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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed RHP Ken Hill on the 15-day DL (strained intercostal muscle);
optioned RHP Ramon Ortiz to Edmonton; recalled RHP Mike
Fyhrie
and LHP Jarrod Washburn from Edmonton. [5/10]

Its already been a fun spring for the Angels, as they’ve managed to stick
with the pack in the AL West. And they may end up getting just a little
more competitive in the short term because of these bits of "bad
luck."

Ken Hill has been as awful as you would expect a broken-down old starter
far-removed from his last good season (1996) to be, so losing him isn’t
really a loss. Ramon Ortiz has been abused badly early in his career, and
he’s still pitching with damage to his shoulder; the organization would
really be better off placing him under the knife now.

You can’t lay much of the blame for the way Ortiz’s career has gone awry on
Bill Stoneman or Mike Scioscia: the damage was done on Bill Bavasi’s watch
when Ortiz was overpitched in 1997 (injuring his shoulder for the greater
glory of Cedar Rapids) and 1999 (before really recuperating from 1997).
Where we’ll have to judge Stoneman and Scioscia is on whether or not they
create the circumstances that prevent this sort of organizational mistake
from happening again, while doing everything in their power to make sure
that Ortiz can have a career after all.

In their absence, the Angels aren’t really that badly off. Jason Dickson
should be back to reclaim his rotation spot by the weekend, and Jarrod
Washburn could be the best starting pitcher the Angels have. A rotation of
Kent Bottenfield, Washburn, Dickson, Scott Schoeneweis and Kent Mercker
isn’t the Braves, but it has a reasonable shot at cranking out enough
quality starts to give the Angels a legitimate shot at 75 wins. That’s a
major improvement over where they could have been coming into spring
training, when Tom Candiotti was lurking in camp.


BOSTON RED SOX

Optioned RHP Rob Stanifer to Pawtucket; recalled LHP Tim
Young
from Pawtucket. [5/8]

Perpetual optimists that the Red Sox are, they’re saying Rob Stanifer just
didn’t get a good opportunity to show what he can do. That isn’t entirely
true: seven runs in 7 1/3 innings may not be much of a sample size, but
we’re talking about a guy who was good at giving up runs in his previous
incarnation as a Marlin. In his absence, the Sox have brought up Mighty
Mite Tim Young to be a second left-hander in the pen. He’s 5’9".
Maybe. He’s considerably more handy in a pen that has two right-handed
relievers in Tim Wakefield and John Wasdin who can pitch multiple innings
in front of Derek Lowe and Rich Garces.


CHICAGO CUBS

Signed RHPs Eric Plunk and Tim Worrell to minor-league
contracts; released RHP Bobby Ayala from Iowa. [5/9]

Why do the Cubs stink? Ed Lynch justifies or excuses almost anything that
happens on the basis of professionalism. In the wake of last year’s
debacle, he claimed "professional people made professional
decisions," as if that makes dumb decisions less dumb. This year, his
professionals are saddling his roster with Brian Williams, a bad borderline
pitcher gifted with a guaranteed contract, while his professionals tell him
Bobby Ayala can’t pitch for this team.

Williams had arguably the best year of his squalid career last season while
pitching as a garbageman in the spacious Astrodome. Ayala outpitched him in
terms of ERA, baserunners per nine innings and Michael Wolverton’s Reliever
Evaluation Tools. Even between two crummy relievers, the Cubs don’t even
seem to know which one should be on the roster.

But wait, there’s more! Both Ayala and Williams were better last year than
Tim Worrell was for Oakland. So guess who the Cubs just had to sign? Lost
in this shuffle is the fact that Eric Plunk outpitched all of these guys,
and other than a grisly stretch in September when an increasingly
irresponsible Phil Garner was trashing other people’s lives on his way out
of town, had a good 1999 season. Plunk could easily turn out to be the best
right-handed reliever the Cubs have this year, but he’ll have to pitch
himself into shape in extended spring training, and then get past both Tim
Worrell and the great Brian Williams. Given this organization’s track
record, there are no guarantees that the better pitchers will end up
pitching instead of the worse ones.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Recalled RHP Kevin Beirne from Charlotte; optioned RHP Kip
Wells
to Charlotte. [5/8]

Activated RHP Aaron Myette from the DL and optioned him to
Birmingham (Double-A). [5/9]

Kip Wells has struggled with his control, and Jerry Manuel’s fascination
with the intentional walk didn’t help him much either. There aren’t many
managers who would use the IBB twice in an inning with a wild young starter
on the mound, but Jerry Manuel isn’t like many managers.

So it’s back to Charlotte for Wells to work on his stuff for a couple of
starts, with Kevin Beirne coming up to pitch as the third mop-up man behind
Tanyon Sturtze and left-hander Scott Eyre. In Wells’ absence from the
rotation, there are already rumors that Jon Garland might get called up,
but any one of Beirne, Sturtze or Eyre might get the call. It’s still a bit
early for Garland for my taste, and I’d take a look at Beirne. Sox fans can
take heart that at least none of them are Bobby Witt.

Chicago Tribune writer Paul Sullivan wasted not-quite-enough time
this past spring talking about how left-handed prospect Beirne was going to
have a chance to pitch for the Sox this year, especially considering their
need for left-handers. Now, maybe Sullivan didn’t believe it was necessary
to sort out that Beirne has been pitching right-handed for his entire
career; maybe he made the reasonable assumption that it would be easier to
pitch in the majors if he was a left-hander. It is a good guess, I suppose.

But since Sullivan does this for a living, it seems strange that he wasted
time regaling thousands of readers with information they would know was
incorrect, and which he was apparently too lazy to look up. In this day and
age, consumers really shouldn’t expect much from journalists; we’re long
past the days when talented writers like Ring Lardner would write about
sports. But the one thing consumers should reasonably expect is factual
accuracy from the people employed to regurgitate facts.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Activated C Sandy Alomar from the DL; designated C Bobby
Hughes
for assignment. [5/8]

While Sandy Alomar is an ex-famous person and all, his return isn’t nearly
as important for the Tribe as getting Kenny Lofton or someone resembling a
major-league center fielder back on the roster. Charlie Manuel is already
hoping to spare Alomar’s knees by continuing to play Einar Diaz on a
semi-regular basis. It won’t be enough to turn back the clock a few years,
but it will be enough to keep Diaz from getting stale on the bench waiting
for Alomar’s next breakdown.


DETROIT TIGERS

Placed OF Wendell Magee on the 15-day DL (hand); recalled RHP
Masao Kida from Toledo. [5/8]

Signed OF Rich Becker; placed 2B Damion Easley on the 15-day
DL (hand). [5/10]

If you’re Rich Becker, and the Yankees or the Rangers might want you, why
in the world would you choose to sign with the worst team in baseball?
Sure, he’s a better center fielder than Juan Encarnacion, but that doesn’t
make him a good one. Sure, the Tigers need his on-base skills badly, but
that was just as true over the winter, when Nepotista GM Randy Smith
elected to sign Luis Polonia instead. Considering that Comerica Park is
looking like a pitchers’ park that hobbles an already weak lineup, why come
to the Tigers by choice when you’re a free agent?

Meanwhile, the lamentations that can be heard as far as Windsor or even Ann
Arbor aren’t just coming from Tigers fans unlucky enough to watch this team
play: with Damion Easley gone again, Tigers pitchers can only squirm while
the PA announces "… starting at second base, Gregg Jefferies…."


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Placed RHP Mike Fetters on the 15-day DL (sore elbow); recalled LHP
Onan Masaoka from Albuquerque. [5/10]

Speaking of flexibility…Mike Fetters, bless his fragile self,
conveniently went down just as the Dodgers might need a left-handed
reliever to get people like Jim Edmonds, Ray Lankford or J.D. Drew. And
he’ll undoubtedly be ready to pitch again once Antonio Osuna breaks down,
or even after Gregg Olson returns and breaks down again.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Activated RHP Jeff D’Amico from the DL; optioned RHP Everett
Stull
to Indianapolis. [5/9]

This summer’s open tryout for the rotation continues, as the enormous
mountain of flesh we all know as Jeff D’Amico (the good one, not the one
the Royals got from the A’s in the Kevin Appier deal) starts his comeback.
He looked good againt the Cubs, which doesn’t mean that much; the Cubs brag
when they "bust out" of a slump by scoring a few runs off of
another team’s sixth starter, like Jeremy Powell recently.

With D’Amico’s return, the Brewers rotation is Steve Woodard, Jimmy Haynes,
Jason Bere, D’Amico and Horacio Estrada. Estrada will be bumped by either
John Snyder or Jamey Wright in another week or two, depending on whose
rehab goes better. After that, Jason Bere will be the next guy behind the
eight ball. Because the Brewers’ goals are essentially limited to trying to
finish ahead of the Cubs, it’s still fine for them to continue to sort
through who might be worth keeping for 2001.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Activated LHP J.C. Romero from the DL and optioned him to Salt Lake.
[5/10]

Should anything ever happen with Brad Radke getting traded, whoever trades
for him could also make a pitch for one of the Twins’ left-handed
relievers, either Eddie Guardado or Travis (not Trever) Miller. The Twins
can afford to listen once J.C. Romero is ready to return to the majors, and
if tossing either Guardado or Miller in will bring the Twins another
top-notch prospect, it will be worth it for them to make the deal.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Placed RHP Scott Strickland on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/3
(shoulder tendinitis). [5/9]

Recalled 1B/3B Andy Tracy from Ottawa. [5/10]

In a very short period of time, the Expos went from having a really
effective bullpen of three capable right-handers (closer Ugueth Urbina,
long man Anthony Telford and Scott Strickland) and two good left-handers
(Graeme Lloyd and Steve Kline) to their current situation: Urbina on the
cusp of going Rojas and Strickland and Lloyd both hurt. To make matters
worse, Telford hasn’t been that effective.

Replacements Mike Johnson and Felipe Lira, while interesting choices to
test in the 11th spot on a staff, are being forced into high-leverage
situations, which won’t help the Expos in their push to embarrass the Mets
and coax a stadium out of local authorities.


OAKLAND A’S

Activated 2B Randy Velarde from the DL; recalled RHP Ariel
Prieto
from Sacramento; optioned 3B Adam Piatt to Sacramento;
designated LHP Ron Mahay for assignment. [5/8]

The bad news is that Ariel Prieto came up, but Kevin Appier is due back by
the next time Prieto’s slot in the rotation comes up.

The rotation isn’t the problem, especially now that Mark Mulder is up and
looking useful. The problem is a pen where journeyman Jeff Tam is the
closest thing the team has to an adequate reliever. Last year’s pen started
off well before a midseason collapse, only to have Billy Beane rebuild it
on the fly. The question is whether or not it has to happen again. If it
does, the sooner the better.

The question is whether there are any relievers worth trading for. Nobody
is peddling a closer who can toss 90 quality innings, and most middle
relievers aren’t worth anything resembling a real prospect. Short of
someone like Doug Brocail, there really aren’t that many good relievers
worth shopping for or giving up that much to get. The danger is that after
a stretch as frustrating as the A’s endured over last weekend, any team,
even one as well-run as Beane’s, might make a mistake out of that frustration.

As for demoting Adam Piatt after he showed that he can hit, it’s the
misfortune of producing too many good players. What’s really frustrating
about it is that sending him down now doesn’t really answer the question of
who goes down once John Jaha heals, Frankie Menechino or Jorge Velandia?
One of them will have to go by that point anyway, so why not make that
decision sooner instead of later, while keeping Piatt around until Jaha’s
healthy? At this stage, Jorge Velandia isn’t really worth keeping around.
Miguel Tejada doesn’t need a defensive replacement and neither does Randy
Velarde. Velandia doesn’t have any significant value as a pinch-runner, and
has even less as a batter.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Claimed C Cesar King on waivers from the Rangers, and optioned him
to Scranton-Wilkes Barre. [5/10]

A nice pickup as far as free talent goes. The Phillies have a crazed
veteran fetish that keeps people like Tom Prince and Mark Parent gainfully
employed, so King can look forward to a year or two in Scranton. He’s still
extremely young (turning 22 in February), which means he may yet develop
into the potential star some of us raced to anoint him as after his big
year in A ball at 19.

Unfortunately, the Phillies have a lousy track record of turning talent
into skills, and while that’s supposed to have changed in the last year or
so, there’s reason for concern.

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