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First off, I’d like to thank Rabbi Pesach Wolicki for a great idea, which
is to include info on batter handedness like so: 2B-R is a
right-handed-hitting second baseman. As always, I’m grateful for yet
another sensible suggestion from our readers.


ANAHEIM ANGELS

Placed RHP Al Levine on 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/31 (elbow
inflammation); recalled RHP Matt Wise from Edmonton. [8/1]

A tough loss combined with an interesting callup. Losing Al Levine is
especially rough because he’s been in baseball’s top ten in run prevention
according to Michael Wolverton’s
Reliever Evaluation Tools.
Especially critical has been his allowing only four of 26 inherited runners to score.
However, he has tossed 67 2/3 innings in relief with two months to go, so
you can understand why his arm wore down.

Fortunately for the Angels, Shiggy Hasegawa has finally started pitching
well, and journeymen Mark Petkovsek and Mike Fyhrie have continued to do a
great job in middle relief.

Matt Wise’s callup is interesting on a couple of levels. First, it’s good
to see that he’s bounced back from time lost last season to an elbow
injury. Second, he’s been very effective starting in the PCL, going 9-6
with a 3.69 ERA. He wasn’t a hard thrower before, and hasn’t appeared to
lose much to surgery, still averaging close to six strikeouts per game.
He’s managed to allow only 122 hits and 26 walks in 124 1/3 innings,
including ten home runs. So he has got good control and a college
background from Cal State Fullerton. For the time being, he’ll be in the
rotation slot vacated by Kent Bottenfield.

Once Jarrod Washburn is due back…well, I’ve been volunteering all sorts
of uses for Ken Hill. How about a spot on the Bush campaign trail as a
fellow wealthy person with a dubious performance record? That would keep
him out of the Angels’ hair for at least a month more than the Angels need,
and might even get him named Secretary of Commerce or Sclerotic Bureaucracy
or something.


ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Optioned 1B-L Erubiel Durazo to Tucson; recalled OF-L Jason
Conti
from Tucson. [8/1]

Are the Snakes panicking? You betcha. Erubiel Durazo has a little slump,
and just as the team flings Byung-Hyun Kim to Tucson, Durazo is sent away
because of what Matt Williams or Jay Bell aren’t doing, and because he has
the misfortune of having options left. As the team scrambles to find anyone
resembling a major-league hitter, they’re even getting intoxicated with
Danny Bautista, a gateway outfielder to full Polonia addiction.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Recalled RHP Jason Johnson from Rochester. [8/1]

Without looking too far into it, I believe Jason Johnson is the current
leader in this year’s Terry Felton Sweepstakes, named in honor of the
original great one who managed to go 0-13 in 1982. If Johnson can avoid a
win for the rest of the season, that will be a distinction of some sort.

The demotion is unfair in that Johnson has pitched as well as Pat Rapp and
much better than Scott Erickson, and that’s without even considering his
time at Rochester, in which he’s given up less than a baserunner per
inning, struck out more than a man per inning and posted a 1.47 ERA in
eight starts. But he’s an Oriole, so he should already be used to the idea
that life isn’t fair. Statistical curiosity aside, here’s hoping he avoids
Feltondom.


BOSTON RED SOX

Placed 2B/1B-B Jose Offerman on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/30
(knee contusion); recalled DH-B Morgan Burkhart from Pawtucket. [7/31]

Placed RHP Ramon Martinez on the 15-day DL (knee contusion);
recalled RHP Rick Croushore from Pawtucket. [8/2]

It’s not just that the wheels keep coming off. It’s more that the Duke
keeps putting on slightly smaller tires each time it happens. By September,
they’ll be down to driving on the rims while talking gamely about hanging
tough.

While Jose Offerman has been struggling through his worst Lasorda-free
season (.241/.331/.329 with a .213
Equivalent Average),
he was at least
doing an almost adequate job of getting on base, and had the hope of
getting better down the stretch. Morgan Burkhart’s return rights a past
wrong, but the Red Sox are still stuck in the predicament of having Mike
Lansing, Ed Sprague and Troy O’Leary playing regularly. If ever there was a
team that should be asking the Astros to try to slip Bill Spiers through
waivers, it’s the Red Sox. Instead, they ended up with Rico Brogna, which
means the scars at second base and third base won’t heal.

As for a pitching staff that won’t be getting much in the way of run
support, losing Ramon Martinez is something the Duke’s dozen-man rotation
was built to anticipate. While Pedro’s big brother was never going to meet
the outlandish preseason expectations of too many analysts, at least he
wasn’t a complete disaster. That had more to do with a short leash and a
good bullpen than it did with anything he was doing in his slap-happy five
inning jaunts.

Now the Sox might be bringing Bret Saberhagen back from rehab, which is
another way of saying that if they can find a way to avoid giving Tomo Ohka
a few starts, they will. That makes their rotation Pedro Martinez, Jeff
Fassero, Tim Wakefield, Rolando Arrojo and meatloaf. That’s a formula for
continued heavy reliance on the pen, which is why they’re sticking with
seven relievers now that Rick Croushore is up.


CHICAGO CUBS

Recalled LHP Daniel Garibay from Iowa. [8/1]

Daniel Garibay came up to fill in for the traded Scott Downs and did great
work in a start on Tuesday. Typically, Don Baylor almost sounded
disappointed, as if this forced him to leave Garibay in the rotation.

It shouldn’t do anything of the kind, but that’s Baylor for you. If
something works that he didn’t want to work, he’ll do it again until it
doesn’t and then blame the player. He could instead return Garibay to the
pen while trumpeting what a nice job he did on short notice, and perhaps
even bask in the "genius" kudos gratuitously tossed his way by an
adulating TribCorp media machine, but that would be too sensible.


CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Placed RHP Sean Lowe on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/29
(shoulder); added C-R Charles Johnson and DH-L Harold Baines
to the active roster. [8/1]

Skip the whole issue of whether or not the Sox need veterans, rookies or
people with playoff experience. What they could really use is Sean Lowe to
bounce back to the form he flashed last season, when he was mowing batters
down in middle relief with a great sinker. Against the backdrop of so many
things going right for the Sox, Lowe’s struggles haven’t gotten much play
on the national stage, but this year’s Sox bullpen isn’t pitching anywhere
as effectively as last year’s. If it can bounce back down the stretch, it
will be a central component of any postseason success.


CINCINNATI REDS

Optioned 3B-R Mike Bell to Louisville; recalled C-R Jason
LaRue
from Louisville. [8/1]

Calling up Jason LaRue is just the first half of placing Eddie Taubensee on
the DL. The problem for the Reds is that they’re undoubtedly going to be
reluctant to give LaRue too much playing time while they still think they
have a chance, even though he’s coming off of a pretty good season at
Louisville (.254/.320/.469).

In the meantime, expect Benito Santiago to catch at least five games a
week. That’s a mistake, because Santiago is at the point where he wears out
pretty quickly with regular playing time, and he’s been lousy as a
well-rested caddy for Taubensee.

Meanwhile, demoting Mike Bell means third base is all Chris Stynes, all the
time, which should mean an end to his flirtation with .400. The Reds are
still in the tough position of having to choose between Stynes’s offense as
a regular or Gookie Dawkins’s glove at shortstop, with Barry Larkin moving
over to third base. It’s a project they’ll undoubtedly wuss out on
confronting until next spring at the earliest.


DETROIT TIGERS

Purchased the contract of RHP Adam Bernero from Toledo; optioned RHP
Erik Hiljus to Toledo; transferred $$-B Gregg Jefferies from
the 15- to the 60-day DL. [8/1]

Adam Bernero is no hard-throwing prospect, but he has yet to post an ERA
above 3.00 in a little more than a year with the organization. This year,
between Jacksonville and Toledo, he’d given up only 88 hits in 108 2/3
innings, with only 34 walks and 83 strikeouts. Despite the average
fastball, he has a command of a good splitter and uses his changeup to good
effect. Signed as an undrafted free agent out of a small Georgia college in
May 1999, by making it so easily and so early to the majors, he’s your
basic indictment of a big segment of the scouting community and a feather
in the cap of Randy Smith’s development people. When you consider how many
top college draft picks from 1999 have been touted, by us among others, who
are still nowhere near being ready for the majors, it makes Bernero’s rise
look all the more impressive.


FLORIDA MARLINS

Designated IF-R Mendy Lopez for assignment; added LF-L Henry
Rodriguez
to the active roster. [8/2]


HOUSTON ASTROS

Placed 2B-R Craig Biggio on the 15-day DL (torn ligaments – knee);
placed RHP Shane Reynolds on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/30
(back); recalled RHP Brian Powell and purchased the contract of IF-R
Tripp Cromer from New Orleans. [8/2]

Craig Biggio’s injury caps a disastrously bad season. While his numbers are
superficially strong (.268/.388/.393), he’s back in the middle of the pack
among National League second basemen offensively, and his main asset has
always been his bat. Now he’s 34, considerably slower and not hitting for
power in a good hitters’ park. If the Astros lose Jeff Bagwell because they
feel short of cash thanks to Biggio’s contract, you can slap a big ol’
asterisk on Biggio’s status as one of the greatest Astros of all time.

While you have to hope he bounces back physically, losing him to this kind
of long-term injury makes Gerry Hunsicker’s job all that much tougher: he
can’t trade Biggio and he can’t really start hunting for a veteran
replacement.

In his absence, they’re really stuck as far as filling the infield with
useful regulars. Julio Lugo should be at shortstop every day, and Billy
Spiers should be starting at third base or second base, and then…they
really end up missing Russ Johnson an awful lot. Chris Truby is probably
their best option at third base, because Tripp Cromer (.215/.269/.327 at
New Orleans) can’t really outhit Tim Bogar. Don’t be surprised if second
baseman Keith Ginter or third baseman Morgan Ensberg get called up from
Round Rock, with shortstop Adam Everett coming up in September.

While Shane Reynolds’s back problems hopefully won’t keep him out for long,
soft-tosser Brian Powell is up to fill the rotation spot in the meantime.
You might remember Powell from his grisly stint with the Tigers in 1998
(6.35 ERA in a half-season in the rotation). It isn’t that Reynolds was
pitching that effectively as much as it is that his absence leaves the
Astros with only Chris Holt and Scott Elarton as semi-effective starters.
Certainly, Wade Miller should have a big-league future, and Jose Lima can
only continue to get better, but it’s a sign of how far the mighty have
fallen.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Activated UT-B F.P. Santangelo; placed PH-L Chris Donnels on
the 15-day DL (sore shoulder). [8/2]

While F.P. Santangelo has been activated before he can play, once he heals
the Dodgers will move from last week’s problem of having only one guy who
could sort of play center field (Todd Hollandsworth) to three: Tom Goodwin,
Devon White and Santangelo. They’ll still have an excellent combo of
pinch-hitters in Dave Hansen and Kevin Elster, except they’re still
pretending Elster can field his position.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Placed RHP David Weathers on the 15-day DL (strained oblique);
recalled LHP Rafael Roque from Indianapolis; purchased the contract
of RHP Everett Stull from Indianapolis; designated RHP Bob
Scanlan
for assignment. [8/2]

Losing David Weathers to injury is by far a harder blow to take than
trading Bob Wickman. With Curtis Leskanic already relegated to the Brewers’
infrequent save opportunities, they really are going to have to rely on a
bullpen of right-handers Everett Stull, Juan Acevedo and Kane Davis, and
left-handers Valerio De Los Santos, Ray King and Rafael Roque. That’s as
bad as it sounds as long as Davey Lopes focuses on situational usage
patterns. If he uses Acevedo, Roque and De Los Santos for multi-inning
outings and King as a situational lefty, he could probably squeak by for
the next two months.

If they decided to go with that kind of pen, focusing on workloads instead
of situations, now would be a good time to bring Allen Levrault back for
long-relief work.


MINNESOTA TWINS

Designated C-B Marcus Jensen for assignment; added C-R Dan
Ardoin
to the active roster. [8/1]

I’m half-convinced this move is to give Marcus Jensen an opportunity to
resume his job as catcher for Team USA after last year’s starring role at
the Pan Am Games. On that level it’s just as well, because while he was
demonstrating his usual good glovework, he wasn’t doing the Twins all that
much good.

Danny Ardoin may not be much of a hitter compared to Mario Valdez, but he
is the best-hitting catching alternative that the Twins have until they
give Matt LeCroy another shot. He’s an outstanding defensive catcher in his
own right, and he was hitting .278/.385/.432 at Sacramento. I’d argue that
his great at-bat in the sixth inning Wednesday was the turning point of the
game, as he fouled off pitch after pitch before working his way on with a
walk, helping to open the floodgates on what would be a back-breaking
five-run inning against the admittedly pathetic Orioles.

Anyway, it’s something the Twins could use more of, and as an
organizational soldier from the A’s chain, it’s something with which Ardoin
is pretty familiar. While they could still obviously use Valdez, Ardoin
should be LeCroy’s caddy for the next several years. Of course, I could
have said the same thing about Javy Valentin six months ago, because
sometimes you never know who’s going to strike Tom Kelly’s fancy.


MONTREAL EXPOS

Optioned RHP Guillermo Mota to Ottawa; recalled LHP Trey
Moore
from Ottawa. [7/31]

Optioned OF-B Milton Bradley to Ottawa; added LHP Scott Downs
to the active roster. [8/1]

Optioned 3B/C-R Michael Barrett to Ottawa. [8/2]

At first glance, this looks like random silliness. It gets worse when you
consider that demoting Milton Bradley means Wilton Guerrero is going to
play every day in one outfield slot. The only thing that makes sense is
sending Michael Barrett down so he can take a ten-day refresher on catching
regularly.

After that, it will be interesting to see if the Expos can slip Chris
Widger through waivers to somebody who could use him, like the Reds. If
not, Widger will be one of Jim Beattie’s few bargaining chips over the
winter, against the backdrop of larger issues, like whether Beattie will
still have a job and whether the franchise will reinvent itself as the
Virginia Black Squirrels (with an appropriately cute bat-eared logo).


NEW YORK METS

Acquired RHP Juan Aracena from the Orioles for LHP Anthony
Shumaker
and assigned him to Binghamton (Double-A); announced that LHP
Rich Rodriguez has accepted an assignment to Norfolk. [7/31]


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Placed 3B-R Olmedo Saenz on the 15-day DL (strained hamstring);
recalled 2B/SS-R Jose Ortiz from Sacramento. [8/1]

It isn’t that Olmedo Saenz was hitting left-handers better than
right-handers; it’s that he’s one of the few consistently productive bats
the A’s have against left-handed pitching that makes losing him pretty
tough. Going into a series against the White Sox (who can potentially use
three left-handed starters) and the Yankees (with Pettitte and Neagle)
means this next week won’t be an easy one in which to make up ground on the
Mariners.

Jose Ortiz is another hitter coming off of the assembly line. He’s 23 has
been killing the ball at Sacramento to the tune of .348/.406/.555, and has
even swiped 16 bases in 20 attempts. While some in the organization feel he
lacks the range to play shortstop, and one person even questions his
ability to play second base, he could very easily turn out to be the next
Tony Batista. The questions for the A’s are whether he earns a spot on the
playoff roster over Frankie Menechino this year and whether he takes Randy
Velarde’s job in 2001.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Activated SS-B Enrique Wilson from the DL; optioned 2B/SS-B
Abraham Nunez to Nashville; signed IF-R Mike Benjamin to a
two-year contract extension. [8/1]

If I remember correctly, this means that the Pirates have Pat Meares with a
multi-year contract, Luis Sojo under contract through next year and now
Mike Benjamin signed through 2002. Where do they play, when the Pirates
have a starting infield of Warren Morris at second base, Enrique Wilson at
shortstop and Aramis Ramirez at third base? They’re the only team in
baseball with three non-starting infielders all making more than the
minimum and all with guaranteed multi-year contracts

"There are no small markets, only small ambitions."–C.B.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Designated C-L Rick Wilkins and OF-B Thomas Howard for
assignment. [7/31]

There’s nothing tougher to accept for a veteran than a pink slip from Tony
LaRussa. If he can’t use you when you’re over 30, and with no Bavasi
running a franchise, this is where you have to start considering exciting
alternatives like real estate sales or celebrity judge for one of the newer
X Games, like competitive bungee piercing.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Recalled RHP Gil Meche from Tacoma, and placed him on the 15-day DL
retroactive to 7/31 (strained shoulder). [8/2]

A bad break for the Mariners. While they were electing to not use Gil
Meche, he had been their third-best starter this year behind Aaron Sele and
Paul Abbott. Now that he’s missing, the Mariners are down to Brett Tomko in
case anything happens to one of the front five.

It isn’t a weakness. Not yet. In order to become something that would
really affect the staff, they would have to suffer another injury
and start seeing one or two starters struggle. Then they just have
to start counting on Jose Mesa more regularly, and the A’s will win this
thing in a cinch.

Unfortunately, this ain’t your Bob Stinson Mariners, let alone last year’s
edition. There’s no point in talking about what has to go wrong to recreate
an eruption of Mt. Piniella. This year’s Mariners don’t look like they’re
going to destroy themselves as easily as they did during the 1990s. That
means a better brand of baseball for fans in the Pacific Northwest, and a
much tougher road for for the A’s.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Recalled 3B-L Aubrey Huff, LHP Mike Duvall and RHP Billy
Taylor
from Durham; placed 3B-R Vinny Castilla on the 15-day DL,
retroactive to 7/30 (lower back). [8/2]

Hallelujah? Aubrey Huff doesn’t have anything left to prove in Durham, not
after hitting .314/.393/.563. If the D-Rays are smart he’s up to stay, and
maybe they’ll let Vinny Castilla platoon with him.

Huff does look like he’ll need a platoon partner (probably Russ Johnson),
as he’s hit 19 of his 20 home runs against right-handes. Keeping him around
will kill a pretty solid bid for Rookie of the Year in 2001, but the D-Rays
need to focus on putting the right team on the field right now, and trying
to forget the McCracken years or last winter’s "Spend and Die"
madness.

While the Devil Fishies’ staff was awful in the early going, they’re even
more loaded now with pitchers of ill repute. The rotation is Bryan Rekar,
Albie Lopez, Ryan Rupe, Travis Harper and Tanyon Sturtze. The bullpen has
Roberto Hernandez, Doug Creek, Esteban Yan (banished from the rotation now
that it’s clear the experiment did not work), a retreaded Paul Wilson and
now Mike Duvall and Billy Taylor. The highlight is that it looks like
they’ve gotten the careers of Rekar and Lopez back on track.

Taylor is coming up from Durham having almost accomplished the incredible
feat of having a 300-point platoon differential in batting average. While
he’s always been tough on right-handed batters, it’s getting silly when
lefties paste him for a .443 average in Triple-A, while right-handers are
hitting a mere .147.

Situational lefties have an established presence in the game, so are we
getting to the point that teams will start carrying situational
right-handers? In a short series, Taylor’s skill has value, when you want
to have a pitcher specifically to go get somebody like Mike Piazza or Jeff
Bagwell, a right-handed hitter who won’t be pulled. I harbor a pretty
strong suspicion that this kind of specialist is hard to carry over an
extended period of time, especially on a team as bad as the D-Rays.


TEXAS RANGERS

Placed LHP Darren Oliver on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 7/31
(shoulder fatigue); recalled RHP Jonathan Johnson from Oklahoma. [8/1]

As long as the cause is lost, the Rangers are better off taking the time to
evaluate players on the 40-man roster to see if they deserve to be there.
Next summer’s team is going to have to have Darren Oliver, and Justin
Thompson will be back as well. So in a sense, the Rangers are better off
evaluating some of their project players, like Jonathan Johnson and Doug
Davis, and to a lesser extent Matt Perisho.

For Perisho and Davis, that makes the next two months an audition for next
year’s fifth starter job. For Johnson, he gets a chance to flash his wild
curve and earn some consideration for the 11th pitcher’s slot. If he
doesn’t look good now, he’s a pretty good candidate to get ditched after
failing to fulfill the potential many saw in him when he was a first-round
pick in 1995. Considering he’s been giving up 6.5 runs per nine innings at
Oklahoma, it doesn’t take a psychic to see minor-league free agency in his
future.


TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Placed 2B-R Homer Bush on the 15-day DL (fractured finger); placed
LHP Mark Guthrie on the active roster. [8/1]

Because the Jays are reduced to having to spread the work at second base
and shortstop among Craig Grebeck, Alex Gonzalez and Chris Woodward, they
should be desperately hunting for a middle infielder, or even a third
baseman who would allow them to move Tony Batista to second base. Even if
they don’t pick one up, one of Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay has to go
once Steve Trachsel is activated, and they’re better off demoting both if
they can somehow conjure up that infielder.

Ryan Freel is probably the best guy they have left for a utility role. This
is where Jays fans can get cranky that the organization discarded guys like
Tom Evans, Casey Blake and Jeff Patzke to no obvious end.

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

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