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ANAHEIM ANGELS
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Recalled SS-B Erick Aybar from Salt Lake (Triple-A);
optioned 2B-R Howie Kendrick to Salt Lake. [5/15]

Consider this an exchange of the equally young and generally talented. Back
in Utah, Aybar was hitting .286/.340/.435 while swiping 13 bases in 20
attempts. Since neither of them are going to get to play, the choice might
seem relatively moot, although it is sort of considerate to let Kendrick get
back to playing every day. Meanwhile, Aybar provides the team with a backup
shortstop, something they sort of don’t have while Maicer
Izturis
is on the DL and the team’s keeping Chone
Figgins
busy enough while they continue to play short-handed.
That’s because Garret Anderson‘s shelved if not DL’d, which
has forced Mike Scioscia to make a choice between playing Robb
Quinlan
and Tommy Murphy day to day. The guy who
isn’t getting consideration is Edgardo Alfonzo, and if it
wasn’t for Steve Finley‘s recent good work in San Francisco,
I wonder if he wouldn’t be cut outright already.

The problem is this: With nine lineup slots to fill, plus one reserve catcher,
can a team really afford to carry one inactive hitter, another they sensibly
enough prefer to avoid playing, and a kid they will not play? Figgins
can play a lot of positions, and Quinlan and Dallas
McPherson
can play at either corner, but the Angels are playing
short-handed.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES
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Placed RHP Daniel Cabrera on the 15-day DL; recalled RHP
Chris Britton from Bowie (Double-A). [5/15]

This is as good a time as any to point out that whatever else might be going
on in the Catholic Church, the beatification of Leo Mazzone may well require
a few more miracles to be worthy of consideration. Not that the man isn’t
one of the best, but the scramble to get Cabrera among some fantheads
because of the assumption that Mazzone would part the Chesapeake, smite
former Braves whipping boy Bruce Chen, and make Cabrera a
king among men was, in a word, premature. Well, except for the smiting Chen
part. Maybe Chen’s bridling under the tutelage of his former pitching
coach–who found the Panamanian uncoachable back in the day–or else he’s just
going through a rough patch, or maybe it’s just that nothing goes right in
Baltimore.

As for Cabrera, he was walking a man per inning, and it’s going to take
something more than a revelation to fix that sort of thing, whenever he
comes back off of the DL. Who might replace him? Barring a call-up,
John Halama wouldn’t be the worst choice around. It won’t
be Britton, who was blowing hitters to flinders in Bowie, with 18 Ks in 11.1
IP, and might not be too far from being able to stick in the big league pen.

CLEVELAND INDIANS
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Activated RHP Rafael Betancourt from the 15-day DL;
optioned RHP Jeremy Guthrie to Buffalo (Triple-A). [5/16]

Purchased the contract of INF-R Lou Merloni from Buffalo;
optioned INF-L Ramon Vazquez to Buffalo. [5/17]

Interesting to see the flip from Vazquez to Merloni, but keep in mind,
Merloni did do some good platoon work for the team in 2004, so you might
think that re-establishing a Bou Brouloni setup at first base isn’t out of the question. However, Eduardo Perez is already here to do
exactly that, and Travis Hafner doesn’t need a platoon
partner. So the reason why seems more a question of personal taste than
anything else. This does create a roster where you’ve got Merloni as your
token backup at short, and there’s no guarantee that he can play the
position for any length of time, but you could say the same thing of
Vazquez. The point’s effectively irrelevant as long as Jhonny
Peralta
plays almost every inning of every day at the position.

As for Betancourt’s return, Jason Davis was ahead of
Guthrie in the org chart, and nothing Guthrie had done in his time with the
club had changed that. He’s still a little unfortunately wild, and a team
only needs so many long relievers. The surprise is that Fausto
Carmona
didn’t get sent down to take regular turns in the Bisons’
rotation. At any rate, with Betancourt back in the setup role, the pen’s a
little more solidly itself.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS
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Placed RHP Chris Booker on the 15-day DL (groin); recalled
RHP Joe Nelson from Omaha (Triple-A). [5/15]

Released RHP Joe Mays. [5/17]

There’s something sort of wrong about having a Nelson on the wrong side of
the Royals’ nightly performance-art rendition of the Battle of
Trafalgar
. Okay, that probably doesn’t work as well as it might, not if
Allard Baird isn’t making bad deals to provide the people who beat his club with
the baseball equivalent of prize money. That
would be pretty cool: beat the Royals, and you get a Royal to carry off with
you as your booty. Well, okay, maybe not so much, although having a Royal
around the house to do the vacuuming or whatnot might bring its own brand of
benefits. (“E-6, Berroa, put the groceries in the wrong place… we’ll
call that a … throwing error? No, you’re right, fielder’s choice.”)

At this point, the Royals have been reduced to baseball’s answer to Craig Ehlo:
always in the picture, but as the victim of somebody else’s thundering feat
of majesty on the field of play.

MINNESOTA TWINS
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Optioned RHP Kyle Lohse to Rochester (Triple-A); recalled
RHP Boof Bonser from Rochester. [5/17]

There’s no real satisfaction in stating that I’ve been down on Lohse for a
while, or that like Carlos Silva, I expected him to
get knocked around. That isn’t reason to celebrate–my frustrations with the
Twins always boil down to a frustration over opportunities lost. Happily,
Ron Gardenhire seems willing to forego any extended comparisons to Earl
Weaver and just fix his problem by putting Francisco
Liriano
in the rotation and be done with it. People might point to
Lohse’s or Silva’s VORP last season, and that’s fine. It’s a fact that Silva was 35th among all
pitchers and Lohse was 54th in VORP among all pitchers last season. The problem is that that’s plain
VORP, and as much as VORP is cool, and an expression of cumulative value,
that means it’s also an expression that can be defined by playing time. VORP
is a statement of fact, not a guarantee. Both pitchers were far from
dominating, and that’s the more basic issue–they were hittable, even at
their best.

Optimist that I am, I like the decisions to switch out Lohse and Silva to
start Liriano and Bonser. Liriano’s merely baseball’s best pitching
prospect, and yes, I know, TINSTAAPP, but let’s face it, how many prospects
of any position would you keep if you were being offered Liriano? Bonser’s
not of that caliber, but he isn’t too shabby, either. At Rochester, he built
on his successful 2005 season by striking out 47 in 49.1 IP across eight
starts, allowing only 33 hits. He’s got low 90s velocity and a quality
curveball, and the basic expectation for him is that he can be like Lohse, a
solid fourth starter in a big league rotation. You might wonder why the
Twins weren’t all over trying to start him, but they had a crowd in the
rotation until the last month or so, and if there’s one thing the Twins
don’t do until they have to, it’s make a change. Admittedly, Bonser would
stand out more in organizations that didn’t have as much young pitching
talent as the Twins, but the misfortune is that Terry Ryan didn’t look at
that depth and take a risk, like dealing Lohse this spring, while he had
value. That’s the problem in a nutshell: a tendency to react instead of act,
respond instead of plan. That’s a formula for letting the White Sox happen
to you, or wondering how the Tigers got ahead of you.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
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Purchased the contract of RHP Steve Karsay from Sacramento
(Triple-A); recalled RHP Matt Roney from Sacramento;
optioned C-R Jeremy Brown to Sacramento; placed LHP
Randy Keisler on the Bereavement List, retroactive to 5/15.
[5/16]

Sold OF-L Matt Watson to Chiba Lotte of the Japanese
Leagues. [5/17]

Reinstated LHP Randy Keisler from the BL; optioned RHP Matt
Roney
to Sacramento. [5/18]

Karsay’s assignment to Sacramento was effectively a paper transaction,
because he never did contribute towards the RiverCats’ pursuit of another
PCL title. At Buffalo, the oft-injured hurler had tossed 18 innings,
allowing only a dozen hits, a walk, and striking out 14 batters. If you
think that really conveys how useful he’ll be to the A’s, you’re more
optimistic than I am. Maybe he’ll be able to pitch three nights a week.
Maybe. Maybe he’ll be good those nights, too.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS
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Placed LHP Gustavo Chacin on the 15-day DL (elbow),
retroactive to 5/11. [5/16]

Recalled RHP Shaun Marcum from Syracuse (Triple-A). [5/17]

The Jays expect to replace Chacin in the rotation with Ty
Taubenheim
this weekend. Taubenheim’s doing well in Syracuse, but
the Jays seem comfortable in their faith that Chacin won’t be on the DL much
longer than the two weeks, so this might not add up to more than a single
missed start. The question is more one of what the Jays will do if
Taubenheim does as well as Casey Janssen, and whether or
not any amount of suckitude will get Josh Towers out of the
rotation once Chacin and A.J. Burnett are both back.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
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Extended the contract of 3B-L Chad Tracy through 2009, with
a club option for 2010. [5/15]

A couple of years ago, I was referring to Tracy as a Scott
Cooper
-type, in that he was seemed like a guy with park-inflated
power, a platoon split, and ready to do some good glovework at the hot
corner. PECOTA thinks
he’s worth the money
, and I’m a little surprised to see the projection
monster comparing him to a
bunch of right-handed hitting first base types
, many of whom started off
at third base before heading elsewhere on the diamond. This is particularly
strange because Tracy’s generally considered to be a good third
baseman, by scouts and by our own fielding
tools
, and last season’s Glaus-inspired peregrinations to right, left,
and first be damned. Graig Nettles had a similar
“slow” start to his career, and similarly had to waste time at
other positions early on, so perhaps my comparison to Cooper was a notch too
low, because those same descriptors–power, glove, platoon needs–could be
said about Nettles, only more so. Since Tracy will have the benefit of
bopping in the BOB for the next five years, he certainly stands a good
chance of more closely resembling Nettles than Cooper.

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Placed RHP Kyle Davies on the 15-day DL (groin); recalled
RHP Anthony Lerew from Richmond (Triple-A). [5/17]

Activated RHP Lance Cormier from the 15-day DL; optioned
RHP Anthony Lerew to Richmond. [5/18]

For Davies and the Braves, this is a particularly bad break. Davies might be
out until rosters expand in September, which takes him out of his clean shot
at holding down a rotation slot for keeps, and puts Atlanta on the spot in
terms of their needing to find a replacement. Although they should be able
to handle it eventually, the timing is terrible. Horacio
Ramirez
is on the DL for another week or so, and the Braves do need to
worry right now about how they’ll fill Davies’ slot in the rotation.
Chuck James would probably be everyone’s first choice in
Ramirez’s absence, but he’s also on the DL and just gearing up for rehab
work. So what to do? Unless the Braves want to bring up [cringe]Wes
Obermueller
[/cringe], they might want to skip making a move and let
Cormier lead off a pen start this weekend. That means letting Cormier toss
60-70 pitches, see if that gets them through the third or well into fourth
inning, and then seeing if someone like Chad Paronto can
give them a couple of innings. However, considering that Peter
Moylan
is on the roster and not pitching, maybe it is Obermueller
time, and doesn’t that just sound better than just plain old Mueller time?

CHICAGO CUBS
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Activated RHP Kerry Wood from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP
Jae Kuk Ryu to Iowa (Triple-A); signed UT-L Tony
Womack
to a minor league contract. [5/18]

What does one of these things have to do with the other? After the
mismanagement of other people’s injuries (Mark Prior,
anyone?), after this franchise’s past mismanagement of Wood, and while we’re
being told that Derrek Lee will be back really soon, Wood
just looked bad against a bad Nationals lineup. Does anyone really think
that Wood’s return isn’t related to the team’s poor fortunes of late? Would
you trust somebody who, with a straight face, claims that getting Tony
Womack is a good thing?

At any rate, with Woody back, that gives the Cubs a rotation beyond him
featuring Greg Maddux, Carlos Zambrano,
Rich Hill, and Sean Marshall. That’s not
as good as it sounds, not if Hill doesn’t get a handle on his control
issues, not if Wood isn’t really ready after only two rehab starts, and not
if the league catches up to Marshall. However, in Marshall’s defense, the
kid has four quality starts in his last five, he’ll draw Florida next, and
his numbers at that point might keep him from being considered at all for a
demotion once Mark Prior is ready to come off of the DL.
Assuming Wood’s still standing by that point, of course.

FLORIDA MARLINS
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Optioned OF-L Eric Reed to Albuquerque (Triple-A); recalled
SS-R Robert Andino from Albuquerque. [5/17]

That tiny whine you hear in the background is from the fantasy-minded folks
who wanted Reed to be some sort of minor starlet in their Sweeney
plan–stolen base eye candy, if you will. However, this was a sensible
exchange motivated by a need to get another shortstop on the roster while
Hanley Ramirez works through some shoulder trouble, and now
that Joe Borchard is getting the at-bats in right field,
Reed wasn’t only useless, he wasn’t playing. Andino’s supposed to be the guy
to go back down once Jeremy Hermida comes off of the DL,
but that depends on Ramirez.

In the meantime, this represents a good opportunity for Andino to continue
rehabbing his reputation. After copping an attitude in the AFL, he’d fallen
out of favor, but Andino managed to help himself by hitting in Albuquerque,
.279/.327/.434, which I know doesn’t sound like much, seeing as that’s in
Albuquerque, city that made Dave Anderson
a star, but in Andino’s defense, that’s improved power, and he is only 22.
If his glovework pans out, he might end up being a pretty attractive
bargaining chip for the Fish to shop around.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS
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Claimed RHP Chris Mabeus off of waivers from the Athletics,
and optioned him to Nashville (Triple-A); designated RHP Jared
Fernandez
for assignment. [5/16]

Placed SS-R J.J. Hardy on the 15-day DL (sprained ankle);
recalled OF/1B/3B-R Corey Hart from Nashville (Triple-A).
[5/17]

Hardy’s in danger of getting that never-wanted Molitor rap for fragility,
something that can stick to you for so long that it becomes its own
punchline. Happily, the Brewers are fine as far as having Bill
Hall
to replace Hardy for the interim, which might last as long as
six weeks. There’s the minor irritating concern that they don’t have a true
backup shortstop, and the equally problematic question of what to do with
Hart since he won’t get to play at any of the four corners.

As for snagging Mabeus on waivers, it’s a nice little pick. He can overpower
people at the plate with a good fastball, and he can throw breaking stuff
for strikes. When you’ve got the space on the 40-man, you should put it to
work, and to Doug Melvin’s credit, the Brewers do.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES
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Placed CF-L Chris Duffy on the suspended list for failing
to report to Indianapolis (Triple-A) within 72 hours. [5/18]

Bad prospect, bad bad! There’s nothing like bureaucracy when you don’t have
these things paper trained. Duffy’s apparently chuffed over his demotion
after first agreeing to monkey with his approach at the plate at the behest
of manager Jim Tracy and the coaching staff, but he was never exactly the
most patient hitter, nor does he boast much power at the best of times. This
seems more like a way of trying to funk his way out of the organization, and
like Operation
Shutdown
of old, these sorts of things tend to sound better on your
second six-pack than upon reflection.

SAN DIEGO PADRES
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Optioned RHP Cla Meredith to Portland (Triple-A); recalled
RHP Mike Thompson from Portland. [5/16]

With Shawn Estes apparently out for another month, the
Padres have to turn to Thompson to replace Woody Williams
in the rotation. That’s not the end of the world, because Thompson was
pitching well at Portland: 35 hits allowed in 41.1 IP, with a 31-9 K-BB
ratio. That’s an improvement on last season’s late promotion to the PCL from
the Southern League, although even then, Thompson was effective, posting a
3.10 ERA, but with poorer peripherals. Considering that this is the eighth
year that Thompson’s been in the Padres’ organization, you might not be too
pumped about his prospects, but he was a high school pitcher picked in the
5th round of the ’99 draft, and these things can and do take time when
you’re talking about the non-blue chippers. That said, he’s not a power
pitcher, although he does a decent job of keeping the ball on the ground.
Maybe PETCO will help, but this is the skippable fifth slot we’re talking
about, so let’s see what happens.

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