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Recalled LHP Doug Slaten from Reno (Triple-A). [7/8]
Optioned LHP Doug Slaten to Reno; recalled RHP Leo Rosales from Reno. [7/11]

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Recalled OF-L Sam Fuld from Iowa (Triple-A). [7/11]

So, it looks as if there wasn’t a deal to be made, and for the time being during Geovany Soto‘s absence, they’re going to rough it with Jake Fox as their emergency-oriented backup backstop through the weekend. Given that I plan on catching both halves of the doubleheader tomorrow, I couldn’t be more pleased, since this means that I’ll get to witness the event and see if it’s case for muey mayhem. In the meantime, they have Fuld for additional pinch-running and low-leverage pinch-hitting assignments. I’m just amused because he’s back in Wrigley on the same day I am, and after seeing him achieve last week’s never-before-witnessed (by me) feat.

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Outrighted RHP Jason Hirsh to Colorado Springs (Triple-A). [7/10]
Placed LHP Alan Embree on the 15-day DL (broken leg); purchased the contract of RHP Matt Belisle from Colorado Springs. [7/11]

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Placed RHP Matt Lindstrom on the 15-day DL (elbow inflammation); recalled RHP Christopher Leroux from Jacksonville (Double-A). [6/24]
Placed RHP Christopher Leroux on the 15-day DL (shoulder inflammation), retroactive to 7/4; signed RHP Brendan Donnelly. [7/5]
Optioned OF-L Alejandro De Aza to New Orleans (Triple-A); purchased the contract of UT-R Andy Gonzalez; transferred UT-S Alfredo Amezaga from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/8]
Activated RHP Kiko Calero from the 15-day DL; optioned RHP Tim Wood to New Orleans. [7/9]

How are they doing it? How? Well, keeping in mind that this is a .500 ballclub we’re talking about, and setting aside their employment of the best player in the game in Hanley Ramirez, there are a few discrete sources of strength that deserve singling out.

The rotation gets perhaps overmuch credit, because it’s where a quintet of young talents, each of whom has been talked up for years, is getting to play. But when you look at its performance on a case-by-case basis in terms of Support-Neutral Winning Percentage, it’s really just Josh Johnson being incredible and the other youngsters doing what young pitchers do, which is alternate excellence and exasperation. Now, we know that Ricky Nolasco‘s gotten better already, and seems to have reverted to his 2008 level of performance. We can hope that Sean West, Chris Volstad, and Andrew Miller make progress as well, because all still have the sort of upside that dreams are made of, but we’ll have to see how they work out in the second half.

So what about that bullpen? It’s here where I think we really ought to give Larry Beinfest and Fredi Gonzalez a ton of credit. Taking a look at its leaders in WXRL, beyond the ever-fragile Lindstrom, Calero and Dan Meyer have been nifty little free-talent finds and have shined in set-up roles, while Leo Nuñez has given them the premium performance that makes that Mike Jacobs deal look better every day (and it looked good on day one). Burke Badenhop, added in the Willis/Cabrera deal, has made a place for himself as the team’s long reliever, eating up the innings that need taking when you have a young rotation and burning through lineups with that nice sinker.

But it goes deeper down than that. Tim Wood’s a hard-throwing draft-and-follow from ’02, Beinfest’s first draft for the Fish after the great franchise switcheroo that put the Lorians in Miami and made the Expos wards of the game. To add to the free talent-sourced pen materiel, they’re getting good work from journeyman Brian Sanches, and now Brendan Donnelly gets fished out of Triple-A after proving that he’s healthy and still capable of mowing people down, having given Round Rock 23 strikeouts in 25 2/3 IP against 29 baserunners, and allowing just six runs. Renyel Pinto‘s another addition by trade, the other remaining notable from the Cubs beyond the Nolasco Kid from the Juan Pierre shakedown. Put it all together, and it’s a testament to careful scouting and the patient accumulation of quality from every possible source.

Now, I know, the Fish might be an abomination in some people’s eyes, including those of a colleague or two. But here they are, playing .500 when less was expected, and fielding talent that most clubs should envy. As freakishly up-and-down as the franchise’s history has been, with three shades of rogue owning the team and building it up and busting it down, it’s sort of interesting to see what they’re agglomerating themselves into.

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Nabbed C/1BR Chris Coste off of waivers from the Phillies; optioned INF-S Matt Kata to Round Rock (Triple-A). [7/10]

A nice pickup for the ‘Stros, especially considering that Humberto Quintero has a sub-.200 Equivalent Average, and with Ivan Rodriguez getting most of the defensive innings behind the plate. Why then keep Quintero, though? To let Coste get used regularly in pinch-hitting assignments and still have that all-important third catcher, I suppose, although Coste’s career performance in that role hasn’t been exceptional (.224/.262/.328). Moreover, Ed Wade’s comment that Coste’s a reserve at either infield corner seems just silly, since the pride of Fargo has yet to do so in a big-league ballgame and he’s 36 and all. However, Wade’s right on in identifying that Coste’s a hitter with some right-handed pop who’s now on a team that gets to take aim at the Crawford Boxes when they play at home, especially against lefties. It’s something of a misconception that Coste walks; with career rates against right- and left-handers bouncing under five and seven percent of all PA, respectively, it’s clear that he does not, but he’s managed to run into 16 HBPs against right-handers, against just two versus southpaws. I don’t know if that means anything, it’s just sort interesting and odd.

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Activated RHP Brad Lidge from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Sergio Escalona to Lehigh Valley (Triple-A). [6/25]
Placed LHP Antonio Bastardo on the 15-day DL (strained shoulder), retroactive to 6/26; recalled LHP Sergio Escalona from Lehigh Valley. [6/30]
Designated LHP Jack Taschner for assignment; purchased the contract of RHP Rodrigo Lopez from Lehigh Valley; transferred RHP Brett Myers from the 15- to the 60-day DL. [7/3]
Activated LHP Scott Eyre from the 15-day DL; optioned LHP Sergio Escalona to Lehigh Valley. [7/5]
Outrighted LHP Jack Taschner to the Iron Pigs. [7/7]
Activated LF-L Raul Ibañez from the 15-day DL; designated C/1BR Chris Coste for assignment, and lost him on a waiver claim by the Astros. [7/10]

So, Ibañez is back, and that’s a good thing, even if there’s an element of suspension of disbelief as far as whether or not he can keep doing what he’d been doing in the first half. In his absence, Charlie Manuel spread the starts around, with Greg Dobbs getting nine starts in left, John Mayberry Jr. getting eight starts (one in right, when Manuel flip-flopped him with Jayson Werth), and four for Matt Stairs. Dobbs hit well (.375/.400/.594), Mayberry did not (.179/.238/.436) while also getting used a lot as a late-game pinch-hitter and substitute; Stairs went 4-for-13 with a HBP while seemingly settling in as Manuel’s pinch-hitter of choice. Broadly speaking, they scored three runs or less in 10 of those games, four or more in 11; before they lost Ibañez, that ratio was 42 with four or more, 21 with three or less. I don’t think there’s anything remarkable in suggesting they’ll be better off with Ibañez back, but it’s worth noting that Dobbs is probably better off as a functional reserve for the playing time he got in the meantime, and you can consider the exposure that Mayberry got as some sort of silver lining, although relying on him as anything more than a fifth outfielder at this point seems like a risk.

Over on the pitching side of the ledger, fixing the rotation’s no easy thing, of course, hence the multiplicity of Pedro Martinez-related rumors. I’m still chary of any suggestion that an aging Pedro will survive all that well in the tight spaces of Citizens Bank. Certainly losing Bastardo* doesn’t seem as it would help matters much, but after that tasty debut he didn’t manage another quality start in five, and it seems clear that he was up sooner than his operating manual might suggest. In point of fact, not a single Phillies starter beyond J.A. Happ had managed a Support-Neutral Winning Percentage above .500… until Rodrigo Lopez of all people arrived on the scene. I’m more than skeptical that such a thing can stand-Lopez wasn’t pitching well in Triple-A, allowing 83 hits in 71 1/3 IP, not to mention almost five runs per nine. He did arrive as something of a hot hand, having managed three straight seven-inning quality starts, and he was managing 6.6 K/9 while walking just 1.6; he is also, fundamentally, Rodrigo Lopez, so let’s try not to get spazzy on the subject.

If there’s an odd/bad turn here, what’s up with discarding Chris Coste for the sake of retaining Paul Bako? We can hope that this means that Lou Marson‘s going to be brought back up at some point, because Bako’s not even a proper emergency parachute, and with Carlos Ruiz‘s numbers predictably plummeting, having an alternative who can do something more than just make outs from the left side of the plate would be dandy. Marson isn’t having a huge year for the Pigs, but he is hitting .303/.378/.377. Perhaps this is a move that can wait a few more weeks, but the point to take away is that if the Phillies have Bako on their post-season roster (should they get so far), that would be a horrendous miscalculation as such matters go.

*: It is impossible for me to read or hear his name and not think of the best-ever episode of The Comic Strip Presents… (“A Fistful of Traveller’s Cheques,” of course). Would that the day will come when those are available for Region 1 disc players.

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Optioned LHP Joe Thatcher to Portland (Triple-A); purchased the contract of INF-R Craig Stansberry from Portland; designated RHP Walter Silva for assignment. [7/7]
Outrighted RHP Walter Silva to Portland; signed UT-L Russ Adams to a minor league contract, and assigned him to Portland. [7/10]

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Optioned INF-R Brian Barden to Memphis (Triple-A); recalled RHP P.J. Walters to Memphis. [7/11]

Seems like a straight tweak to get that extra arm on the staff for tomorrow’s doubleheader, so there isn’t a whole to say on a qualitative level. (It’s just as well that they did, since Brad Thompson just struggled through a 29-pitch first inning, which might mean an early ending to his day at the office.) It is interesting that they preferred to keep Jarrett Hoffpauir up instead of Barden, since that leaves them a bit short-handed in terms of people on the roster who might plausibly play shortstop, but Brendan Ryan‘s hitting more than well enough to enjoy some faith for the time being as a position player they wouldn’t need or want to swap out. I don’t expect this to last very far past the break, but with time off for almost everybody in the offing, resting Ryan shouldn’t be a logistical concern over the weekend.

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Traded OF-L Ryan Langerhans to the Mariners in exchange for UT-R Mike Morse. [6/28]
Optioned OF-S Elijah Dukes to Syracuse (Triple-A). [7/1]
Designated RHP Jesus Colome for assignment; recalled RHP Jason Bergmann. [7/4]
Activated RHP Matt Chico from the 60-day DL, and optioned him to Harrisburg (Double-A). [7/8]