees trying to sort out the virtues of Wayne
Franklin
last season, or the Red Sox waiting on Jeremi
Gonzalez
to get helpful.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Signed LHP Felix Heredia to a minor league contract. [3/28]

Heredia had been released by the Snakes at the end of last week, so now he’s
a token lefty alternative for the Indians, in case something bad happens to
Scott Sauerbeck I suppose, and in case they don’t want to
have to add someone like Tony Sipp before they have to. I
don’t know about you, but if Heredia’s what’s under the glass you have to
break “In Case of Emergency,” that sounds like a reason to
evacuate the building.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Reassigned 3B-L Alex Gordon to Wichita (Double-A);
reassigned UT-B Chris Clapinski, SS-R Wilson
Valdez
, INF-R Benji Gil, and 3B-R Mike
Coolbaugh
, and C-R Paul Phillips to Omaha
(Triple-A); placed RHP Runelvys Hernandez on the 15-day DL
(stamina). [3/27]

Claimed INF-R Tony Graffanino off of waivers from the Red
Sox; claimed RHP Steve Andrade off of waivers from the
Padres; designated OF-R Chip Ambres for assignment; placed
LHP Bobby Madritsch on the 60-day DL; reassigned UT-R
Joe McEwing to their minor league camp. [3/28]

As much as I’m enthusiastic about the decisions to grab Graffy and Andrade
off of waivers, this is still the cup half-empty. Yes, Andrade should be a
worthwhile asset in the Royals pen, and Graffanino can be either trade bait
or the man who kills Esteban German‘s latest bid for
relevance. These are both good things, small improvements to a team with few
ambitions. But why dump Ambres? Maybe it’s because I’m not a big believer in
Shane Costa‘s being ready, maybe that I don’t think even a
team with a pitching staff as moribund as the Royals needs a seventh
reliever, but this is not a team that should be ditching useful
talent. Why not offer to return German to the Rangers? Even if they wanted
him, you wouldn’t miss him. And if they didn’t take him back, and you wanted
to outright him to Omaha, who would claim him? It’s Esteban frickin’ German.
Heck, as much as I love Matt Stairs, it would have made
more sense to dump or deal him, and keep Ambres. Maddening. I don’t know how
Rany keeps the faith.

NEW YORK YANKEES
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Optioned RHP Colter Bean to Columbus (Triple-A); reassigned
RHP Mark Corey and LHP Dusty Bergman to their minor league
camp. [3/27]

SEATTLE MARINERS
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Optioned RHP Jesse Foppert to Tacoma. [3/27]

Foppert had an option, and the Mariners want him starting every fifth day.
He is still coming back from the elbow surgery that cost him the 2004
season, so this is one of those situations where I actually think it really
makes sense to skip putting him in the bullpen. Foppert’s already seen
plenty of major league action, having spent a good chunk of 2003 in the
Giants’ rotation, so it isn’t like he needs to get used to being in the big
leagues. What he needs to do is work regularly, build up his arm strength,
and be ready for that point later on this season when either Gil
Meche
or Joel Pineiro break down or drive Mike
Hargrove beyond simple disgust. Besides, his dozen walks and two hit batsmen
in eight spring innings suggest he’s far from being someone you’d rely on in
any role right now.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
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Optioned RHP Tim Corcoran to Durham (Triple-A); reassigned
LHP Wayne Franklin to their minor league camp. [3/28]

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Reassigned RHP James Baldwin to their minor league camp.
[3/28]

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Optioned RHP Dustin Nippert, LF-R Scott
Hairston
, and 2B/SS-B Alberto Callaspo to their
minor league camp; reassigned RHP Mike Koplove, 3B/2B-R
Brian Barden, SS-L Steven Drew, and C-R
Juan Brito to their minor league camp. [3/27]

Reassigned LHP Randy Choate to their minor league camp.
[3/28]

If you were getting all worked up over what was going to happen once
Craig Counsell went to the DL to open the season, I hate to
be the last one to tell you, but that particular parade has been canceled.
Instead, Drew will get another couple of months in the minors, Callaspo will
try to make headway in the PCL, and Nippert will bide his time until he gets
to challenge for a rotation slot. In Nippert’s case, that’s going to depend
on either Claudio Vargas struggling or Orlando
Hernandez
breaking down, neither of which is all that improbable.

Meanwhile, Barden will continue to tickle some people’s fancy, but now that
Chad Tracy is back at third, the most he can hope for is
the opportunity to play Mickey
Klutts
to Tracy’s Graig Nettles. The guy to feel for,
perhaps, is Hairston, because he has so very little opportunity here. He’s
not going to beat out the Jeff DaVanons of the world, and
he’s already behind Carlos Quentin and Chris
Young
. If he has a future, it’s somewhere else, and probably in the
DH league.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Optioned C-B Brayan Pena and SS-R Tony
Pena
to Richmond (Triple-A). [3/28]

CHICAGO CUBS
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Acquired RHP Lincoln Holdzkom and LHP Zach
McCormack
from the Marlins for RHP Todd
Wellemeyer
; announced the retirement of OF-R Marquis
Grissom
; placed RHPs Kerry Wood and Mark
Prior
on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/27; optioned RHPs
David Aardsma, Angel Guzman, and
Jae Kuk Ryu to Iowa (Triple-A); assigned C-R Casey
Kopitzke
to minor league camp. [3/28]

Nightmares averted and realized seem to the mini-theme of yesterdays movin’
and shakin’. Yes, Wood and Prior are both on the DL, and not even Sunny Jim could add either a
happy spin or some feel-good crunchiness to that. It’s the Cubs’ lot to
contend at the leisure of both men’s joints. Maybe the Cardinals don’t
sprint out to a big lead, but if Wood misses a month and Prior isn’t back
until late May or early June, it’s going to take some big breaks to keep the
Cubs in the hunt for anything involving concepts like “October”
and being too busy to golf. In their place, Sean Marshall
has pitched his way into the rotation, an early break and one which,
hopefully, won’t turn out as badly as you might worry about a guy with
shoulder problems in his past and only ten starts above A-ball under his
belt.

There is some happy news, however. When even Dusty can’t excuse your way
onto the roster, Grissom accepted the inevitable. His remains a remarkable
career in a couple of ways, but I think it’s his 2002-04 stretch that should
make people remember the wisdom of not giving up too soon on multi-tool
veterans. Grissom could still field and still hurt lefties, and still had
enough power to keep around in a semi-regular role at the very least,
regardless of what his birth certificate suggested. Also somewhat in the
“basically good news” category was decision to dump Wellemeyer.
This was a product of the organization’s impressive pitching depth, as well
as Dusty’s growing (and understandable) disenchantment with Wellemeyer’s
control issues.

CINCINNATI REDS
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Signed OF-L Terrence Long to a minor league contract;
released OF-R Steve Smitherman; reassigned RHP Jake
Robbins
to their minor league camp. [3/27]

Acquired C-R Ryan Jorgensen for INF Carlos
Piste
. [3/28]

T-Dog, on top of Alex Sanchez and Quinton
McCracken
? Apparently the “Bad Fifth Outfielders”
traveling exhibit from the Hall of Fame is settling in as part of the
permanent landscape in Cincinnati. Some fans might wish this was about
adding veteran depth to a moribund farm system, but this doesn’t really
achieve that, certainly not any better than having Jason
Romano
and Pedro Swann at Louisville last year.
Not to take anything away from Chris Denorfia‘s defensive
prowess in center, but he’s going to be hard-pressed covering all of the
outfield at Louisville. It would be difficult to find two less instinctual
or effective outfielders than Long and Sanchez, and neither seem likely to
help the Bats do well in that all-important pennant chase in the
International League.

COLORADO ROCKIES
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Optioned C-B J.D. Closser and 3B-R Jeff
Baker
to Colorado Springs (Triple-A); reassigned RHPs Jose
Acevedo
and Miguel Asencio, 1B-L Carlos
Rivera
, and 3B-L Ian Stewart to their minor league
camp. [3/28]

A couple of minor surprises, but I wouldn’t count Closser among them. He
clearly needs to prove something to the organization after last season, and
a little bit of improved footwork behind the plate in camp is only the start
of what he needs to do if he’s to reclaim his job from journeymen like
Danny Ardoin or Yorvit Torrealba. Still,
I’ve always been something of a fan of Ardoin, and since it wasn’t like the
Rockies were going to win the pennant, I’m happy to see him continue to ride
this particular wave to whatever destination it takes him to. If anything, I’m more
disappointed to see Asencio go down now, but it’s understandable. If he
wasn’t going to be guaranteed regular work on the big league staff, better
to let him get in regular work and be ready to replace the Kims or
Jose Mesa or Scott Dohmann when they all
spontaneously combust.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned RHP Nate Bump to Albuquerque (Triple-A). [3/27]

Acquired RHP Todd Wellemeyer from the Cubs for RHP
Lincoln Holdzkom and LHP Zach McCormack.
[3/28]

If you’re a Marlins fan and wondering what Wellemeyer does that
Travis Bowyer wasn’t supposed to do, you’re not alone.
Still, using fish-farming sensibilities, every live arm might spawn a major
league pitcher, and even if most won’t, getting Wellemeyer for the
infrequently healthy Holdzkom and a minor league lefty isn’t a bad pickup.
Because Wellemeyer was out of options, the Cubs had to move him, but that
means he’s a lock to be on the Opening Day roster for the Marlins. This
probably screws Randy Messenger, Chris
Resop
, and Kerry Ligtenberg simultaneously–betcha
the Playboy mansion can’t top that on a Saturday night–but Wellemeyer’s a
better ‘maybe’ than any of them.

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Optioned C-R Humberto Quintero to Round Rock (Triple-A);
reassigned LHP Carlos Hernandez to their minor league camp.
[3/27]

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
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Optioned LHP Tim Hamulack and RHPs D.J.
Houlton
and Jonathan Broxton to Las Vegas
(Triple-A); reassigned LHP Kelly Wunsch to their minor
league camp. [3/27]

Optioned 2B/3B-B Willy Aybar and SS/?-R Joel
Guzman
to Las Vegas (Triple-A). [3/28]

That’s four people who can pitch in the big leagues all going down at once,
a reflection of the relative riches that the Dodgers have when it comes to
pitching. When Yhency Brazoban goes from savior to the
eleventh man on the staff, it speaks volumes for how much things have
changed–not simply in terms of people being brought in, but more basically,
how many people either have some experience or better health. It might be
surprising that Hamulack and Wunsch both lost out to Hong-Chih
Kuo
for the situational lefty job, but that’s Grady Little showing
us just enough initiative to keep people on their toes. Besides, Kuo is the
best talent of the lot, so it’s defensible in a couple of ways. Guzman? Much
as I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid that’s got people thinking that
Jose Cruz Jr. is back, I can understand the reluctance to
give the kid a job on Opening Day. May 15, on the other hand… and Aybar?
He was screwed by the decision to go with Ramon Martinez,
which was predictable given the high expectations the Dodgers have for this
season.

No, if there’s a real surprise here, it’s that Broxton got sent down. He
didn’t help matters by having a spotty camp, but there also wasn’t much
margin for error. Four jobs were locked up: Eric Gagne,
Brazoban, Danys Baez, and Lance Carter.

One job goes to a lefty (Kuo, as we now know), and the sixth slot was won by
Franquelis Osoria, who isn’t too shabby a prospect himself.
So, rather than keep Broxton at the bottom of the totem pole, he’s ruling
the roost in Vegas. We’ll see how long that lasts: Brazoban could get the
yips again, and Carter really isn’t that special.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Requested waivers on RHP Kane Davis for the purpose of
giving him his unconditional release; outrighted UT-B Zach
Sorensen
to Nashville (Triple-A) (which, agreeably enough, he
accepted). [3/27]

Davis didn’t look sharp this spring, but let’s face it, it’s only Kane
Davis, and the Brewpen has gotten crowded of late. Jose
Capellan
and Justin Lehr have both had good camps,
and Rick Helling will head for the bullpen once his elbow
heals up, an assignment made easier because David Bush won
the fifth slot in the rotation for himself. At any rate, dumping Davis and
Sorensen clears away two spots on the 40-man, which in turn makes space for
the knuckleballing non-roster invite, Jared Fernandez,
should they elect to keep him.

NEW YORK METS
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Outrighted RHP Mitch Wylie to Norfolk (Triple-A); Wylie
refused the assignment and became a free agent. [3/27]

Optioned 2B-R Jeff Keppinger, OF-R Lastings
Milledge
, OF-L Tike Redman, 1B/OF-L Todd
Self
, and C-L Sandy Martinez to Norfolk
(Triple-A); reassigned LHPs Royce Ring and Juan
Perez
to their minor league camp; placed 2B/SS-R Kazuo
Matsui
on the 15-day DL (sprained knee), retroactive to 3/18.
[3/28]

Yes, Keppinger’s performances, in real games or spring training, matter
little, and Willie Randolph does a convincing impression of his former
chief, Joe Torre. But happily, Kaz Matsui is out of action,
so there is the hope that Anderson Hernandez might yet open
his boss’s eyes and win at least a significant chunk of the second base job.
I know, Mets fans, I’ve worried this particular bone long past the marrow’s
expiration date, but I still find it exasperating that Randolph doesn’t see
“improving the ballclub” anywhere in his job description. This is
a division the Mets can and should win, Braves legendry aside, but they
can’t cavalierly discards runs gained on offense, and runs saved in the
field, by pretending their investment in Matsui makes sense from here on
out. The last year of their deal with Matsui should be sunk deeper than the
Marianas Trench, and best forgotten.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Reassigned LHP Cole Hamels to their minor league camp;
optioned RHPs Yoel Hernandez and Aquilino
Lopez
to Scranton/Wilkes Barre (Triple-A). [3/27]

Traded RHP Aquilino Lopez to the Padres for OF-R
Matt Thayer and 3B-R Trey Johnston. [3/28]

Lopez was probably tainted by being one of Ed Wade’s last pickups, but he’s
a pretty replaceable talent, and the Phillies got bodies for him, so give
Pat Gillick some credit. Johnston’s green, but Thayer’s
that athletic outfielder of the sort that Gillick has always seemed to
favor, and after playing college ball at UCLA, you might see him move up in
the organization pretty quickly. The pen seems set now that Geoff
Geary
and Julio Santana have clearly won two slots
behind the front foursome of Flash Gordon, Rheal
Cormier
, Aaron Fultz, and Arthur
Rhodes
, with Chris Booker headed for the DL. This
might mean that both Eude Brito and Robinson
Tejeda
start the year in Scranton, but I don’t see that as a
particular setback, since both are still more than a little rough around the
edges.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Released RHP Brian Sikorski; outrighted RHP Jason
Anderson
and 1B-L Walter Young to Portland
(Triple-A); optioned C-L Pete Laforest to Portland;
reassigned RHPs Seth Etherton and Jon
Adkins
, LHP Ryan Meaux, INF-R Ricky
Gutierrez
, and DH-L Jack Cust to their minor
league camp. [3/27]

Acquired RHP Aquilino Lopez from the Phillies for OF-R
Matt Thayer and 3B-R Trey Johnston. [3/28]

As much as Lopez’ slider is an impressive pitch, I’m not sure I’d rather
have him than Steve Andrade, who the Pads let go on waivers
(losing him to the Royals). But it’s interesting to see the extent to which
Kevin Towers’ plans for his bullpen were flexible, because Sikorski was
imported from Japan in the expectation that he’d stick, and guys like
Andrade, Meaux, and Adkins had real opportunities. Who’s left to fight for
the last spot or two in the pen? Scott Cassidy,
Brian Sweeney, and Eric Junge, but
Andy Ashby‘s still standing, out of sympathy more than
anything else. He’s been pasted regularly, so hopefully the Pads are only
treating this as an opportunity to let him retire in the final week of
exhibition play. Cassidy, Sweeney, and Junge are all retreads of different
stripes: Junge’s in his fourth organization, Cassidy his third, and both
have some big league experience. Sweeney’s the tough luck story, or another
entry in the “I was a Mariners pitching prospect” chapter from
Weird Tales. None of them are young (Sweeney and Cassidy are both
past 30), and all of them have had enough bad breaks that you hope something
goes well for each of them, but it’s hard to see more than two sticking.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
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Optioned RHPs Brad Hennessey and Merkin
Valdez
and OF-B Daniel Ortmeier to Fresno
(Triple-A).

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Released RHP Jeff Nelson; reassigned 1B-L Brian
Daubach
to their minor league camp. [3/26]

I’m impressed, because Nelson was having a good camp, but the Cardinals
might have decided that, after last season’s experience of waiting around
for Cal Eldred to heal up, and losing Al
Reyes
right before the playoffs, perhaps the last thing they might
have wanted to count on was the sporadically healthy and infrequently
dominating Nelson. The decision apparently leaves four pitchers competing
for two jobs in the pen: Brian Falkenborg, Alan
Benes
, Josh Hancock (he of the “too heavy to
be a Red” fame), and Adam Wainwright. As we were all
taught as kids, one of these things is not like the others. Nothing against
the three retreads (all of whom are having good camps), while Wainwright
didn’t really get much of a shot at the fifth slot in the rotation, I’d
suggest that he’d be well-suited for an old-fashioned middle relief job.
Although he posted a merely mediocre season for Memphis in 2005, he could
follow the trail blazed by Brad Thompson last summer, and
give the Cards yet another young and talented reliever. He’s 24, could use
the exposure to Dave Duncan and some of the veterans on the club, and would
thus probably get more out of 75-85 innings in the bigs than he would out of
another 180 in the PCL. It makes for an interesting process, in that they
seem to be slowly weaning themselves off of the Eldreds and the Nelsons,
Julian Tavarez and Ray King.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
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Placed RHPs Luis Ayala, Ryan Drese, and
Brian Lawrence, 1B/C-L Robert Fick, and
SS-B Cristian Guzman on the 15-day DL, all retroactive to
3/24. [3/27]

Optioned OF-L Ryan Church, RHP Jason
Bergmann
, and 2B/3B-R Brendan Harris to New
Orleans (Triple-A); reassigned LHP Bill Bray to their minor
league camp; purchased the contracts of SS-R Royce Clayton
and 1B-L Daryle Ward from New Orleans; transferred RHPs
Luis Ayala and Brian Lawrence from the 15-
to the 60-day DL. [3/28]

Watson over Church? Watson over Church? Sweet Jeebus, not even
Sherlock Holmes would make that choice. Talk about taking the edge off of
the bittersweet joy that comes with having Clayton represent an upgrade, not
to mention coming to terms with a ballclub that has the interchangeably
unthreatening lefty bats of Ward, Michael Tucker, and
Marlon Anderson. Now, maybe this is all about motivating
people, because Church did have a lousy camp, while Watson did what he had
to do to resemble the leadoff hitter that Frank Robinson wishes he had.

Strictly speaking, from a stathead perspective this is as silly a choice as
a club can make. Church has a future as a big league slugger and as a solid
everyday outfielder, although he might not be someone you really want
playing center field with any regularity. Watson, by contrast, might grow up
to be an honorary Goodwin. It would be easy to write this decision off as
some flavor of dopiness derived from thinking that Scott
Podsednik
and Juan Pierre were the reasons why
Chicago won in ’05 and Florida in ’03. If such is the case, we live in times
that might inspire an Omar Moreno comeback.

But there’s another issue here, which perhaps should only be treated in
passing in part because it’s a particularly delicate subject, which is the
question of Church’s religiosity. He made it an issue with some of his
teammates last season, and as much as Church has the freedom to practice his
faith, he doesn’t have the freedom to badger teammates and make himself a
distraction. That’s for Jim Bowden to do, after all. So beyond possibly
trying to light a fire under Church as a professional, this could be about
inculcating a measure of professionalism. It isn’t like the Nats are going
to contend, and while they’ll probably make that big move up to fourth place
this summer, it shouldn’t surprise anyone when they fall short of matching
last season’s .500 record.

If there’s one repercussion of this that will really bear watching, it’s how
often the third base coach of the opposing team takes advantage of every
ball hit to the left field gap against the Nationals. Between Watson’s
well-beyond-al dente noodle of an arm, and Soriano’s gifted waddling,
there could a lot of extra bases taken against the Nats on balls in play to
the outfield.

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