Comings and Goings (6/7-6/9)

Boston Red Sox- Activated shortstop Nomar Garciaparra from the 15-day disabled list; recalled pitcher Mark Malaska from Pawtucket of the International League (AAA); optioned pitcher Jamie Brown to Pawtucket; sent outright the contract of first baseman Brian Daubach to Pawtucket.

Watching Nomar strut to the plate for the first time this year, I wondered how anyone could think of not bringing him back to Boston next year. In the end, the debate will come down to Pedro vs. Nomar, and while previous statistics give Pedro the huge edge, in New England it’s no contest. Boston loves Nomar, and it’s obvious that Nomar loves Boston back. I’ve said it before, but I will guarantee the 2005 Boston Red Sox Opening Day shortstop is Nomar Garciaparra. Although, I guess I would have said that last year.

From a baseball perspective, this obviously will help the Boston club considerably. The team has spent the last couple of weeks playing Mark Bellhorn (.262/.395/.422) at second, Pokey Reese (.262/.298/.369) at short, and Kevin Youkilis (.280/.389/.440) at third, and it has worked fairly well. Now, the shortstop position that has yielded a .601 OPS adds a player with a career .925 OPS. This will mean that Bellhorn, Reese and Youkilis must split time between second and third until Bill Mueller returns, which will push Youkilis out of the lineup completely. Since both Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield have GB/FB ratios of over 1.50 this year, it makes sense to put Reese in the lineup when they pitch, and to give Bellhorn the spot with the other three hurlers.

I think that both New York and Boston have underachieved this season, with key players like Derek Jeter and Pedro Martinez struggling terribly. Despite their problems, the teams are 1-2 in the American League in runs scored, and 2-4 in AL ERA. There should be no question who will be playing the ALCS this year (though I’m hanging onto my A’s choice), no matter which club wins the division.

Philadelphia Phillies- Activated pitcher Billy Wagner from the 15-day disabled list; placed pitcher Randy Wolf on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his left elbow.

Sure, Wagner is a big name and all, but I think the Phillies are actually losing more than they are gaining in this situation. Wolf is far and away the best starter on this staff, and he has pitched loads better than his two wins would lead on. It’s really sad that Eric Milton can be 8-1 with a 4.28 ERA, while Wolf is merely 2-3 with an ERA of 2.91. While never heard in the ‘best young pitchers’ conversations, Wolf has been one of the games’ best southpaws since 2001.

Wagner is a dominating closer, but it’s not like Tim Worrell has done terribly in his place, with his ERA sitting only .10 points under Wagner’s. The bullpen has managed a 3.41 ERA this year, despite the struggles from Rheal Cormier, Roberto Hernandez and Amaury Telemaco. The best reliever has been Ryan Madson, who has allowed just four runs in 33.2 relief innings this year. Because of those numbers and his minor league experience, Larry Bowa chose him to fill the rotation vacancy left by Wolf. Immediately, this reminded me of Neal Cotts, who had a 2.46 ERA in the bullpen before Ozzie Guillen decided to put Cotts back into the rotation.

On May 22, Cotts made his first start of the year, against the White Sox rival Minnesota Twins. In 2.1 innings, Cotts gave up four runs and five hits, removing himself from the game and the rotation. Since being placed back into the bullpen, Cotts has given up four runs in 3.1 innings, raising his ERA to 5.31. The reason I say this, is because on Tuesday, Madson made his first start of the season against the White Sox. In just two-thirds of an inning, Madson allowed six hits, three home runs, and six runs, removing himself from the game and rotation. Sound familiar?

Toronto Blue Jays- Activated shortstop Chris Woodward, outfielder Frank Catalanotto and pitcher Justin Speier from the 15-day disabled list; placed first baseman Carlos Delgado on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 30, with an irritated rib cage muscle; placed pitcher Valerio De Los Santos, on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 6, with discomfort in his left shoulder; optioned outfielder Simon Pond to Syracuse of the International League (AAA).

For some reason, it seems like the Blue Jays like to throw multiple transactions at once, trying to confuse both the author and readers of Comings and Goings. But alas, I have managed to understand what exactly this all means to the Blue Jays as a team. In his call-up, the Blue Jays announced they hoped Alexis Rios would never again return to the minor leagues, confusing the lineup upon Catalanotto’s return. Rios has hit .180/.241/.220 in fifty at-bats, and some wonder if Rios should be sent back to Syracuse. While Alexis had been struggling in AAA, I would let Delgado’s trip to the DL give Rios two more weeks to prove himself, with Carlos Tosca filling out this lineup:

C- Gregg Zaun
1B- Josh Phelps/Howie Clark
2B- Orlando Hudson
SS- Chris Woodward
3B- Eric Hinske
LF- Reed Johnson
CF- Vernon Wells
RF- Alexis Rios
DH- Frank Catalanotto

Notice, that this lineup has two differences than what has been custom during Catalanotto’s stay on the DL: the shortstop and DH positions. At shortstop, Chris Woodward returns, pushing Chris Gomez (and his .645 OPS) to the bench. Considering Woodward’s OPS was .837 before getting injured, I would say this is a considerable improvement for the Blue Jays offense. And while calling a Delgado to Catalanotto switch would have been a crime in 2003, Delgado has struggled to the tune of a .753 OPS this season. Giving the first basemen a couple of weeks to rest will help, and allow the team to make a fair and logical choice on the LF/RF/DH situation in his return.

San Diego Padres- Activated pitcher David Wells from the 15-day disabled list; optioned pitcher Justin Germano to Portland of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

Finally, I get the satisfaction of knowing that David Wells and Rod Beck will sit in the same clubhouse every single day. I’ve been counting this day down since season’s beginning, not expecting it would take this long to happen. But now, I can say that the 2 best teammates in the Major Leagues are David Wells and Rod Beck, the two fat, drinking, slowball pitchers on the San Diego Padres.

Here’s what I said on Germano not too long ago:

The Padres didn’t need a starter after all, as both Dennis Tankersley and Justin Germano have pitched well in Peavy’s and David Wells’ absence. The latter should return this Friday, upon which the team will make a decision on who (Germano or Tankersley) to keep in the rotation. Despite the fact that Germano’s K/BB rate is under 1.00 (minor league career K/BB rate of 4.64) since arriving to the big leagues, my guess is the club will keep him up for the next few weeks (if Tim Stauffer doesn’t get the call). Tankersley will move to the bullpen, sending Brandon Puffer packing.

Well, Germano’s own pitching was his own death, as he couldn’t make in past the third inning against the last place Colorado Rockies, while Tankesley fired another quality start off. So, Kevin Towers had an easy decision to send Germano down, although I think we’ll be seeing him again. Tankersley will have the starter’s job for the next couple of weeks, trying to prove he wasn’t an overrated prospect a couple of seasons ago. But, I should say that David Wells return really stabilizes this rotation and makes it better, as Wells first start of the DL (5.2 scoreless IP @ BOS) showed.

Los Angeles Dodgers- Activated pitcher Hideo Nomo from the 15-day disabled list; optioned pitcher Brian Falkenborg to Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

Nomo’s return is the reason that Edwin Jackson finds himself back in AAA, despite only allowing one run and getting the win in his first start this season. It’s hard to argue with this, Nomo has carried this team for two years, but I fear this is not the Hideo of 95-97 and 02-03, but rather the 98-2001 version, who isn’t worth a penny, much less the millions Nomo is making this season. I’ve heard Nomo’s fastball is a shadow of it’s 2003 self, and while some hoped a DL stint would solve this problem, Nomo allowed six hits, three walks, and five runs in his first start back.

Right now, the Dodgers rotation is not indicative of a team fighting for a division title, a sentence never muttered the past two seasons. Odalis Perez has been fantastic, and I think Jeff Weaver’s ERA will remain in the 4.00-4.50 zone all season long. Kaz Ishii’s 1.45 WHIP is way too high to sustain a 3.36 ERA all season, so he likely has problems coming, as does Jose Lima. Once Lima starts to decline, and he always does, we should see the return of Jackson. If Nomo can become his old self again, Los Angeles just might be the favorite out West, but without him, they are again destined for a third place finish.

Montreal Expos- Acquired minor league outfielder Jason Belcher and minor league pitcher Jason Childers from the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Peter Bergeron and a player to be named.

I never see a lot of trades this early in the season, so I was a little excited to see this come across the transaction wire. In reality, this is a low-risk, fairly low-reward deal for both teams. Bergeron was once a top prospect, but he now has over 1100 AB with a .611 career OPS. His numbers were great in a 41 AB minor league stint when returning from injury, but he’s really not too different than Belcher, a AA outfielder with a .795 OPS. Childers has a WHIP just over one and a K/9 just under nine this season at AAA, which has translated to a solid 1.24 OPS in 28.2 AAA innings. Hey, has anyone ever realized that Childers just might be better than Rocky Biddle, who has never been that good anyway.

Cincinnati Reds- Placed outfielder Austin Kearns on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 2, with a sore right thumb; recalled pitcher Jung Keun Bong from Louisville of the International League (AAA).

Much has been said of the Reds great record with an outfield of Dunn, Griffey and Kearns this season, so while I think this injury will impact the Reds, I’m glad to see Wily Mo Pena get the chance. Pena hasn’t had the luxuries that Alexis Rios has had in the last fourteen months, getting minor league at-bats in AA and AAA to prepare for the Majors. Instead, Pena has spent that time getting his swings in during batting practice, getting a few pinch-hit chances here and there. But, Pena has seven extra-base hits in 77 AB this season, numbers that bode very well for the future. While the Reds will hurt by not having Kearns in right, it sure will be fun to see where Wily Mo Pena currently stands as we near the trade deadline. Are you watching Bill Bavasi?

Anaheim Angels- Activated outfielder Tim Salmon from the 15-day disabled list; optioned infielder Robb Quinlan to Salt Lake of the Pacific Coast League (AAA).

Slowly, the injuries will heal, and we will see the Anaheim Angels we expected in April. But luckily for the team, the replacements have done jobs that Keanu Reeves couldn’t dream of. So good, that like the football movie, I’m not sure the original players are better. Jeff DaVanon has a batting line of .339/.424/.479 and Chone Figgins is .310/.353/.465, lines that I’m not sure Tim Salmon can put up anymore. Maybe someone in the organization will see this and make changes, but I know that Salmon has been an Angel way too long for that to change anytime soon. Too bad, because the Angels did have a chance at this thing.

Minnesota Twins- Activated second basemen Luis Rivas from the 15-day disabled list; optioned infielder Alex Prieto to Rochester of the International League (AAA).

Twins fans everywhere should be disappointed that this had to happen sooner or later, because having Michael Cuddyer in the lineup was a good thing. While he’s only managed a .728 OPS at second this year, that’s better than both Rivas’ career (.685) and 2004 (.621) numbers. But, scouts are still impressed with Rivas, and that’s enough for both Gardenhire and Ryan. Though let me say, I think we will see a much better Twins team in the next few months than we’ve seen in April and May. Why? Well, it won’t be Rivas, but rather Joe Mauer, Doug Mientkiewicz and Johan Santana, all players who we expected more from this winter. So please, don’t praise Rivas or Shannon Stewart when the Twins make the playoffs this year, I’ve had enough of those articles.

Texas Rangers- Placed pitcher Jay Powell on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to June 5, with a sore right elbow; activated pitcher Doug Brocail from the 15-day disabled list.

Powell, Jeff Nelson, Brian Shouse, Jeff Zimmerman. All four were projected to be right-handers in the 2004 Texas bullpen, and all four now find themselves on the DL. Powell lasted the longest, pitching effectively in 23 games before his exit. While Powell’s WHIP was terrible, he kept his ERA down to 3.38, and was one of the Rangers best relievers. The team has recently added Rick Helling, although it isn’t known what role the right-hander will play with the team as of yet. My guess is the team tries their former ace in the rotation, and then kick him around the bullpen for the rest of the season.

So, where does the bullpen go now with all those players injured? The combination of Francisco Cordero, Carlos Almanzar and Erasmo Ramirez will handle most of the high leverage innings, for better or worse, and expect the latter. Doug Brocail’s return means that someone will recognize at least one name in the bullpen, even if he is the worst of the group. Count Texas as one of the league’s most overachieving teams, but give Buck Showalter some credit for taking this group this far.

New York Mets- Purchased the contract of outfielder Gerald Williams from Norfolk of the International League (AAA). Optioned second basemen Danny Garcia to Norfolk.

I love analyzing Mets transactions, because they are all sort of the same. Veteran player gets called up from AAA, young struggling player gets sent down. Sooner or later, you wonder, how are there veterans still left. While I don’t like to praise my own work (lie), I want to point everyone back to the 5/3-5/6 Comings and Goings, when I said, “I see them ready to call up James Baldwin from AAA at any moment, as well as outfielder Gerald Williams…” I guess, the point of me throwing this transaction in here, was to say, “I told y’all so!”

Also, let me note that Ricky Gutierrez and Danny Garcia have gotten the most playing time at second base with this team, but neither is still with the team. Now, the team has decided to move Ty Wigginton back to second base, with Todd Zeile playing everyday at the hot corner. I like the move, though I’m not really sold on Zeile. In fact, I would love for the team to call up David Wright from AA, where he has 37 extra-base hits and 19 stolen bases in 215 AB. Wright is currently the number two prospect in the minor leagues, right behind B.J. Upton, and the Mets should see if he’s capable of adding the Cabrera Effect to this team, which is only games out of first.

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