Placed RF/1B Travis Lee on the 15-day DL (strained groin); purchased
the contract of OF Turner Ward from Tucson. [5/25]

Placed RHP Todd Stottlemyre on the 15-day DL (sore elbow); recalled
RHP Vicente Padilla from Tucson. [5/30]

Placed 1B Erubiel Durazo on the 15-day DL (torn cartilage – wrist);
recalled 2B Craig Counsell from Tucson. [5/31]

Much has been made about how much the D’backs’ great start in the absence of
Matt Williams and Matt Mantei was due to team depth. I don’t really buy this
argument. They’re only in the middle of the pack offensively, as measured by
Equivalent Average. They look much more like a good, not great, team that
happens to have the best pitcher in the league in their rotation. Sure, you
could play the "axe the top starter, and how good are they?" game
with any team in the league besides the Braves, but the D’backs haven’t had
the injury problems that the Red Sox or Yankees or Indians or Cardinals or
even the Braves have had.

That is, until now. Losing a quarter of their lineup and a starting pitcher
will be a much more rigorous test of that lauded depth.

Losing Todd Stottlemyre was a possibility they were prepared for, with the
good news being that at least it’s his elbow and not his withering rotator
cuff, and that he should be back. In his absence, Mike Morgan will slip into
the rotation. The question is whether he’ll thrive as a fifth starter with
Buck Showalter as his manager. Showalter is not known for going to his pen
early and often, and Morgan is a five-inning starter. If the Snakes are
willing to live with Morgan’s limitations, he’ll be fine. Vicente Padilla
will be a good addition to the pen, one that you have to hope sticks.
They’ve already been rewarded by using Byung-Hyun Kim this year, so it would
be nice to see them keep Padilla around instead of trading for another Dan

The lineup is hurting. While it might have made sense to bring up Dave
Dellucci or even rush Jason Conti, Dellucci is scuffling and the Snakes
don’t see a reason to panic just yet. They’ll regret it. A lineup featuring
Greg Colbrunn at first base and Turner Ward and Bernard Gilkey in right
field isn’t doing itself any favors, and add that to Tony Womack’s usual
light contributions, expect the D’backs to slump on offense.

Because of that, the next month, while Erubiel Durazo is out, will be a
major challenge for Showalter. If he can adjust by using his pen and bench
agressively, he can help protect his team’s lead in the division. It will be
interesting to see how the Dodgers’ suspension-o-rama plays itself out. They
might be able to narrow the gap during the next month, only to lose ground
once players have to begin sitting out.


Signed SS Kevin Stocker. [5/30]

The Angels have gotten solid offensive contributions from six slots in the
lineup, with three holes: Garret Anderson’s cold start, Adam Kennedy’s
woeful second month and Benji Gil’s problem with being Benji Gil. Two of
those holes ought to get better, and Stocker represents an outstanding,
cheap fix for the third. While his defense is definitely slipping, Stocker
is still an decent bet to chip in some OBP at the bottom of the order. And
he costs just $133,000 while the D-Rays pay off the other $3.2 million on
his contract, which even then is less than what Gil’s services will cost the
Angels for the year.

I’m guessing Devil Rays fans are feeling better and better all the time
about the Bobby Abreu trade.


Placed RHP Greg McMichael on the 15-day DL (tendinitis – biceps);
recalled RHP Don Wengert from Richmond. [5/30]

Braves bravery, or just downright chutzpah? If it was any other team in
baseball, I’d be laughing out loud over Don Wengert’s return to the majors.
But if the Braves were one of the only teams that could get good work out of
Greg McMichael, could they achieve the impossible with Wengert? He has shown
remarkable control while pitching in Richmond’s rotation: seven walks in 50
2/3 innings to go with 40 strikeouts. Still, we’re talking about a guy with
a 5.51 ERA in Triple-A. Even Leo Mazzone couldn’t pull this one off, could


Placed 3B John Valentin on the 15-day DL (torn tendon – knee);
recalled IF Andy Sheets from Pawtucket; purchased the contract of RHP
Hipolito Pichardo from Pawtucket; optioned LHP Tim Young to
Pawtucket; transferred RHP Bret Saberhagen from the 15- to the 60-day
DL. [5/31]

You know it’s not exactly good news when everyone’s telling you that at
least your career isn’t over. John Valentin’s knee will knock him out for
the season. Wilton Veras’s hollow batting average is only somewhat
compensated for by his good glovework, especially starting the deuce, so we
can all expect the Duke to start shopping for third-base help. Once Jose
Offerman heals and before they make such a deal, Jeff Frye will get a few
starts at third base.

The other move is almost as inexplicable as the Braves’ callup of Don
Wengert. Hipolito Pichardo has been one of the most over-talked-about
mediocrities in baseball, and that’s being generous to a guy who might be an
adequate middle reliever. Tim Young had been pitching well, and the Sox
could use a second left-hander in the pen to complement Rheal Cormier, so
why haul in Pichardo? While I’m as enthusiastic as anybody could be about
what Joe Kerrigan can do with a veteran pitcher, Pichardo is one of the
Duke’s more dubious rehab projects.


Recalled RHP Ruben Quevedo from Iowa; optioned OF Raul
to Iowa. [5/30]

Activated 1B Mark Grace from the DL; placed SS Jose Nieves on
the 15-day DL (strained hamstring); purchased the contract of SS Augie
from Iowa; optioned RHP Ruben Quevedo to Iowa. [5/31]

Having already lost Ricky Gutierrez, the Cubs have now lost his replacement,
Jose Nieves. In a relatively unheralded move, Ed Lynch did have the good
sense to nab Augie Ojeda from the Orioles over the winter. There isn’t
really much difference between what Ojeda and Nieves can contribute. Ojeda
has a good defensive rep, switch-hits and has just a hint of power
(.242/.330/.382 at Iowa, with four home runs). Unfortunately, Don Baylor may
hand a good chunk of the playing time to Jeff Huson on the basis of his
veterandom, and in spite of Huson’s defensive and offensive limitations. On
a team with bad gloves at third base and the outfield corners, Ojeda’s
defense would help tighten up a loose infield.

Ruben Quevedo came up for one start in Ismael Valdes’s place, and had no
real chance to stick. He has been pitching relatively effectively as a
starter at Iowa (3-0 with a 4.08 ERA, with 44 strikeouts, 35 hits and 17
walks in 39 2/3 innings) and doing a better job of keeping the ball on the
ground. Once the Cubs peddle Valdes, he’ll be among several good pitching
prospects fighting for one of the last two spots in the rotation, along with
Mike Meyers and current fifth starter Scott Downs.

Mark Grace’s return couldn’t come too soon. The Cubs’ offense has been
cooling off for weeks, and they’ll always be able to use his on-base skills.


Traded RHP Tanyon Sturtze to the Devil Rays for 2B Tony
. [5/31]

A nice exchange of minor-league vets that potentially helps both teams. The
Sox needed somebody who can play the infield, especially with utilityman
Craig Wilson suffering from a back injury. Tony Graffanino will go to Charlotte
for now, but the Sox can’t stick with 12 pitchers while Wilson, Greg Norton,
Chris Singleton and Paul Konerko are all nursing injuries.


Placed RHP Sean DePaula on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/28
(elbow – tendinitis); recalled RHP Jared Camp from Akron (Double-A);
transferred RHP David Riske from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [5/29]

Recalled 3B Russell Branyan from Buffalo; activated UT Jolbert
from the inactive list; optioned RHP Jared Camp and CF
Dave Roberts to Buffalo. [5/30]

Placed RF Manny Ramirez on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring);
recalled RHP Jamie Brewington from Buffalo. [5/31]

The injuries keep coming, and they’re finally getting to the point where the
Tribe can no longer shrug them off as mere flesh wounds: bad fortune is
beginning to cut to the bone.

The real damage is to the bullpen, where Charlie Manuel is down to Steve
Karsay, Steve Reed, Scott Kamieniecki and Tom Martin. The fill-ins? Justin
Speier, Mark Watson and now the minor leagues’ answer to Brian Williams, the
ill-starred Jamie Brewington. Brewington wasn’t pitching that effectively at
Buffalo, but you know things are bad when the alternatives include Cookies

The damage to the rotation doesn’t seem as bad, until you look closer. While
the Tribe appears to have four of its starters still around, it looks like
Jaret Wright has been rushed back. Going into series against the Cardinals
and later the Reds, that staff is a recipe for some serious slugfests. Don’t
be surprised if a couple of blowouts force John Hart’s hand, and the Indians
end up getting Steve Trachsel before the end of June.

With all of the pitching injuries, the great start the offense has gotten
off to has been critical just to keep the team running with the White Sox.
Of course, that was before Manny Ramirez’s injury. He had gotten off to a
tremendous start, ranking third in the AL in Equivalent Average, but the
good news is that he isn’t expected to miss any more than the two weeks. In
his absence, David Justice will take over in right field with Richie Sexson
in left field. Russ Branyan is up to DH against right-handers, and the Tribe
is exploring letting him start in the outfield corners as well as spot
Travis Fryman at third base from time to time.

Branyan was off to the kind of start you almost expect from him:
.253/.349/.647 with 16 home runs in 169 plate apearances. He was slugging
above .700 against right-handed pitchers. Preston Wilson does have a
two-month head start, so even if Ramirez weren’t coming back soon, Branyan
would have to wait at least another year before getting a shot to challenge
either Bobby Bonds or Wilson in the fabled quest for the single-season
strikeout record.


Activated OF Wendell Magee from the DL; optioned DH Gabe
to Toledo. [5/29]

Placed $$ Gregg Jefferies on the 15-day DL (pulled hamstring);
recalled C Javier Cardona from Toledo. [5/30]

Overall, these moves leave the Tigers a wee bit better off. Wendell Magee,
along with Rich Becker, gives the Tigers a working platoon in center field
while Juan Encarnacion gets healthy. Even after Encarnacion returns, the
Tigers will at least have Magee around as a defensive replacement.

Javier Cardona’s callup is premature because there’s a question of whether
or not he’s ready to hit major-league pitching. After starting off hitting
.242/.293/.451 with nine home runs in 167 plate appearances as a Mudhen, he
isn’t. But having him on the bench behind Brad Ausmus gives him a sense of
the majors and the pitchers he’ll eventually be catching while allowing Rob
Fick to play every day at first base. Considering that the Tigers were
wasting playing time on free-agent boondoggle Jefferies, that’s a major step
up. If having Cardona up encourages the Tigers to start entertaining offers
for Ausmus, so much the better. That’s only if Randy Smith doesn’t settle
for his usual taste for tall, hard-throwing goofs, and instead finally gets
a young hitter.


Placed RHP Dan Miceli on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/30 (forearm
inflammation); recalled RHP Joe Strong from Calgary. [5/31]

Dan Miceli has barely pitched in the last three weeks, as the team simply
kept hoping he’d get better. It is sort of sad; after an outstanding April,
he had a half-decent shot at being the token Marlin in the All-Star Game.

In his absence, the main setup duties will be Braden Looper’s. He’s been one
of the league’s best relievers as far as stranding inherited runners. But in
Looper’s absence in middle relief, the Fish will either have to start using
Armando Almanza and Vic Darensbourg in more than just situational lefty
roles, or they’ll have to use Ricky Bones and Joe Strong in more important
situations. That would hurt. As much fun as it is to have one tough-luck
geezer story around, having them both wowing the kids with stories about
their favorite Johnny Carson specials could get to be a distraction.


Placed 3B Adrian Beltre on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/28
(strained hamstring); purchased the contract of DH/C Adam Melhuse
from Albuquerque; transferred LHP Jeff Williams from the 15- to
60-day DL. [5/29]

Placed C Todd Hundley on the 15-day DL (strained oblique); recalled
SS Alex Cora from Albuquerque. [5/31]

As mentioned in the Snakes’ comment, now would have been a good time to
mount a challenge, but for the Dodgers seeing a quarter of their lineup go
up in flames.

It is a shame that no sooner do several of us nattering nabobs of negativism
start touting how well Todd Hundley has been hitting than he goes down with
an injury. The timing couldn’t be worse: among major-league catchers, he was
fourth in Equivalent Average behind the three P’s: Piazza, Posada and Pudge.
Hundley was still scuffling at containing the running game, but had at least
improved from where he’d been last year.

Losing Adrian Beltre as well really puts a crimp in the Dodgers’ style. The
team’s offense currently ranks fifth in the league in EqA, and now they
won’t be able to maintain that. While Beltre had been scuffling since a hot
start, at least they have Dave Hansen to fill in against right-handed
pitching. Against left-handers, Davey Johnson might be forced to get Jose
Vizcaino into the lineup.

Adam Melhuse would have been an ideal replacement for Hansen as an ace
pinch-hitter. He’s been tearing up the minors for years in the Blue Jays’
chain without getting the time of day, and might have made for a
good-hitting caddy to Chad Kreuter in Hundley’s absence. As you’d expect, he
was killing the ball in Albuquerque’s cozy playpen (.361/.459/.486 in 87
plate appearances, so the numbers are more fun than meaningful). Now the
Dodgers will call up Paul LoDuca to back up Kreuter.


Activated LF Geoff Jenkins from the DL; optioned 1B Kevin
to Indianapolis. [5/29]

Activated RHP Curtis Leskanic from the DL; optioned RHP Hector
to Indianapolis. [5/31]

The Brewers’ lineup problem can be broken into one lengthy choice: Kevin
Barker versus Charlie Hayes versus Jose Hernandez versus Marquis Grissom
versus Sean Berry. Given the team’s serious offensive problems, the Brewers
picked the wrong guy. While Barker has had problems driving the ball, he had
got 20 walks in his first 100 at-bats and managed an OBP of .352. While that
isn’t much, it’s significantly better than the below-.300 OBPs of Hernandez
and Grissom.

The Brewers are already going to struggle to win games all year, and nobody
on that list of choices beyond Barker is likely to ever give fans much to
cheer about in Miller Park. They’ve already lost the money invested in
Grissom and Berry; they’ll never get a cent back on either signing, and no
other team is going to make a trade to take either player off of their
hands. What good does it do you to get carried away with Hayes’s nice start
when he’s Charlie Hayes? Why punish Barker when it makes more sense
to cut Berry, move Hayes to third base, Hernandez to center field and
Grissom to the bench, where he belongs? You can even reverse the defensive
assignments to create a Grissom/Barker platoon, with Grissom in the lineup
against left-handers. Grissom can still do some things decently: he can hurt
lefty slop, and while he’s no longer the great defensive player he once was,
he’s still useful afield.

At least the lineup gets the boost of having Geoff Jenkins back, and at
least Davey Lopes has Ronnie Belliard leading off instead of Grissom. The
Brewers’ season still looks like a team stuck in a never-ending spring
training, as Lopes slowly sorts out what works (Belliard leading off) and
what doesn’t (Grissom leading off, ex-White Sox pitchers). The franchise
still needs to exorcise some of Sal Bando’s free-agent ghosts, but in the
meantime Brewers fans have to settle for small improvements where they can
get them.


Placed RHP Hideki Irabu on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/27 (knee);
purchased the contract of RHP Matt Skrmetta from Ottawa; placed RHP
J.D. Smart on the 60-day DL (torn labrum – shoulder). [5/31]

As bad as the Indians’ injury problems have been, the Expos’ pitching staff
is stating to look worse. For as long as Felipe Alou has managed, and for as
good a job as he and his staff have done in bringing along talented young
pitchers, you might chalk all of this up to karma. Much of what has gone
wrong has been out of his control. Hideki Irabu and Graeme Lloyd came in as
Loria purchases, and both came in hurt. Mike Thurman was damaged goods long
before he ever came up. Losing two starters and five relievers would strain
even the best organizations, and while the Expos’ pitching talent on the
farm is good, it’s being put to an extreme test.

On the bright side, the rotation is still in pretty good shape. Dustin
Hermanson is returning from the bullpen, which will do more to control the
damage to the staff than any other choice the Expos could make. With
injuries in this kind of quantity, the Expos need to focus on getting good
innings, not pigeonholing talent into preconceived roles. The rest of the
rotation will be Javier Vazquez, Carl Pavano, Antonio Armas and presumably
Mike Johnson. Irabu is expected back within the month, and possibly as
little as two weeks if he heals quickly from arthroscopic surgery.

The pen is looking ugly: Guillermo Mota, Steve Kline and journeymen Felipe
Lira, Jim Poole and now Matt Skrmetta. Skrmetta is a veteran of the Pads
farm system, and he’s been wild and inconsistent. Mota will probably get the
saves, but there’s no reason for Alou to try to reserve anyone for any role.
Every inning after the starter comes out will be a scramble. They’re going
to need an 11th pitcher soon.


Placed SS Rey Ordonez on the 15-day DL (broken forearm); activated UT
Melvin Mora from the DL. [5/30]

Losing the banjo hitter may provide another handy addendum to the Mets’
litany of explanations for why they aren’t particularly close to the Braves,
but it won’t impact the team much. The only shortstops contributing less
than Rey Ordonez on offense are the Marlins’ Alex Gonzalez and Tim Bogar,
and you can usually tell a thing or two about a player from the company he
keeps. Neither the claims that his improved strike zone judgment (up to a
.278 OBP!) or his putative clutch hitting (60 RBI last year, courtesy of
that great on-base lineup that the Mets had…last year) mean squat.

Considering how the Braves could rely on Bobby Valentine letting Ordonez
bat late in close games instead of pinch-hitting for him, it’s probably for
the best that the Mets get to learn about life without St. Rey if they want
to get serious about their wild-card ambitions. While Joe McEwing can’t play
shortstop, a combination of Mora and Kurt Abbott should give the Mets a bit
of sock in the eighth slot. They still need outfield help, but getting one
bad bat out of the lineup is a start.


Activated OF Felix Jose from the DL; designated OF Lance
for assignment. [5/30]

How was this decision made? Duck, duck, goose? Best of three? While Lance
Johnson isn’t worth much these days, he was the closest thing to a backup
center fielder the team had. They could call up Donzell McDonald, but he’s a
bit too talented to be keeping company with Chris Turner or Clay Bellinger.


Placed 3B Scott Rolen on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/25 (sprained
ankle); recalled LHP Bryan Ward from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. [5/29]

It’s not just their tough early schedule: the Phillies have been the worst
offensive team in baseball, with only two regulars playing well enough to be
called above-average hitters. Now Scott Rolen is down, leaving Bobby Abreu
alone. Pat Burrell should help to fill the gap, and fortunately Rolen’s only
expected to be gone for the two weeks.

What’s unfortunate is that a bad offense will do nothing to take the
pressure off of a pitching staff that Terry Francona has gone out of his way
to run into the ground. The tragedy for the Phillies isn’t their rudely
shattered delusions of grandeur or their lousy season or their wasted money
or their flubbing their stadium deal, it’s that they won’t even be able to
cash in on the veteran pitching talent they had at the start of the season.
In a world where the Diamondbacks or John Hart frequently hand out Christmas
presents to other GMs at the end of July, the Phillies won’t get to restock
their farm system. Instead Ed Wade will get to spend plenty of quality time
sorting out which of his pitchers’ contracts were insured and which were

Last I checked, Bryan Ward still hadn’t grown back the amazing facial hair
he was wearing in 1998. He has been pitching well in Scranton (2.55 ERA, 26
baserunners in 24 2/3 innings), and may even be good in a situational role:
International League left-handed batters have gone 3-for-25 off of him with
one walk and no extra-base hits.


Signed RHP Todd Ritchie to a two-year contract. [5/29]

The number of ex-Twin pitchers who survived hurried introductions to the
majors in their early twenties is unfortunately few. Some, like Paul Abbott,
end up taking forever to reclaim a shot at a major-league career. Todd
Ritchie not only survived, he managed to get his career turned around in
short order, with a big assist from Pete Vuckovich. It’s good to see him
finally get his first big payday.


Placed LHP Sterling Hitchcock on the 15-day DL (sprained elbow);
designated LHP Matt Whisenant for assignment; purchased the contract
of RHP Adam Eaton from Mobile (Double-A); recalled RHP Rodrigo
from Las Vegas. [5/30]

Can we create a new award? We could call it the Harvey, in sad honor of
Bryan Harvey, the pitcher his GM didn’t trade in time to avoid being on the
hook for his contract. We can also turn the award on its head: Gord Ash
deserves an Un-Harvey for unloading Randy Myers, for example.

Right now, Kevin Towers seems to be collecting Harveys. He could have
peddled Sterling Hitchcock in the spring, but now he’s gone for at least two
months, and a weak farm system isn’t going to be getting any reinforcements.
Now his team’s rotation is down to two men left from Opening Day.

At least the Pads will get to enjoy something they got out of this winter’s
Andy Ashby trade. While Adam Eaton is skipping a level, he was beginning to
dominate the Southern League. He was 4-1 with a 2.68 ERA, giving up 47 hits
and 18 walks in 57 innings, with 58 strikeouts. He’s been especially
succesful at keeping left-handed hitters from getting the ball out of the
infield. While young pitchers are always unpredictable, and Eaton could
undoubtedly use some more experience at the upper levels, he is looking like
a good choice as the fifth starter. He’ll be on the tail end of a rotation
cut down to Matt Clement, Brian Meadows, Stan Spencer and Rodrigo Lopez.

Cutting Matt Whisenant is baffling. With so many teams hunting for
left-handed relief help, he should get claimed by another team, pronto. He
was doing his situational job: left-handed batters have only hit
.143/.279/.143 off of him this year. He even throws hard, so it isn’t like
he’s another Tony Fossas goof. Cutting him loose also leaves the pen with
Kevin Walker as the lone lefty, and he’s been awful.


Placed RHP Gil Meche on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 5/29 (strained
shoulder); recalled RHP Kevin Hodges from Tacoma. [5/30]

The only starters who haven’t gone done so far? Aaron Sele and original
fifth starter John Halama. Now Gil Meche is down, joining Freddy Garcia on
the DL. While most pitch-count worriers are following and fretting–for good
reason–over Rick Ankiel, Meche was sacrificed to the sulfurous poisons of
Mt. Piniella in relative obscurity.

The short-term fix is that at least Jamie Moyer will return from the DL
today, with Brett Tomko’s next start getting pushed back to next week.
However, the Mariners’ entire season depends on Piniella learning how to not
screw up his pitching staff, and he’s giving us ample reason to believe he
hasn’t learned from his past.


Traded 2B Tony Graffanino to the White Sox for RHP Tanyon
. [5/31]

The Devil Rays’ pitching injuries have gotten considerably less play in the
press than those of the Expos and Indians. Yet the rotation is now down to
Steve Trachsel, Esteban Yan and…well, Albie Lopez is getting a shot to
come back out of the pen, and they’ve got Bryan Rekar learning to love life
at sea level. None of the four starters on the DL look like they’re ready to
come back anytime soon, which apparently leaves Tanyon Sturtze. While I’m
not a believer, Sturtze was extremely effective in the minors last year,
anchoring IL champion Charlotte’s rotation into the Triple-A World Series.

Having already managed to steal Russ Johnson, the Rays could afford to part
with a poor man’s Johnson in Tony Graffanino.


Voided optioning RHP Dan Kolb to Oklahoma and instead placed him on
the 15-day DL (elbow). [5/30]

Chris Kahrl can be reached at

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