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ANAHEIM ANGELS

Purchased the contract of LHP Scott Karl from Lake Elsinore
(A-ball); optioned LHP Juan Alvarez to Edmonton. [8/28]

For as much as I think Scott Karl is on a downward slope and picking up
steam, he’s still a better pitcher to have around than Ken Hill or Tim
Belcher. Sure, the straight numbers are ugly: a 7.68 ERA, 95 hits and 33
walks allowed in 65 2/3 innings, along with 14 home runs. But take away his
especially horrific performance in Coors, and he’s…well, he’s still a
relatively poor pitcher, posting a 5.68 ERA and allowing 44 hits and 18
walks in 38 innings. This season fits in with Karl’s pattern of getting
slightly worse in each of the last six years.

Still, he did manage to log a pair of quality starts in the four he made on
the road, and the Angels don’t exactly have a hot prospect ready and
waiting to take the fifth spot with Seth Etherton and Jarrod Washburn on
the DL and the smoldering wreckage of Brian Cooper being hurriedly brushed
off the mound. As fifth starters go, there are worse people to use to fill
in the back end of a rotation over the season’s final five weeks. With him
in hand, the Angels’ rotation is currently Scott Schoeneweis, Ramon Ortiz,
Matt Wise, Kent Mercker and Karl.

Juan Alvarez did not exactly get a clean shot at the second lefty role
behind Mike Holtz. Now that the Angels have signed Bryan Ward, Alvarez may
not get another chance in September once rosters expand. Ward could end up
being the best left-handed reliever the Angels have, but hopefully Mike
Scioscia will use the last month to evaluate all three of them, to give the
Angels the freedom of action to avoid reviewing the Buddy Groom/Mike
Magnante pickings over the winter.


BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Optioned UT/C-R Mike Kinkade to Rochester; activated CF-B Eugene
Kingsale
from the DL and optioned him to Rochester. [8/28]

Mike Kinkade is destined to head off to the Olympics, where he could end up
being one of the best power hitters in the exhibition not named Dave
Nilsson. For the number of years he’s put in, here’s hoping that he gets a
quality Mike Neill moment or two.

From the Orioles’ perspective, I guess the reason they can afford to let
him go is that there’s very little at stake for them other than trying to
stay ahead of the Devil Rays. Kinkade would be useful as a platoon-mate for
Chris Richard if the Orioles wanted to fight for every little advantage
they can get to wind up with more than 70 wins which, when you think about
how crummy the Orioles have been this year, is sort of interesting. This
year may have been the dissolution of the Over the Hill Gang, but if next
year’s team is built around the current crew, 70 wins would be a moral
victory.

As an aside, by removing Kinkade from the 40-man roster, they may end up
losing him to minor-league free agency over the winter. So if he does
something fancy for the Olympic team, he could be a latter-day Lloyd
McClendon and pull into a stadium near you with a feel-good story of
international glory.


CHICAGO CUBS

Placed OF-R Rondell White on the 15-day DL (dislocated shoulder);
recalled OF-L Roosevelt Brown from Iowa. [8/27]

Well, the better part of picking up Rondell White was going to be having
him around next year, anyway. In his absence, the Cubs can finally get
around to doing something that should have been done all along, which is
play the right Brown, in this case Roosevelt.

There really isn’t a good reason for the continued preference for Brant
over Rosie. The complaints about Rosie are that he doesn’t have
game-breaking power for a corner outfielder and that he isn’t a good
outfielder. Brant wishes his problems stopped there. Rosie has more power
than he’s given credit for, and was putting the time spent on his
banishment in Iowa to good use by hitting .309/.381/.496. He really ought
to be playing left field every day for the remainder of the season so that
the Cubs get a good sense about whether they’ll want to keep him around as
their fourth outfielder in 2001.

Assuming Corey Patterson is up for keeps at some point next season, that
would make Damon Buford a very expensive, but nonetheless useful, fifth
outfielder. Considering White’s constant health problems, carrying a
talented "platoon" of Rosie and Buford would be a sensible bit of
insurance. Rosie has nothing left to prove in the minors, and Buford makes
a nice veteran caddy for Patterson.

If the Cubs are serious about building a short-term contender in the hope
that the Reds and Astros don’t bounce back with a vengeance, they’re going
to have to do it by collecting (and using) as much offensive talent as
possible.


CINCINNATI REDS

Placed RHP Scott Williamson on the 15-day DL, retroactive to 8/24
(back strain); recalled RHP John Riedling from Louisville. [8/28]

The good news is that the back strain is apparently minor, and Scott
Williamson should be back by the end of next week. It’s an unfortunate
twist on what has been a very successful return to starting for Williamson.
Williamson ranks second on the Reds behind the departed Denny Neagle
according to Michael Wolverton’s
Support-Neutral Value-Added.
As a starter,
Williamson has produced six quality starts in nine attempts, while posting
a 2.61 ERA. While his strikeout rate has dropped while starting, it’s still
very respectable: 52 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings, while allowing 41 hits
and 25 walks. So while his strikeout rate dropped from over 13 per nine
innings pitched to roughly nine per nine, his walk rate has dropped from
over seven per nine as a reliever to less than 4.5 per nine. That’s still
not outstanding, but it is a significant improvement.

Williamson’s absence pushes Ron Villone back into the rotation. He
responded with a much-needed complete game victory against the Braves on
Monday. One of the reasons the Reds needed the complete game was because
their pen has been running short lately, with Danny Graves and Larry
Luebbers getting overused and Scott Sullivan hurting. Hence the rationale
behind calling up John Riedling.

A 22nd-round draft pick out of a Florida high school back in 1994, Riedling
has been an interesting project for the Reds organization. He’s that rare
right-hander who admits to being under six feet tall, but he comes in with
good stuff that’s been especially nasty on right-handed batters in
Louisville: they’ve managed to hit only .173 off him with two home runs.
While posting a 2.20 ERA and good peripherals in 75 innings, Reidling has
also managed to post a groundball/flyball ratio of more than two. He’s
talented enough to be up to stay.


NEW YORK METS

Purchased the contract of RHP Jerrod Riggan from Binghamton
(Double-A); optioned UT-R Joe McEwing to Norfolk. [8/28]

With the Mets having to deal with a few quick exits from their starters
lately, added to John Franco’s wearing down, Steve Phillips decided to go
back to 12 pitchers instead of carrying a third utility man.

The Mets are saying Jarrod Riggan suddenly started throwing into the low
90s this year, after a few years of dusting relative children in A ball as
one of the older players in the Sally League in 1998 and the Florida State
League in 1999. An eighth-round pick by the Angels in 1996, he had never
flashed this much velocity before. Pitching in Double-A for the first time,
the newfound heat has showed up in his performance to produce his best
season yet: a 1.16 ERA, 60 baserunners in 62 innings, only two home runs
allowed and not even showing a platoon split because he’s overpowering
everybody. He’s 26, and I guess I can count that as another example for my
half-baked theory that pitchers who make it this far with career-altering
surgeries seem to make big improvements around that age, both statistically
and in the quality of their pitches. You can take that as an example that
relievers really do grow on trees, or that he’s only blowing away generally
younger players at Double-A like he did at A-ball, or that he’s a survivor
who’s turned the corner professionally, and possibly all of the above.

For Joe McEwing, this is a pretty tough break in that it may end up
excluding him from the postseason roster. One of the last things the Mets
need is a right-handed pinch-hitter for a predominantly
right-handed-hitting lineup, and Super Joe wasn’t hitting a lick as a
utility man: .227/.246/.386.

The Mets are simply maneuvering towards a decision about who they want to
slip onto the roster right before the deadline as the 25th man on the
postseason roster. I’d expect a last-minute waivers deal for a reputable
pinch-hitter, perhaps someone like Dave Magadan.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Recalled RHP Jon Ratliff from Sacramento; optioned OF-R Eric
Byrnes
to Sacramento. [8/27]

Okay, now I’m frustrated. It isn’t Jon Ratliff’s fault, because it’s
kind of nice to see the man the Cubs picked with the draft choice they got
for letting Greg Maddux walk away (or was that for employing Larry Himes
for famed charm?). Mostly, my frustration is totally unfair, in that I wish
Ryan Christenson would suddenly magically turn into Gary Roenicke and give
the A’s the lefty-mashing platoon outfielder they really need. Against
left-handers, Christenson is hitting a squalid .154/.267/.212. OK, it is
only in something like 60 plate appearances, but they’ve been a pretty
crummy 60.

With both Giambis basically out after already losing Olmedo Saenz, the A’s
need offense wherever they can get it. Eric Byrnes would make for a pretty
good option in the outfield right around now, after hitting .301/.395/.471
in Midland and .346/.417/.581 in Sacramento. With so many players out, the
A’s need to devote roster space to people they can play, and not to someone
who’s failed in a specialist role and who they will not entrust with more
playing time under almost any circumstance. They needed to spend some more
playing time on Byrnes instead of playing several men short on offense,
something that gets only worse by going to 12 pitchers.

Ratliff has essentially turned the corner from someone who was never going
to make it to Tanyon Sturtze territory by adding a knuckle-curve in 1998.
In Sacramento, he was pitching very effectively, posting a 3.02 ERA while
allowing 94 hits and 30 walks in 104 1/3 innings, while striking out 70.
While I’m glad to see him get some service time, he isn’t what the A’s need
at the moment.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Optioned RHP Gene Stechschulte to Memphis; recalled C-R Keith
McDonald
from Memphis. [8/27]

Carlos Hernandez managed to hurt his back taking a walk, but he’s expected
to be ready to play again by the end of the week. Eli Marrero should also
be finishing up his rehab assignment by week’s end, which means that Keith
McDonald will be going back to Memphis to catch in the PCL playoffs. The
Cardinals will almost certainly carry three catchers into the postseason,
which will at least give Tony LaRussa the option to pinch-hit for the
position twice per game. That ought to mean a plate appearance or two for
Rick Ankiel in games he isn’t starting. If I had the data handy, it would
be worth looking up to see when the last time something like that happened
in the playoffs.


TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Placed RHP Tanyon Sturtze on the 15-day DL (strained oblique);
recalled RHP Tony Fiore from Durham. [8/27]

Tanyon Sturtze was just starting a good stretch, having run off three
consecutive quality starts before getting hurt over the weekend. When you
consider his other two starts for the season were both five-inning,
three-run gigs, it looks like he was totally miscast as a reliever and that
the Devil Rays really might have something here. Hopefully, the injury is
minor, and Sturtze will get an opportunity to add a few starts down the
stretch so that he can join Bryan Rekar and Albie Lopez among the Devil
Rays’ retread rotation successes.

Fiore signed as minor-league free agent, having abandoned the Phillies’
organization after years of blood, sweat and tears, starting, relieving,
closing, even racking up nine complete games pitching for Spartanburg back
in 1994. He’s 28, and last year was his first bad year in nine minor-league
seasons. For Durham this year, he was turning in another good season as a
reliever, allowing 62 hits and 38 walks in 75 innings with 39 strikeouts,
while posting a 2.28 ERA.

Fiore has been exceptionally effective against left-handers so far,
generating a 5-to-1 groundball to flyball ratio with no home runs allowed,
while yielding a .206 batting average.

All of this data is another way of saying that after he’s spent this much
time pitching professionally, I’m embarassed to admit that I don’t really
know that much about him. Considering the mayhem that typifies the
Phillies’ farm system, hats off to a survivor and a genuine organizational
soldier making it out alive and finally reaching the big leagues.

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