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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed RHP Tim Belcher on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/3 (sore
elbow); recalled RHPs Ramon Ortiz and Lou Pote from Edmonton;
activated SS Kevin Stocker from the DL; optioned 2B/SS Justin
Baughman
and RHP Brian Cooper to Edmonton. [7/6]

Optioned RHP Ramon Ortiz to Edmonton; recalled RHP Seth
Etherton
from Edmonton. [7/7]

The politics of prestige are continuing to undermine what has turned into a
fine little season for the Angels. They could help themselves and go with a
rotation of Jarrod Washburn, Brian Cooper, Seth Etherton and, once he’s
healed up, Scott Schoeneweis. That would leave Kent Bottenfield, Ken Hill
and Tim Belcher to duke it out for the last rotation spot. Bumping
Bottenfield back into long relief would probably be the most helpful
solution, but that won’t happen.

The root of the problem is that penny-punishing Bill Stoneman just can’t
bring himself to put players into the roles they’re best suited for.
Bottenfield is a nifty utility pitcher in a supersized Gene Nelson mold. He
can help a team as a fifth starter or fill-in odd-jobs guy, but he’s
miscast as a rotation regular. Hill and Belcher continue to have plenty of
value as props for Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag II. The Rangers were
smart enough to cut their losses with Mark Clark. The Angels need to make
their cue from them, break with the whims of the Last Bavasi, and get these
guys pitching for the Indians.

As a shortstop, Kevin Stocker has basically lost it. The Angels would help
themselves if they decided to get creative in Gary DiSarcina’s absence and
entrust shortstop to either Troy Glaus or Adam Kennedy. Both have advanced
experience with the position and if either of them ended up looking good
over the next three months, Stoneman would have considerably greater
freedom of action in his winter shopping and trade talks.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Optioned RHP Nelson Figueroa to Tucson; recalled RHP Geraldo
Guzman
from Tucson. [7/6]

Optioned RHP Geraldo Guzman to Tucson; recalled OF Rob Ryan
from Tucson. [7/7]

The Snakes are inching dangerously close to a pretty thorough implosion.
Todd Stottlemyre cannot be relied upon to return and pitch at all
effectively. Armando Reynoso was a bad risk a year ago, and only looks
worse now. Mike Morgan cannot be anything more than a temp. And Omar Daal
has had to be booted into the bullpen due to ineffectiveness, a move that
was even more damaging because it was so unexpected.

All that leaves the Snakes relying on the Big Unit, Brian Anderson and a
strong bullpen. Because two rotation spots are already up for grabs, the
purple-and-teal goody-goodies desperately need Daal to round into form,
lest they have to trade out of need for one of the not-very-palatable
veteran starters who are available. With a middle infield of Tony Womack
and Jay Bell, their choices are already limited because it can’t be someone
who relies too much on a sinker to generate lots of groundball outs.

It would be interesting to see if they decide to rely on either Nelson
Figueroa or Gerardo Guzman down the stretch, but if the Rox are still
within five games at the end of the month, we can count on a deal.


ATLANTA BRAVES

Signed RHP Scott Kamieniecki. [7/5]

Optioned RHP Ismael Villegas to Richmond. [7/6]

Schuerholzitis is a nasty affliction. Few GMs can tough out the chills or
the night sweats a roster stocked with young unknowns can bring.
Invariably, they go for a quick fix, picking up a recognizable
over-the-counter name brand, the ingredients of which are nine-tenths gin
and one-tenth familiarity. It’s 100% less effective than professionally
diagnosing the problem, but the reassuring burn you get as it goes down
usually makes any patient so zonked that they forget they had a problem in
the first place.

The problems with the Braves’ pen this year is more a symptom of a rotation
with two bad old men and one scuffling Kevin Millwood. The Polish Prince
isn’t going to fix that any more than the infamous Don Wengert could.
Trusting Bruce Chen with a rotation spot and using Jason Marquis in
higher-leverage situations are the necessary cures if the Braves want to
stop keeping themselves only one bad week ahead of the Mets.


BOSTON RED SOX

Recalled LHP Tim Young from Pawtucket; designated OF Curtis
Pride
for assignment; signed OF Bernard Gilkey; optioned 3B
Wilton Veras to Pawtucket. [7/4]

Activated LHP Jeff Fassero from the DL; placed 1B Mike
Stanley
on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/2 (strained shoulder). [7/5]

Optioned LHP Tim Young to Pawtucket; recalled 1B Dernell
Stenson
from Pawtucket. [7/7]

Optioned RHP Paxton Crawford to Pawtucket. [7/8]

Lets put the Curse of the Bambino out to pasture, because part of the
problem here is the Curse of Gary Gaetti. Gaetti’s lame attempt to prolong
his lifeless career, and the Duke’s unfortunate decision to collaborate, is
continuing to have ugly repercussions. Keeping Gaetti cost the Red Sox
their shot at retaining Marty Cordova with that roster spot. Not a big
deal, considering Cordova’s shortcomings, right? Well, now that they’ve
lost Gaetti and Cordova and Mike Stanley and Darren Lewis and John Valentin
and Trot Nixon, they’re in desperate enough straits that they’re stuck with
Troy O’Leary’s bat in an outfield corner, and forced to nab Bernard Gilkey
for the other and reduced to trading for Ed Sprague.

Keeping Cordova wouldn’t have solved that many problems, but it would have
minimized the shortage of outfielders and right-handed bats that trading
for Sprague and acquiring Gilkey address, and they would have still had the
opportunity to let Curtis Pride nab O’Leary’s job. The Duke hasn’t done his
squad any favors defensively: Sprague’s defense has been a unique blend of
Ron Cey’s immobility and Joel Youngblood’s spectacularly random
incompetence for a good decade or so. At most, he should be allowed to
platoon with Dernell Stenson while Jeff Frye, Jose Offerman, Brian Daubach
and Morgan Burkhart play every day. That leaves one outfield spot to split
between O’Leary and Gilkey, which is about one lineup slot too many.


CINCINNATI REDS

Placed RHP Osvaldo Fernandez on the 15-day DL (sore elbow); recalled
RHP Scott Winchester from Louisville; claimed RHP Jason Sekany off
of waivers from the Red Sox and assigned him to Chattanooga (Double-A). [7/7]

The Reds combine some damage control with another of Jim Bowden’s nice
snags off of the waiver wire.

The rotation that was supposed to propel the Reds to the playoffs is almost
gone. As expected, Ron Villone has earned his way back to the bullpen,
while Rob Bell has been given his return ticket to Louisville. Pete
Harnisch is damaged goods, and the first replacement starter, Ozzie
Fernandez, is already hurting. You look around the roster, and you see an
awful lot of minor-league journeymen and retreads lounging around, guys
like Scott Winchester, Elmer Dessens, Andy Larkin and Manny Aybar. None of
this is the end of the world for the Reds, even if it means their shot at
contending this year is fizzling. Yesterday’s retread can easily turn into
tomorrow’s Kent Bottenfield (and turn back again).

The big risk is the decision to put Scott Williamson into the rotation.
Even if the Reds manage to mount a half-hearted push to chase the
Cardinals, they don’t have the talent to go far in the playoffs, and they
may well be risking Williamson’s future to pursue a limited goal. The
bullpen should be fine in Williamson’s absence if Villone returns back to
the form that had him looking like a great three-inning reliever last year.

>From an organizational perspective, just about the only thing that mounting
a playoff push this year might accomplish is putting the brakes on Bowden’s
unfortunate fascination with the idea of letting Bob Boone manage again.
Boone is the prototypical managing genius of the 1990s, sort of like Don
Baylor or Phil Garner or Terry Francona. The media grants them wide berths,
they hand out neato quotes about toughness and professionalism with aplomb
and they have uncanny knacks for losing games and ruining rosters. If Boone
is handed the Reds’ job, expect a repeat of the Ray Knight meltdown,
potentially made worse for the entire organization if Bowden is reluctant
to fire him as quickly as he did Ray Knight or Tony Perez.

Jason Sekany throws hard and is young enough to improve after some initial
rough spots in Pawtucket. He’s coming off of a great year in Double-A and
by the end of the year might end up being a very solid replacement for
Williamson in the major-league pen.


CLEVELAND INDIANS

Activated RHP Sean DePaula from the DL; optioned RHP Kane
Davis
to Buffalo. [7/9]

Kane Davis is one of those names Indians fanatics can lump together with
guys like Keith Creel or Rick Behenna or Jamie "the Rat"
Easterly: knowing they ever wore Chief Wahoo on their heads is worthy of a
glass raised to the human capacity for useless knowledge. Charlie Manuel
has already said the Tribe will fill their fifth starter slot with a trade
or from the minors.

Of course, the minors are running on empty: Chad Ogea is out for the year
and Joe Roa is back in the organization. Tim Drew isn’t ready for the
International League and Robert Pugmire is down. Because Charles Nagy is
rehabbing, don’t be surprised if Brian Williams or Richie Lewis or Andrew
Lorraine get one or two spot starts, after which the Tribe will haul Nagy
back into uniform.


DETROIT TIGERS

Placed C/1B Robert Fick on the 15-day DL (separated shoulder);
optioned RHP Steve Sparks to Toledo; recalled C Javier
Cardona
and 2B/OF Jose Macias from Toledo. [7/7]

Losing Robert Fick at this time seriously hurts the Tigers just when they
need to wise up and start cutting bait. Brad Ausmus is one of the few
tradeable commodities they have. Fick probably won’t be back before the
July 31 deadline, which means that the Tigers would have to gut it out with
Javier Cardona until Fick healed up. That isn’t the end of the world,
because Cardona is the better prospect as a catcher; it’s just unlikely
that Randy Smith can bring himself to trade Ausmus away. Perhaps if he
thinks of it in terms of an opportunity to later reacquire Ausmus for the
fifth time in his baseball management career….


HOUSTON ASTROS

Released RHP Mike Maddux outright; recalled LHP Wade Miller
from New Orleans. [7/5]

Octavio Dotel’s post-sixth-inning struggles have already been pretty well
documented, and a thin Astros pen hasn’t made it easy for Larry Dierker to
pull him as early as he should.

Hopefully they have Wade Miller up to complement Marc Valdes in middle
relief, but it’s more likely that Jose Lima will be dealt and Miller forced
to step into the rotation despite his tender arm and relative youth (23).
With a hard slider and a high-velocity sinker, Miller could be a good
prototype for the kind of pitcher who can succeed at Enron Field, but with
everything going as badly for the Astros as it has, you hate to see anyone
with a future get too associated with the current debacle.

Anyone laying money that the Braves take a look at Maddux the Lesser?


KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Placed CF Carlos Beltran on the 15-day DL (bone bruise – knee);
activated RHP Blake Stein from the DL. [7/5]

Losing Carlos Beltran isn’t all bad, in that he’s totally lost at the plate
and needs some easy rehab time and easier rehab at-bats. Since the Royals
have dispensed with overt, insecure gestures like trying to show Mark Quinn
who’s the boss, they have the depth to slip Johnny Damon back into center
field with Quinn in left field, while David McCarthy gets most of the DH
at-bats. That’s assuming Tony Muser has reassured himself enough that he’s
running the show, and doesn’t decide to get silly and play Todd Dunwoody
just to really irritate Quinn.

At least the rotation is starting to resemble something acceptable. Blake
Stein joins Dan Reichert as the latest reinforcements, with Jeff Suppan,
Mac Suzuki and the ubiquitous Jay Witasick rounding it out. Witasick still
looks like a good reliever in the making, but the other four could be next
year’s 2001 Royals rotation behind a healthy Jose Rosado.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Purchased the contract of UT Mike Metcalfe from Albuquerque;
designated UT Sean Gilbert for assignment. [7/5]

As utilitymen go, Mike Metcalfe has the mix of skills of an F.P. Santangelo
or a Rex Hudler: he can play all over the place, run like the wind and he’s
willing to take a walk. He even switch-hits. Considering that the Dodgers
have a bench with two professional pinch-hitters (Jim Leyritz and Dave
Hansen), Davey Johnson needs all the flexibility he can get from his bench
now that the original Santangelo has to play more frequently in Devon
White’s absence.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Recalled LHP Ray King from Indianapolis; optioned RHP Allen
Levrault
to Indianapolis. [7/6]

Badness and indecisiveness can create a self-perpetuating cycle, one which
the Brewers seem committed to in their wishy-washy way. It was nice to give
Allen Levrault a taste of the majors, but it’s kind of silly that they’re
only just now coming to terms with the idea that Valerio De Los Santos is
never going to grow into a lefty specialist. The man doesn’t have a
changeup, but has good heat and a tough forkball. Sort of like Ron Villone,
he needs to work with an open throttle for two or three or four innings at
a time.

Meanwhile, Ray King is what he’s been all along: a swell lefty specialist.
Of course, so is/was Kelly Wunsch, and Dean Taylor didn’t know what he had
there either. If you’re a major-league GM and you’re shopping for pitching
help, skip asking after the Jose Limas, the Andy Ashbys or the Ismael
Valdeses of the world. Take a page from the White Sox and start asking
after guys like De Los Santos and Steve Woodard, and be prepared to give up
that Jason Bere clone who’s beaning the backstop for your Triple-A affiliate.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Recalled OF Chad Allen from Salt Lake; outrighted DH Butch
Huskey
to Salt Lake. [7/7]

The time was coming when even Tom Kelly had to concede he needed a third
genuine outfielder on the roster, but I’m surprised it was Chad Allen who
got the call instead of Torii Hunter. Allen will get to platoon with the
even more surprising resurrected career of Midre Cummings, while Jacque
Jones will just have to take his lumps against left-handers. Jones’s
glovework still makes him an asset in the lineup.

Is anybody else wondering if Butch Huskey’s departure means the Twins won
or lost the de facto swap of Marty Cordova with the Red Sox? Huskey cost
less, lasted longer and the Red Sox could use either of them at this point.


NEW YORK METS

Recalled LHP Bobby M. Jones from Norfolk; optioned RHP Jim
Mann
to Norfolk. [7/4]

As has been noted before, this has nothing to do with performance. The Mets
are one of several teams taking advantage of the letter of the law as far
as roster rules to effectively run a 26- or 27-man roster. If some teams
decide to get a bit more creative with pitcher usage patterns, they could
end up "carrying" 13 pitchers and 14 position players. We may be
heading in that direction with the next Collective Bargaining Agreement
between the players and MLB anyway, at which point some teams will probably
start playing their options to effectively carry 28 or 30 players.


NEW YORK YANKEES

Recalled LHP Ed Yarnall from Columbus; optioned IF Clay
Bellinger
to Columbus. [7/6]

Optioned LHP Ed Yarnall to Columbus; recalled RHP Darrell
Einertson
from Columbus. [7/7]

Purchased the contract of RHP Dwight Gooden from Tampa (A-ball);
optioned RHP Ben Ford to Columbus. [7/8]

Doc Gooden’s latest return to the Big Apple has me thinking about Tommy
John towards the end of his career. Like John in his last few years, there
probably isn’t another team in baseball that could consider even signing
Doc: just as Gooden was lousy with the Indians and the Astros and the
D-Rays, John was feeble in his final turns with the Angels and A’s. But you
can’t help but wonder if maybe one grand old man can’t take a page from
another and hold onto a shred of usefulness as a five-inning starter for a
while longer. It’s some inexplicable pinstriped mojo sort of thing.

Either that, or he’ll pitch as badly as David Cone, resurrecting memories
of those underwhelming, overpriced Bud Harrelson Mets squads.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated CF Adrian Brown from the DL; optioned SS/2B Abraham
Nunez
to Nashville. [7/4]

Recalled CF Chad Hermansen from Nashville; optioned LHP Jimmy
Anderson
to Altoona (Double-A). [7/7]

Chad Hermansen’s recall doesn’t look like a genuine case of giving him a
second chance as much as a grudging admission that they might need somebody
who can actually play center field instead of merely stand in it. A few
games using the DH after the All-Star break doesn’t hurt either.

Jimmy Anderson will probably return over the weekend to reclaim the fifth
spot in the rotation. The alternative is letting Chris Peters take his
licks, and Peters may not be healthy enough to do it.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Activated 2B Fernando Vina from the DL; placed IF Placido
Polanco
on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/1 (strained hamstring). [7/4]

Fernando Vina’s return and Placido Polanco’s injury highlights the
Cardinals’ hidden strength. While their bench isn’t great–Shawon Dunston
and Craig Paquette and Thomas Howard all have their shortcomings–it’s a
bench that Tony La Russa isn’t afraid to use. A manager who is comfortable
with his roster is one probably more likely to use it to best effect.

Excuse this rant, but if only the annual Baseball Prospectus were
600 pages, or 700. Keith McDonald was one of the last people I cut from the
Cardinals chapter because of space considerations, and now he’s an answer
to a trivia question. That’s the sort of detail that’s probably going to
annoy me for years.


SAN DIEGO PADRES

Optioned RHP Will Cunnane to Las Vegas; recalled C Ben Davis
from Las Vegas. [7/8]

The Padres really need to get off the pot because the one commodity they
can afford to trade is Carlos Hernandez. Ben Davis isn’t learning anything
in Las Vegas, and Kevin Towers needs to move Hernandez and come to grips
with the fact that he never should have given him a multi-year reward after
the 1998 World Series. The organization shouldn’t have to continue to waste
money and playing time because of Towers’s mushy rush to reward everyone
who contributed to another speedbump for another Yankee steamroller.

Meanwhile, the Pad people are in a bind as far as their rotation. Will
Cunnane deserves a shot at the rotation, but no other team is going to
touch Woody Williams or would want to touch Brian Meadows, another Towers
miscalculation. Both Brian Tollberg and Adam Eaton have earned extended
looks. Carlton Loewer is going to be back from rehab and Stan Spencer has
had his moments. Towers’s situation is unenviable: other than Eaton,
Tollberg and Matt Clement, none of these guys has much value in trade and
none are sufficiently better than the alternatives to make Towers’s choices
simple.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Optioned RHP Gil Meche to Tacoma; recalled IF Carlos Guillen
from Tacoma. [7/5]

Activated RHP Freddy Garcia from the DL; placed RHP Frankie
Rodriguez
on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/1 (shoulder inflammation).
[7/7]

Gil Meche isn’t really being demoted. He’s only taking his next turn in
Tacoma until after the All-Star break, when he’ll be back. Then the
Mariners can come to grips with whether or not to bump Paul Abbott from the
rotation, not to mention option Brett Tomko to Tacoma. Whoever goes to the
pen is going to be needed, and not just to fill Frank Rodriguez’s mopup
role. Arthur Lee Rhodes is being worked to death, and Lou Piniella seems
reluctant to use Rob Ramsay at all. Mix in Jose Mesa’s being Jose Mesa, and
you’ve got a pen in need of assistance.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Activated LF Greg Vaughn from the DL; placed 2B/3B Bobby
Smith
on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/6 (sprained knee). [7/7]

Optioned RHP Cory Lidle to Durham; recalled RHP Ryan Rupe
from Durham. [7/9]

On the plus side, Greg Vaughn’s return should spell the end of that grisly
outfield alignment of Ice Williams, Randy Winn and Jose Guillen. On the con
side, it should also mean less time for Bubba Trammell and Steve Cox, never
mind odious All-Star Fred McGriff’s unimpeachable position as condo
president and team shuffleboard champ.

What has yet to be seen is how badly losing Bobby Smith for close to two
months will hurt. If it means a new way to work Russ Johnson into the
lineup, they aren’t in bad shape. More likely, it means a return to regular
duty for Spanky Cairo, so the Rays will continue to be baseball’s
"lost in time" franchise.

Better news involves the rotation, at least for a little while. Although
Ryan Rupe got hammered his first time out, a rotation of Steve Trachsel,
Bryan Rekar, Albie Lopez, Esteban Yan and Rupe features four guys who
should be useful to the Rays for the next few years, plus whatever Trachsel
will bring them in trade by the end of the month.


TEXAS RANGERS

Outrighted RHP Scott Randall to Oklahoma and OF Scott
Podsednik
to Tulsa (Double-A). [7/8]

Having watched them release Mark Clark, it’s very, very interesting to see
Doug Melvin clear even more space on the 40-man roster. None of the players
on the 60-day DL are coming back this year, and several on the 15-day DL
are out for the season as well, so it isn’t as if they’re clearing room for
people coming off of the DL. Could this instead be a harbinger of a couple
of veteran-for-prospect package deals, where the Rangers add quantity and
youth?


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Activated C Darrin Fletcher from the DL; designated C Charlie
Greene
for assignment. [7/4]

Darrin Fletcher is one of the few players the Jays absolutely cannot afford
to lose. They have bats to call up if anything were to happen to a corner
outfielder or Brad Fullmer or Carlos Delgado, and anybody could replace
Homer Bush or Alex Gonzalez at their current rate. But when the
alternatives to Fletcher are two catchers who can’t hit (and I’m being
generous to Alberto Castillo’s glovework, in that he’s becoming a
notoriously indifferent plate blocker) and one who can’t catch (Todd
Greene), it’s clear that if the Jays want to avoid overpaying in a trade
for somebody like Carlos Hernandez or Brad Ausmus, they need Fletcher healthy.

If Gord Ash doesn’t have to worry about Fletcher, he can spend his time
casting around for a starter or a right-handed reliever, and possibly a
middle infielder. One good move really could help the Jays put the rest of
the division away, so the next three weeks are definitely Ash’s time in the
spotlight and a great chance to make up for the mistakes and lost
opportunities of the past three years.

Lastly, I’m glad to be back in action. If you’ve e-mailed me since June 26,
chances are I didn’t get it, so feel free to send again and I’ll try to get
back to everybody.

Chris Kahrl can be reached at ckahrl@baseballprospectus.com.

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