American League

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Purchased the contract of DH-R Tim Salmon; optioned 3B-L
Dallas McPherson, 1B-B Kendry Morales,
INF-B Brian Specht, RHPs Kevin Gregg and
Jered Weaver, C-R Mike Napoli, and OF-L
Curtis Pride to their minor league camp; designated RHP
Scott Dunn for assignment. [4/1]

Agreed to terms with RHP John Lackey on a three-year, $17
million contract with a club option for 2009. [4/3]

There are only a couple of things that need noting here. First, much as the
Angels might be the enemy for those of us who root for the A’s, I’m glad to
see Salmon back. No, the sentiment isn’t schadenfreude, just some
old-fashioned fannery, in that Salmon’s one of those guys you can
immediately identify as an Angel since always. Besides, it isn’t like
Garret Anderson is going to be all that, and if this
creates a playing time situation where Juan Rivera gets a
lot of time in the outfield, and Salmon filches some of Anderson’s at-bats
because he earns it, there’s nothing wrong with fielding a lineup where the
old-time Angels, Anderson and Salmon and Darin Erstad, too.

The move I find a bit frustrating is the decision to demote McPherson,
because it means that Chone Figgins is going to have to
play a lot of third base, and that keeps the concept of moving Figgins out
to center and benching Erstad a little more often off of Mike Scioscia’s
tactical menu. McPherson didn’t help his case by having a lousy camp,
though, and it wasn’t like he was much of a success story last season
either. In contrast, I’m not so busted about Gregg’s demotion: he was very
wild this spring, and between the pickups of Hector
and J.C. Romero, and Scioscia’s apparent
willingness to use Romero as something more than situational lefty, Gregg
really had to make Esteban Yan look bad, and Yan was
basically perfect.

Finally, there’s the Lackey deal, which was entirely sensible if you
believe, as I do, or more importantly, as metrics like PECOTA suggest, that
he’s an ace starter in his prime, and last season’s breakthrough is simply
the herald of what’s to come. This is the sort of guy you keep happy,
because more than Bartolo Colon or any other pitcher you’ve
got, his is the arm that you can beat almost anybody with. So arbitration
won’t be an issue, Lackey’s set, and maybe this buys the Angels a hometown
discount in 2010.

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Claimed C-R Raul Chavez off of waivers from the Astros.

Optioned C-R Eli Whiteside to Ottawa (Triple-A); reassigned
INF-R Ed Rogers, C-B Brandon Marsters,
LHP John Halama, and RHPs Cory Morris,
Eddy Rodriguez, and Tyler Yates to their
minor league camp; placed RHP Todd Williams and LHP
John Parrish on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 3/24. [4/1]

So, Nick Markakis makes the team, all so that he can
watch… what, the Jeff Conine Farewell Again Tour?
Kevin Millar demonstrate what you don’t want to do in the
outfield, or first base, or on the bases? I guess we shouldn’t be surprised
that, just because somebody has finally achieved the same status as Syd
Thrift once had in working for Clan Angelos and having the patriarch’s ear,
he wouldn’t end up being any less changed for the worse for it. As Kevin
Goldstein notes
, this doesn’t resemble a baseball decision in any way,
shape, or form.

The horrifying suggestion that the Orioles might have gone with a fourth
catcher (if you count Javy Lopez as one still), or that
they would choose Chavez over Eli Whiteside or even
Geronimo Gil as their third, could boggle the most
boggle-proof jaded commentator. And that’s really saying something; happily,
my boggler’s still not worn out from overuse, but clearly, some franchises
can generate more Boggle Abuse Points than others. After years of being
flat-out useless for the Astros, Chavez should have convincingly
demonstrated to everyone’s benefit that he can’t outhit your bullpen
catcher, let alone anybody outside of the Ken
/Alberto Castillo class of backup catchers.
And if you’re already stuck with Whiteside on your 40-man roster, why then
also commit a spot to Chavez? At 26, Whiteside isn’t a prospect with a
future, he’s a guy prepped to be a backup catcher right now.

The happier news was the decision to keep Sendy Rleal, as
he beat out John Halama. What’s going to be interesting is
watching to see what the Orioles do once they learn whether or not Rleal can
handle situational duties. If Rleal can, they can move past their
unfortunate crush on Tim Byrdak, and start think about
booting him for Williams in a couple of weeks (when he’s ready to come off
of the DL). As is, the pen could use another right-hander, because they’re
already depending on Jim Brower.

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Optioned OF-R Dustan Mohr to Pawtucket (Triple-A). [3/30]

Placed LHP David Wells and 1B-L Hee-Seop
on the 15-day DL. [4/1]

The only thing really worth noting here is that I’m pleased that the Sox
picked Adam Stern over Mohr for the last job in the
outfield. Admittedly, the Rule 5 consideration might have played a part, but
there’s very little that Mohr can offer that all sorts of minor league
journeymen can’t do just as well. In contrast, as a fifth outfielder,
Stern’s well-suited for the sort of stuff you’d want a fifth man to do on
this team: spot for your center fielder, and provide Terry Francona with a
pinch-runner in late and close situations. Considering that he’s more than a
year removed from getting a lot of real game playing time, it’s
understandable that he Sox might want to let Stern get some everyday play at
Pawtucket at some stretch of the season, but by August, I’d hope they’ve got
him up to stay.

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Agreed to terms with RHP Jose Contreras on a three-year,
$29 million contract extension through 2009; purchased the contract of LHP
Boone Logan; placed RHP Dustin Hermanson
on the 15-day DL (back). [4/1]

I’ve been singing Kenny Williams’ praises throughout the winter and into the
spring, but the decision to give Contreras this sort of money transcends
self-confident or bold and moves right into the foolhardy spectrum. Giving
Contreras staff ace money is something that means two things. First, that
you are absolutely confident that pitching coach Don Cooper will keep
Contreras from regressing back to being the Three True Outcomes (with a bit
too many of the two outcomes pitchers don’t enjoy so much) hurler that so exasperated
the Yankees. And two, that he’s not going to get old despite already being
34. Having earned full credit for fixing Contreras, the organization should
be rightly proud, but this sort of expense is a huge risk no matter what
Cooper can do with him. Will Contreras’ deal make it harder for the Sox to
afford Mark Buehrle, either in terms of picking up his 2007
option, or signing Buehrle beyond that season? Does it mean Freddy
is the guy who might leave as a free agent after 2007?
Javier Vazquez is also a free agent at that point.
Williams will certainly have both freedom of action to pick and choose from
among those three, perhaps creating an opportunity for Brandon
, but focusing on that can mean that you’re losing sight of
the question as to why, among the guys they have in this rotation, you pay
Contreras staff ace money, and why Contreras is under contract further into
the future than anybody else in the rotation, when his performance record is
the most spotty, and when he’s the oldest man in the group.

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Optioned RHP Jason Davis and 1B/OF-R Jason
to Buffalo (Triple-A); designated 2B/SS-R Brandon
and RHP Kazuhito Tadano for assignment;
purchased the contracts of RHP Danny Graves and OF-L
Todd Hollandsworth; reassigned RHP Steve
and C-Rs Einar Diaz and Tim
to their minor league camp. [4/1]

Placed LHP C.C. Sabathia on the 15-day DL (strained
oblique), retroactive to 4/3; recalled RHP Jason Davis from
Buffalo; traded RHP Kazuhito Tadano to the Athletics for
OF-R Ramon Alvarado. [4/4]

Tackling the big, or some might say hefty, news, losing Sabathia isn’t
exactly the note the Indians wanted to strike on Opening Day, but happily,
it isn’t an arm injury, and if he’s going to have to miss the rest of the
month and perhaps the first week of May, that’s something you can minimize the effect of early on, courtesy of four off-days in the season’s
first four weeks. So while Davis is notionally the fifth starter, he’s also
likely to do some long relief work and get only two starts in April. If anyone’s
supposed to be the Johnny on the spot, it’s both Paul Byrd
and Jason Johnson. Both are solid enough #3 and 4 guys, so
this isn’t really a major season-altering sort of move on paper, but if the
Indians fall back in the early going, you already know what the storyline is
going to be, even if it’s something really simple, like a slow start by the
lineup or something.

As for the rest, if camp wunderkind Ryan Mulhern wasn’t
going to get all that much consideration, you could understand that Dubois
is similarly the sort of guy who’s liable to be squeezed off of a roster
already crowded with talent. What I’m frustrated by is that Dubois hasn’t
been squeezed out by the club’s loyalty to Ben Broussard or
Casey Blake. I can understand their interest in seeing how
well the Broussard-Eduardo Perez platoon works out first,
and Blake’s probably the club’s first alternate at third in case something
goes very wrong with Aaron Boone. (Later this summer, it’ll
be Andy Marte, so no scenario is set in stone.) No, what I
dislike is that Dubois is essentially out because the team wants to screw
around with the Graves project and commit the last spot on the roster to

Now, maybe they’ll get Graves enough playing time despite being the twelfth
pitcher. Maybe. But he really wasn’t all that good in camp, and if you think
you can retread him, why not let him try in Buffalo? I’d much rather have
Dubois around snagging at-bats against lefties or pushing Blake and
Jason Michaels in the outfield corners, because I wouldn’t
bet against his putting more runs on the board than either of them. By
contrast, I’m not bent out of shape about Hollandsworth being kept ahead of
him: Hollandsworth can play center and hits lefty, and those things are
worth having around on your bench in some capacity. Happily, Buffalo’s only
a bike ride away, but Dubois is already 27, and his future is now.

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Designated RHP Franklyn German for assignment. [3/31]

Purchased the contracts of LHP Bobby Seay and INF-B
Ramon Santiago; designated C-B Rob Bowen
for assignment; placed RHP Craig Dingman on the 15-day DL;
placed RHP Troy Percival on the 60-day DL. [4/1]

Placed RHP Todd Jones on the 15-day DL (pulled hamstring);
recalled RHP Jordan Tata from Erie (Double-A). [4/2]

Other than the indignity of having something like $16 million of
“closer” on the DL, nothing really earth-shattering here. I’m glad
to see Seay catch a break, probably just because anybody who gets his
opportunities in Colorado and Tampa Bay deserves another chance. Although
we’ve been talking about him since 1996 and the imbroglio over the White
Sox’s failure to tender the first round pick a contract, he is only just shy
of his 28th birthday, so he has plenty of time left to become somebody’s pen
lefty. But then I’m a little mortified to see Santiago here, although it
isn’t like he’s anything more than the last man on the bench. And while
fantheads will no doubt get worked up over how many saves Fernando
will log before Jones comes back, I don’t think the Tigers
will notice any difference, begging the question of why they spent all that
money on moxie in the first place. Besides, this confluence of events has
given us “Bodacious” Tata on a big league roster. A 16th rounder out of
Sam Houston State in 2003, and the organization’s Pitcher of the Year, his
lack of experience above A-ball should get him back down to Erie before too

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Optioned RHP Leo Nunez to Omaha (Triple-A). [3/30]

Traded SS-R Wilson Valdez to the Dodgers for RHP
Jarod Plummer, who was assigned to Wichita (Double-A).

Designated RHPs Steve Andrade and Joel
for assignment; optioned RHP Runelvys
to Omaha (Triple-A); purchased the contract of RHP
Luke Hudson; placed RHP Mike MacDougal
(shoulder) and LHP Mark Redman (knee) on the 15-day DL, and
placed RHP Zack Greinke (psychological issues) on the
60-day DL; announced that OF-R Chip Ambres cleared waivers
and was assigned to Omaha. [4/1]

Well, okay, so Ambres made it through waivers and took his assignment to the
one state in the union that’s had the good sense to operate a downsized
state legislature. We might credit Allard Baird with picking the right time
to make the move, with almost everyone struggling with space issues on their
25- and 40-man rosters, but that still doesn’t make it right. I’d much
rather have Shane Costa getting everyday at-bats in Omaha,
and Ambres hanging around to take at-bats away from any of the several bad
ideas that are on the roster.

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Optioned SS-R Jason Bartlett to Rochester (Triple-A).

Optioned 3B-B Terry Tiffee to Rochester (Triple-A);
reassigned OF-L Jason Tyner to their minor league camp.

Reassigned DH-B Ruben Sierra to their minor league camp.

It’s hard to know how worked up about this we should get, since Bartlett
needs to rehab a hamstring injury, and after talking to him about it, Terry
Ryan decided that the best course of action was to let Bartlett work his way
up to full strength while playing at Rochester, instead of going to the
major league DL. Now, perhaps as a result of this decision, the Twins ended
up picking Luis Rodriguez over Tiffee for an infield
reserve role. It makes sense regardless: Rodriguez can play second, short,
or third, whereas Tiffee offers line-drive power and sketchy
glovework at the corners. As long as the Twins are willing to believe that
Tony Batista is the guy they can rely upon at third base,
Tiffee didn’t figure to get that many at-bats. Meanwhile, Ron Gardenhire
will get to rely upon one of the worst left sides of an infield in baseball,
with Batista at the corner, and Juan Castro once again
getting to start too many games at short. That leaves them having to hope
and pray that much more fervently that Justin Morneau and
their outfielders actually get their collective acts together and start
putting runs on the board.

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Reassigned RHP Scott Erickson to their minor league camp.

Released 1B-R Luis Garcia; reassigned LHP Matt
, RHPs Matt Childers, Jose
, and Ramiro Mendoza, C-R Omir
, INF-Rs Russ Johnson, Damian
,and Felix Escalona to their minor league
camp; placed RHPs Aaron Small and Octavio
on the 15-day DL retroactive to 3/24, and placed RHP
Carl Pavano on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to
3/28. [4/1]

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Acquired RHP Juan Dominguez from the Rangers for UT-L
Freddie Bynum and LHP John Rheinecker.

Optioned RHP Santiago Casilla (the pitcher formerly known
as Jairo Garcia), LHP Ron Flores, and OF-B
Bobby Kielty to Sacramento (Triple-A). [4/1]

Acquired RHP Kazuhito Tadano from the Indians for OF-R
Ramon Alvarado. [4/4]

As an exchange of values in terms of 40-man roster space, getting Dominguez
and Tadano for Rheinecker and Bynum is a pretty straightforward upgrade, but
Alvarado’s the wild card. Others may disagree, but I’m more excited about
picking up Dominguez than I am Tadano, despite Tadano being the pickup costing something of potentially greater value; Alvarado’s no slouch after
hitting .296/.412/.497 in the Arizona League–the complex league, not the
winter circuit–last summer. But both Tadano and Dominguez probably have no
other fate than to wind up in the A’s bullpen. For Dominguez, that’s a
matter of accepting the inevitable, but with Tadano, that was always
expected. Each of them can bring it well enough, but both have had their
share of problems with allowing the long ball. But freed from the
unpleasantries of pitching in Texas or trying to find a breaking pitch that
works, Dominguez might thrive as a reliever, using his good heater and a
nice changeup to be… well, what Juan Cruz was, sort of.

Tadano’s got to get a grip on the number of mistake pitches he makes, but
that’s what Sacramento is for. Together, they give the A’s some happy
alternatives for a bullpen that, among its right-handers, might be relying
too heavily on Kirk Saarloos or Jay
for anyone’s comfort, something that will get worse if or
when Kiko Calero breaks down again.

If there’s a surprise, it was the decision to dispatch Kielty to the PCL. He
seemed unlikely to get much playing time as the club’s fifth outfielder, at
least until Mark Kotsay or Milton Bradley
get hurt. But with Jay Payton able to play center as well
as platoon with Nick Swisher, and with Frank
currently in operating order, something had to give. Would
Kielty be more handy than forcing a choice between Antonio
and Marco Scutaro would have been? No, not
when Bobby Crosby managed to get hurt on Opening Night, but
that’s in hindsight. Even so, won’t the team still have to make a decision
about what to do with Saarloos at some point? And is keeping Brad
around as the pen’s second lefty really necessary?
Kielty, Casilla, and now both Tadano and Dominguez have reasons to hope the
answers are ‘no,’ but it’ll be up to them to do something about it.

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Claimed C-R Guillermo Quiroz off of waivers from the Blue
Jays; returned Rule 5 pick LHP Luis E. Gonzalez to the
Dodgers. [3/31]

Optioned RHP Emiliano Fruto and C-R Rene
to Tacoma (Triple-A); purchased the contract of 1B-L
Roberto Petagine; placed OF-L Chris
on the 15-day DL (knee surgery – recovery); designated RHP
Marcos Carvajal for assignment. [4/1]

Selected the contract of RHP Jeff Harris from Tacoma
(Triple-A); acknowledged that OF-L Matt Lawton has been
placed on the restricted list by MLB. [4/2]

I’ve already touched on the Petagine thing, so let’s stick to the couple of
new things that are pretty cool. Well, make that one thing, because it
wasn’t the Mariner’s call to pick Carvajal in the Rule 5 draft last year,
and he has to show something in the minors above A-ball before he’s going to
deserve to stick on anyone’s 40-man. So the one cool thing was snagging
Quiroz on waivers.

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Optioned RHP Chad Orvella to Durham (Triple-A); released
LHP Mark Malaska; reassigned RHPs Justin
and Al Reyes, C-B Mike
, and 2B-R Luis Rivas to their minor league
camp; outrighted RHP Chad Harville to Durham. [3/31]

Placed CF-R Rocco Baldelli on the 15-day DL, retroactive to
3/24; placed 3B-L Sean Burroughs on the 15-day DL,
retroactive to 3/30; placed RHP Shinji Mori on the 60-day
DL; reassigned 1B/3B-L Russell Branyan and PH-B
Greg Norton to their minor league camp; purchased the
contracts of RHP Ruddy Lugo and INF-R Luis
; optioned RHP Edwin Jackson and C-R
Kevin Cash to Durham (Triple-A); designated RHP Tim
for assignment. [4/1]

Placed INF-R Luis Ordaz on the 15-day DL (bruised knee);
purchased the contract of 1B/3B-L Russell Branyan from
Durham. [4/4]

The injuries to Baldelli and Burroughs aren’t really surprises, just
disappointments, but in their places, the Rays will get to turn to some
combination of Branyan and Ty Wigginton at third, and
Joey Gathright in center, neither of which is all bad. The
more odious aspect of the present is the Rays continuing to play
Damon Hollins with anything approaching regularity.
Baldelli’s return will scotch that, eventually, but this particular choice
seems to be all about when in the year we’re at; if we were in July already,
I’m sure we’d see Delmon Young instead.

Instead, the area of real surprise is the bullpen, and who some of the
people who wound up in it are, and whatever it could be that Joe Maddon is
thinking. But I think it’s worth giving the man some benefit of the doubt.
What’s odd is that both Ruddy Lugo and Jason Childers are the brothers of
more highly-regarded players, and both former Brewers farmhands. Lugo I
remember from his days as an honest-to-goodness Brewers prospect at a time
when there weren’t that many people worthy of the name. Julio
‘s younger brother, he’d been picked in the 3rd round of the
’99 draft. He was thrown in on the Marquis
Devon White deal during 2001, a kid with
mid-90s heat and a good curve. After only a season in the Dodgers’ system,
he bounced over to ugly stints with the Astros in Double-A and then with the
Marlins before landing with the D-Rays’ system last year. He had a nifty
season pitching as a Biscuit, allowing only 25 hits and 23 walks in 40.1 IP,
and striking out 48. (Less happily, he also threw eight wild pitches.)
Considering that he’s still shy of his 26th birthday, Lugo makes for a
pretty interesting retread project.

Less exciting is the decision to keep Jason Childers, not to be mistaken for
his better-known younger brother, Matt Childers, the one of
the two occasionally mistaken for a prospect. Jason was signed as a free
agent with some college ball at Kenesaw Mountain State under his belt, and
was brought in by the Brewers in 1997, the same year that they signed Matt
after picking him in the 9th round. The best you can say for him is that
he’s got a good reputation for solid citizenship and throwing strikes, not
that there’s anything wrong with that, or the other thing.

So, two interesting longshots, guys you can pull for, right? Probably not if
you’re one of the fantheads crushed by this particular contretemps because
you were too clever by half, and thought that Orvella was going to rack up
saves for the Devil Fishy franchise. No doubt some people are worked up
about this, but again, I’m willing to give Maddon a long rein on this.
Orvella didn’t earn anything in camp, and the Devil Rays aren’t going to win
anything whether they have Orvella saving games in Florida or North Carolina
or Alabama or any other state they care to send him to. When Orvella’s
ready, he’ll get a chance, certainly, but expecting to be anointed a
stat-generating saviour because the alternative is the execrable Dan
is a bit much to expect from a franchise that has already
demonstrated its willingness to keep Young and B.J. Upton
waiting. Still, I don’t expect Orvella to be gone for long, not unless he
takes his demotion really badly, because his performance track record for
getting people out is outstanding, and his future is with the big league
club. As much as I don’t seriously think spring performance should be
weighted all that heavily, I’m willing to give the organization the benefit
of the doubt when it comes to sending the message that people have to earn
their opportunities, even in Tampa Bay.

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Outrighted RHP Jon Leicester to Oklahoma (Triple-A). [3/30]

Traded RHP Juan Dominguez to the A’s for UT-L
Freddie Bynum and LHP John Rheinecker;
assigned Rheinecker to Oklahoma; acquired LHP John Koronka
and a PTBNL from the Cubs for UT-L Freddie Bynum; safely
re-signed RHP John Wasdin to a minor league contract,
restoring the natural order of things. [3/31]

Placed LHP C.J. Wilson, RHPs Frank
and Josh Rupe, and UT-R Marshall
on the 15-day DL; acquired RHP Robinson
and OF-R Jake Blalock from the Phillies for
OF-L David Dellucci. [4/1]

Purchased the contracts of RHP Antonio Alfonseca, OF-B
Adrian Brown, and 2B-B D’Angelo Jimenez;
designated LHP Erasmo Ramirez for assignment; placed OF-B
Gary Matthews Jr. on the 15-day DL. [4/2]

If you’re perplexed over what all this means, the answer is that Koronka
will be the fifth starter to start off with, but you can probably count on
Tejeda to come up sometime soon, with Edison Volquez
waiting in the wings for either to fail, while they all look forward to the
inevitable R.A. Dickey meltdown. Plus, the Rangers get the
other Blalock, completing the set. But with Tejeda, Volquez, Thomas
and John Danks all nearing readiness, the
Rangers are already primed for an in-house tear-down and re-tooling with
their own young pitching. Considering that they’re relying on guys like
Dickey and Koronka in the meantime, it’s nice to see that the Rangers have
such an interesting strategic withdrawal already in place, once they fall
short of the expectations that came with having Adam Eaton
anchoring the staff.

The outfield’s a little bit more of a surprise, in that the Rangers have
decided that Brad Wilkerson isn’t a center fielder after
all, and that they’d rather keep Kevin Mench standing
around in right. Who then is in center, especially with Matthews on the DL?
Laynce Nix is getting another shot at the brass ring. I may
not be a fan, but I think the choice makes sense, and not just because
Matthews is on the DL. Better to see if Nix is ever going to turn things
around–drawing walks, hitting lefties, even just avoiding the crippling
slumps that seem to have defined his brief major league career. Consider
that with Matthews missing, you get a team that has Adrian
and Mark DeRosa as its primary outfield
reserves. How long will Nix work out? Color me skeptical, and wondering when
or if the Rangers are going to give Jason Botts an
opportunity. Bringing Botts up would involve pushing Wilkerson back into
center, but if Nix doesn’t finally turn his career around, that’s a choice
made easier if you’re already cognizant of how little good going back to
Matthews does you.

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Reassigned 1B-L Kevin Barker, IF Luis
, RHP Lee Gronkiewicz, and C-R
Mike Mahoney to their minor league camp. [3/30]

Placed C-B Gregg Zaun on the 15-day DL; lost C-R
Guillermo Quiroz on waivers to the Mariners. [3/31]

Purchased the contracts of C/1B-R Jason Phillips and LHP
Brian Tallet; designated RHP Vince Perkins
for assignment. [4/1]

As much as Quiroz was supposed to be doomed by his lack of any remaining
options, his trick lung and other repeated injury woes, you’re telling me
that sticking with Phillips as your alternative to Zaun while the latter is
on the DL makes sense? I think not. Losing Quiroz is forever, and however
frustrated the Jays had reason to be, we’re talking about Jason Phillips
here, and in a temp assignment at that. If Phillips won’t accept an
assignment back down to Syracuse when Zaun comes back, how does that help?
Given his past history, at least Quiroz might have hurt himself, earning a
lengthy rehab stint, and buying the Jays time. Taking a spin with Phillips
is actually worse than the date who stands you up, because you might make a
mistake and do something tragic, like keep him.

As for happy news? Well, it’s sort of cool to have both a right-handed and
lefty long reliever, as the Jays boast in Pete Walker and
Tallet. Of course, they might also need that more than most teams,
considering their rotation after Roy Halladay while
A.J. Burnett is on the DL. And Zaun shouldn’t be gone for
too long.

Thank you for reading

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