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Friday, August 10, 2001

Recalled LHP John Bale from Rochester. Optioned RHP Ryan Kohlmeier to Rochester.

Stop us if you've heard this one before: pointless bullpen shuffling. Kohlmeier hadn't pitched well since his callup -- 4 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HR allowed. But he hasn't pitched well all year, so why should now be any different? Why call up a guy at all if you're going to use him just three times in two weeks, and then demote him for not pitching well? He was a victim of the righty-lefty numbers game; with Willis Roberts and Kris Foster joining John Wasdin and Alan Mills in the bullpen, the Orioles already had four other RHP, so they certainly didn't need five in the bullpen. Then again, they don't need three lefties, either. The big picture is the same as before: the Orioles have no plan. It's easier for Syd Thrift to blame a pitcher who has a bad game than it is for him to figure out what the team needs: offense. So he creates the illusion of Doing Something, without actually doing anything useful. Hey, Bale might even pitch well for Baltimore. And that could mean a win or two in the standings. Whoopee. If the Orioles were serious, then it would be Alan Mills, not Ryan Kohlmeier, who was moved. Mills is pitching badly, too (an airplane ERA of 7.27), and isn't even remotely looking like part of the team's future.

Monday, August 6, 2001

Recalled OF Larry Bigbie from Rochester. Placed 1B Jay Gibbons on the disabled list.

It's not going to hurt the 2001 Orioles -- how could it? Does 25 or 30 games out matter? In fact, despite the fact that Gibbons is the team's leading home run hitter, it might actually help them. For one thing, all Gibbons has been doing so far is hitting home runs; the rest of his offensive game has been nonexistent. He's hitting .230 and not walking. For another, Bigbie is the only outfielder on the roster. So what's the problem? The Orioles desperately need to see Jay Gibbons play. They desperately need to not see Jeff Conine play. This injury guarantees that Conine plays full time; it makes Gibbons' job for next year less certain. The Orioles already have a huge glut of first basemen on next year's roster; Gibbons' injury makes it more difficult for him to establish himself.

Saturday, August 4, 2001

Activated 1B David Segui from the disabled list. Optioned OF Larry Bigbie to Rochester.

There were several late-inning heroics from Bigbie, and he didn't embarrass himself at the plate, but there's nothing really to indicate that he's ready, either. Pitchers are probably sorry to see the only outfielder on the roster be sent down, leaving them with a bunch of first baseman, a shortstop, and a 37-year old out there.

Segui has missed a third of the season so far, which would be a killer if it really mattered. But he wouldn't have been a good signing if he were healthy, so it doesn't really matter. In fact, his time on the disabled list meant more playing time for Jay Gibbons, so he was more useful on the DL than healthy.

Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Acquired RHP Kris Foster and C Geronimo Gil from the Dodgers for RHP Mike Trombley. Assigned Gil to Rochester.

Kris Foster is 26, almost 27. He's a RHP who has swung between starting and relief, but who has now been made a full time reliever (one start in the last 3 years). He has just 20 innings above AA. In fact, just 70 innings at AA, so just 90 innings above A ball. Good strikeout rate (~1 K/IP), decent (2:1) K/BB ratio, and he doesn't allow many HRs. But he's a 27-year-old right handed relief pitcher, so even if he's good, that addresses exactly none of the team's needs.

Geronimo Gil is 25, almost 26. This is his first real playing time at AAA. He's a career 278/335/443 hitter, mostly at A/AA, which translates to approximately Brook Fordyce at the major league level. He might make a decent backup catcher, which would be fine if the Orioles had a starting catcher.

Mike Trombley's no great loss, of course; he was having a decent year, but .400 teams don't need old relievers having decent years. But what good does this trade do? While Syd Thrift has a fondness for middle-aged "prospects" like Gil and Foster, they're not going to help the team win now, and they're not going to help the team win down the road.

Monday, July 25, 2001 PM

Recalled RHP Ryan Kohlmeier from Rochester. Optioned LHP John Parrish to Rochester.

Well, Parrish pitched pretty well, but he only got one start. After all, when the Orioles are wedded to Jose Mercedes and Willis Roberts, there's no room for a young pitcher who shows promise. So it's back to the bullpen shuffle. Kohlmeier had pitched okay at Rochester, but so what? He had pitched well prior to his callup, too. There's no rhyme or reason here; it's just Syd Thrift bringing players back and forth to make it look like he's doing something.

Monday, July 25, 2001 AM

Recalled LHP John Parrish from Rochester. Optioned RHP Jorge Julio to Rochester.

Parrish was pitching pretty well at Rochester, with 2.5 strikeouts per walk and just 7 HRs allowed in 83 innings, but that's beside the point. Parrish, like Sean Douglass before him, is being called up solely to make this one start during a doubleheader. Julio got 1 outing, 2 scoreless innings, this time up. Of course, Julio can't be recalled for 10 days, so when the doubleheader is over and Parrish's major league job is done for now, Syd Thrift will have to continue the bullpen shuffle in order to fill the roster hole.

Monday, July 23, 2001

Recalled OF Larry Bigbie from Rochester. Placed 1B David Segui on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to 7/16/01.

Syd Thrift ought to set some sort of record here; he picked up three pointless moderately-high-priced veteran free agents this offseason; all three of them -- Segui, Mike Bordick, and Pat Hentgen -- are now on the disabled list at the same time. This makes Segui's second trip to the disabled list already, just one year into a four-year contract; he spent 22 days on the list at the beginning of May. Then, as now, the Orioles wasted a week carrying him on the roster while injured. Not that the Orioles had any intention of trying to trade him, but this makes it impossible.

Meanwhile, Bigbie gets called up again primarily because he's already on the 40-man roster. What a great reason. He's playing okay at Rochester -- which is more than you can say about anybody else on the roster except Calvin Pickering -- but hardly scaring opposing pitchers, either. This is just place-filling until Segui gets back; nobody really expects him to contribute in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Cal Pickering, who provides one thing the Orioles desperately need -- a bat -- sits in AAA, waiting his time until he can leave the Oriole organization.

Wednesday, July 18, 2001 PM

Recalled RHP Jorge Julio from Rochester. Optioned RHP Sean Douglass to Rochester.

Douglass was only supposed to be in the majors for one start, so there's no shock there. But after the way he pitched, he was pretty much guaranteed a return trip to upstate New York.

Julio, the fireballing pitcher, hasn't been pitching overly impressively in Rochester; striking out 33 in 32.2 innings is nice, but 47 baserunners in those innings is not. The 4.13 ERA and 5.79 RA are really not that nice. This is really just more of the bullpen shuffling that Syd Thrift has become notorious for; it's too much trouble for him to improve the real problems with the lineup, so he's addressing minor problems like the bullpen. Julio was his "find" in spring training, so Syd wants to prove that he knows what he's doing by giving Julio every opportunity. Don't expect it to last; within a few weeks, we should see Julio down on the farm and someone else in the pen.

Wednesday, July 18, 2001 AM

Recalled RHP Sean Douglass from Rochester. Optioned RHP Chad Paronto to Rochester.

Douglass was recalled because the Orioles had a doubleheader; there was much confusion over the callup, with Mike Hargrove denying that Douglass would get called up, and then having him called up anyway. He's considered one of the Orioles' better prospects, and has been pitching fairly well, but not overwhelmingly so, at Rochester. (3.92 ERA, 4.96 RA, 101 K in 103 IP, 40 BB, 10 HR). He's one glimpse of what the Orioles' rotation will look like if/when Sidney Ponson or Jose Mercedes is traded.

Paronto was pitching terribly in Baltimore, with an ERA of 5.00, an RA of 8.00 (!), and more than 1 1/2 baserunners per inning pitched. Moreover, he had allowed 7 of 11 inherited runners to score. As we said, he's a journeyman organizational role player, not a major leaguer.

Thursday, July 12, 2001

Activated RHP Alan Mills from the disablied list. Designated LHP Chuck McElroy for assignment.

A trivial end to a pointless acquisition. McElroy has been awful this year, flopping (predictably) as a starter and then blowing up as a reliever, too. If he were a right handed pitcher, he'd have been released a long time ago. What made his blowup even worse was that Mike Hargrove clearly lost confidence in him from the beginning of the season, refusing to use him on the flimsiest of excuses that he was being saved for blowouts, and then ignoring him even when blowouts did happen. The only thing more pathetic than wasting a roster spot on a terrible pitcher is wasting a roster spot on a terrible pitcher that the manager doesn't even want. Of course, with the Orioles' luck, he'll probably be signed by Tony LaRussa's Home For Wayward Geriatric Lefties (a.k.a. St. Louis) and revive his career.

Mills, at 34, coming off a serious injury, is unlikely to be anything special either, of course. Even when he was good, he was walking too many and striking out too few. It's just another feeble attempt to recapture the Orioles' "glory days" under Angelos, such as they were. If you can't bring back Davey Johnson, Roberto Alomar, Rafael Palmeiro, or Cal Ripken's youth, then just add Alan Mills. Can Jamie Moyer be far behind?

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

Announced that OF Eugene Kingsale had been claimed off waivers by the Seattle Mariners.

Yawn. With the acquisition of Damon Buford, he was expendable. The world is filled with defensive replacements/pinch runners, and that's all Eugene Kingsale will ever be; he has hit 201/283/266 at Rochester this year in 250 plate appearances. He's young, but youth isn't everything. Talent counts, too. Still, being claimed by Pat Gillick's Mariners, he's likely to play in the playoffs before anybody else from the Oriole farm system.

Thursday, July 5, 2001

Activated OF Chris Richard from the disabled list. Optioned OF Larry Bigbie to Bowie.

Bigbie got his cup of coffee (7 games, 23 AB) in the bigs; now the Orioles can pat themselves on the back for giving him some major league experience. He seemed overmatched, hitting just .174 with no walks and one extra base hit, a double. Now it's back to Bowie, at least until the Orioles realize they have nobody at Rochester who can hit.

Monday, July 2, 2001

Waived OF Delino DeShields.

Gee, what a shock. Nobody wanted to give the Orioles anything for him or pay the rest of his contract. You'd think the Orioles would learn from this how pointless it is to sign guys like this, but they never do. The free agent signing of Albert Belle -- a good decision which didn't work out because of a fluke injury -- gets criticized as a disaster, while a terrible choice to sign DeShields passes almost without notice. Teams (and the media) never seem to learn that it's better to pay a lot for top talent than a little for mid-level talent. The former can provide an adequate return; the latter almost never does.

Saturday, June 30, 2001

Optioned LHP Jay Spurgeon to Rochester. Purchased contract of RHP John Wasdin from Rochester. Designated OF Eugene Kingsale for assignment.

Did we mention pointless bullpen shuffling? Wasdin was called up because he had a contractual provision promising him that he'd be called up, or released, by July 1. So what if he had been released? Are 28 year old right handed pitchers with career ERAs over 5 really hot commodities that are hard to find? Still, Spurgeon had done little at Rochester to suggest that he deserved a callup, so the fact that he was sent down without ever appearing in a game can't be said to be much of a loss.

Kingsale was designated for assignment to clear room for Wasdin on the 40-man roster. He's a speedy no-hit centerfielder right now, who's lost so much development time to injuries that it's unlikely to think he'll ever play successfully in the majors. Apparently he's doomed to have as his entire epitaph "First Aruban to play in the majors."

Monday, June 25, 2001

Optioned LHP John Parrish to Rochester. Recalled RHP Jay Spurgeon from Rochester. Claimed IF Tony Batista off waivers from the Blue Jays. Designated OF Delino DeShields for assignment.

The Parrish-Spurgeon swap is just more evidence that this team has no clue. It's not that the Orioles lose out in talent; it's that there's no rhyme or reason to these moves. Call up a reliever, watch him have two good outings and he stays in the majors, or two bad outings and he gets demoted. This doesn't really show anything about the pitcher, and it doesn't help the bullpen. But it makes management appear as if it's Doing Something, and the appearance of doing something is always more important than doing something.

The release of Delino DeShields is just another admission of past failure on the part of management. It's not their fault he was hitting so poorly, but it's hardly surprising when a 32 year old player's career tumbles off a cliff. Not to us, anyway. Oriole management always seems shocked. There was never a reason to sign him to a three year deal, when Jerry Hairston was, at most, a year away. And then the Orioles couldn't trade him, and couldn't get him playing time. And sticking him in left field was just the final stupidity; he wasn't very good defensively, which is disappointing but not unusual, but he also couldn't hit the position, which was entirely to be expected. When will management learn that you don't move middle infielders to offensive positions? So they ended up getting two years of high-paid, mediocre play from DeShields, and then released him.

Finally, the Tony Batista acquisition. It immediately raises a red flag: does Toronto know something that we don't? Sure, he's having a miserable year, but he's coming off a 40-HR season. When's the last time a 40 HR player was released less than 3 months later? Still, these are the same Blue Jays negotiating with football player Deion Sanders, who wouldn't hit 40 HRs in the rest of his career, so it's safe to chalk it up to insanity on their end. Ordinarily this would spell the end of Cal Ripken's career, but since he has already announced his retirement, it's unlikely to have any effect. Batista will be squeezed for playing time.

Saturday, June 23, 2001

Purchased contract of OF Larry Bigbie from Bowie. Placed 1B/OF Chris Richard on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to 6/20/01. Transferred OF Luis Matos from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list.

It's tempting to say that the loss of Chris Richard will cripple the lineup; he's one of the few guys on the team who's hitting at all. But taking a step back and looking at the big picture, he's "hitting" only in comparison to the low standards set by the rest of the lineup. A couple of weeks without him aren't going to make the difference.

Bigbie is something of a surprise callup. He hasn't been impressive so far in his minor league career, but had been hot recently at Bowie, recently homering in three straight games and pulling his averages up. Still, what does it say about your organization when you can't find a single outfielder at AAA worth calling up? It says that your organization's press releases about how they've been rebuilding the farm system over the last five years is propaganda worthy of the former Soviet Union's press agency. He's one of the touted prospects drafted in the first round in 1999, and for the team to use one of his options and start his arbitration clock ticking shows how desperate they are.

Thursday, June 21, 2001

Optioned RHP Ryan Kohlmeier to Rochester. Recalled RHP Chad Paronto from Rochester.

Kohlmeier's pitching had become intolerable. Patience is a virtue, particularly with a younger player, but at some point you have to admit that he either Doesn't Have It, or had it, but lost it, and isn't going to get it back anytime soon. Kohlmeier's been a disaster for a long time, and Mike Hargrove has done a very good job hiding him, using him only when it won't matter, in order to try to build his confidence. But eventually he had to try him in a real spot, and Kohlmeier still couldn't handle it, giving up a HR and blowing one of the few leads he has been given this year. When your ERA reaches 8+, and you give up a HR almost every two innings, it's time to go. Kohlmeier actually led the team in HRs allowed.

Still, Paronto was a flop in Baltimore last time, and wasn't pitching well in Rochester. It shouldn't be too long before he gets sent back down and the Orioles try yet another combination. Calling him up is a sign that the organization still really has no particular plan, and is just killing time.

Sunday, June 17, 2001

Optioned RHP Leslie Brea to Rochester. Purchased contract of RHP Calvin Maduro from Rochester.

Brea wasn't pitching very well in Rochester, so it's not surprising that he didn't pitch very well in Baltimore. And an 18.00 ERA, allowing HRs in every relief appearance, and allowing all 4 runners inherited to score, will get a pitcher sent packing almost every time. Still, it was 2 games, 2 innings pitched. It's the sure sign of a poorly run, directionless, panicking organization. A competent general manager has confidence in his decisions. A competent general manager picks out a player he thinks can succeed -- and doesn't let a bad game or two sway that conclusion. Syd Thrift is not a competent general manager, and this is the result. Maduro is apparently destined to lead the organization in frequent flier miles from Rochester to Baltimore; he's the guy who gets called up when others flop, and gets sent down when the organization finds someone they really like. And in between, he does his job.

Thursday, June 14, 2001

Recalled RHP Leslie Brea from Rochester. Purchased contract of SS Brian Roberts from Rochester. Placed SS Mike Bordick on the 15-day disabled list. Placed C Greg Myers on waivers for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release.

Bordick separated his shoulder on a play at second base on Wednesday; after it was originally reported as a bruise, more examination revealed that he was likely to be out 4-6 weeks. Thus, Brian Roberts. Roberts is a 1999 first round (supplemental) draft pick. Some organizational scouts love him; some think he'll be just a utility player. He had never played above A before this season; he played briefly (22 G) in AA and reasonably well before his callup to Rochester. At Rochester he continued to show the plate discipline he has always been known for, but he has exhibited no power (.318 SLG) whatsoever. He's also extremely fast. Think Luis Castillo.

Syd Thrift had been trying to trade Greg Myers for months, without success. Few things are as superfluous as a fourth catcher. But if he couldn't trade a red-hot Myers, he sure wasn't going to be able to trade a slumping Myers. Still, of the 4 catchers the Orioles had, Myers was the best one. Also the oldest. Of course, there was nothing different in June than in December; if the Orioles realized they didn't need him now, they should have done so six months ago rather than having what was essentially a 24-man roster for 2 1/2 months. So why now? Supposedly because the bullpen blew up the other day, and the Orioles have twenty games in a row without a day off. But what kind of reasoning is that? They can always call up someone else if the bullpen gets overworked.

The Leslie Brea saga is well known -- the Orioles finding out he was much older than believed, right after acquiring him. And then Syd Thrift making the bizarre pronouncement that this discovery didn't bother him, because age doesn't matter. But it does, and a 26 year old who has just reached AAA is not someone to look favorably upon, unlike when a 21 year old does it. And Brea has proceeded to prove this point, struggling mightily in Rochester. Right now he's a warm body for the bullpen, nothing more.

Tuesday, June 1, 2001

Optioned RHP Chad Paronto to Rochester. Recalled LHP John Parrish from Rochester.

After a few good early outings, Paronto had been pretty bad -- his 5.70 ERA masked an even worse 9.68 RA, as he had allowed many unearned runs and a ton of baserunners. Still, the choice to replace him with Parrish was somewhat puzzling, since the move gives the Orioles four left-handed relievers in the bullpen (Buddy Groom, B.J. Ryan, Chuck McElroy, and Parrish) and only two right-handers (Mike Trombley and Ryan Kohlmeier). While lefty-righty matchups are overrated, most managers like to mix-and-match a lot, and this move is going to make it difficult.

Could it be a precursor to another move, one to put a RHP in the bullpen? At Rochester, Jorge Julio has been pitching well, after pitching very well at Bowie; he now has a 1.16 ERA over 23 IP at the two levels, striking out 20 and walking just 4. Calvin Maduro has been his usual solid, if unspectacular, self. Or the Orioles could contemplate moving the erratic Willis Roberts from the rotation to the bullpen, replacing him with the left-handed Parrish.

Friday, May 25, 2001

Recalled RHP Josh Towers from Rochester. Placed RHP Pat Hentgen on the disabled list, retroactive to May 17.

The Orioles kept claiming that Hentgen's injury was just a minor one, but when they let him go see Dr. James Andrews, we knew it couldn't be a good sign. So far they're denying that he needs surgery, but when someone's injury outlook goes from "might miss one start but will definitely make the next one" to "not going to make the next start either" to "out until after the all-star break," it's generally reasonable to be pessimistic about that player's health.

Allegedly, the team has no plan to make a trade for a starter; they are content to use Josh Towers until Hentgen is ready to return. If that's the case, the Orioles' rotation would look like this for about six weeks:

Sidney Ponson24
Jason Johnson27
Willis Roberts26
Josh Towers24
Jose Mercedes30

Now that's the sort of young rotation that we've been clamoring for for about four years now. Too bad it took an injury to get it. Now, it's not exactly imposing like the 1970 Orioles or 1993 Braves, to be sure, but those sorts of rotations don't come about by signing a lot of 33 year old pitchers. They come from developing young talent. Is Johnson for real? Can Ponson jump to the next level? Can Towers be a successful major leaguer? Is Willis Roberts just one of a million guys with a live arm, or is he a real pitcher? The only way to find out is to play them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Optioned RHP Josh Towers to Rochester. Activated 1B David Segui from the disabled list.

Segui had to be activated from the DL, but the team doesn't really have any use for him. They're filled with mediocre-hitting first basemen -- Gibbons, Conine, Richard. Segui's just taking valuable playing time from Gibbons and prospect Cal Pickering and even Chris Richard. Of course, the recently-signed Segui isn't going anywhere, but he's just going to add to the roster crunch. Syd Thrift and Mike Hargrove, though, have already buried Gibbons on the bench.

As for Towers, some pitcher had to go, and Towers didn't do much to impress in his brief stay, but it's hard to see why he should go instead of someone like Chad Paronto, who has pitched badly also, or Buddy Groom, who has pitched very little this year. In Towers' brief two-week stay on the roster, he has pitched almost as many innings as Groom has all season. But of course Mike Hargrove is still locked into the silly LaRussian idea that a team has to carry lefty relievers to use only in rare situations.

While there's no urgency with Towers, if they're not going to use him now, in a lost season, when will they? Earl Weaver thought a rookie starter should spend a season in relief where he could get accustomed to the big leagues in low pressure situations. Perfect opportunity now, which they're squandering on non-prospects like Chad Paronto and washed-up veterans like Buddy Groom and Chuck McElroy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2001

Optioned OF Eugene Kingsale to Rochester. Activated RHP Sidney Ponson from the disabled list.

One of the big differences between a well-run and poorly-run team is that the well-run team has a plan. Good teams can be flexible -- they must be flexible -- but they should have a plan. Do the Orioles? If so, what could it be?

On April 24th, Jorge Julio was called up with great fanfare about the amazing find by the brainrust. He didn't pitch well at all, but he was given just two appearances, covering 1.1 innings, before the team decided to abandon the experiment and demote him a week later. When they demoted him, they called up Eugene Kingsale, making grand pronouncements about how the team needed "extra offensive options." So Kingsale got to start one game (4 AB), plus he pinch ran twice. Then he got sent back down so that the Orioles could carry 12 pitchers some more. Is there any point to these series of moves? If so, it's well hidden.

While Ponson obviously had to come back, there's no real reason why Kingsale should have been sent down when (a) none of the other outfielders are hitting, and (b) B.J. Ryan isn't pitching well, or enough, to justify a roster slot.

Thursday, May 3, 2001

Optioned RHP Jorge Julio to Bowie. Called up OF Eugene Kingsale from Rochester.

Julio got all of two appearances in the week he was in the majors. He was hit hard in both, so the Orioles decided that he deserved to go back to Bowie. Given that four days ago they were talking about the importance of having twelve pitchers, it's pretty clear that they don't know what they're doing. What makes that even more clear is that they're talking about Kingsale being the "extra bat" the team needs; Kingsale was hitting 242/313/323 at Rochester. He's a defensive replacement and a pinch runner, not a bat. The last thing the Orioles need is a defensive replacement; their entire team hits like defensive replacements.

Sunday, April 29, 2001

Placed David Segui on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Monday, April 23. Called up RHP Josh Towers from Rochester.

Segui injured his hand diving into second base on Sunday when Tampa shortstop Felix Martinez landed on it. Originally the team thought it was a bruise, a day-to-day injury, but Segui hasn't been able to bend his finger at all, and after sitting for a week, the Orioles decided it was best to put him on the DL. It's no great loss; Segui hasn't been playing well (a .390 OBP, but just a .396 SLG) and between Richard, Gibbons, Conine, and Cal Ripken, the team is awash with first basemen/designated hitters, anyway. None of those people are hitting any better than Segui, but in a rebuilding season, it makes no difference whatsoever.

Towers is a control pitcher who has worked his way up through the organization with solid, steady play. He's been pitching very well so far in Rochester (28 IP, just 5 BB, and a 2.25 ERA). He had been expected to compete for a starting slot this year in spring training, but was given almost no opportunity because the Orioles were giving chances to Chuck McElroy and Willis Roberts. At 24, he's the future of the team, if the Orioles are inclined to let him be. As with most rookie pitchers, immediate success is unlikely, but what's the alternative? Never give him a shot, and then let him leave as a minor league free agent? Or panic when he's out of options, thrust him into the rotation, and then trade him off/waive him because of his lack of instant stardom? And then replace him with some veteran journeyman or washed up former star like Pat Rapp, Doug Drabek, or Shawn Boskie? That's been the team's model in the past, and it hasn't been much of a recipe for team success.

Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Purchased contract of RHP Jorge Julio from Bowie. Optioned LHP John Bale to Rochester.

Bale was the victim of Chuck McElroy's predictable flop as a starter. Hey, why not make David Segui a shortstop, and then act surprised when he can't do the job? McElroy's inability to do the job meant that he had to be returned to the bullpen, which gave the Orioles four LHP in the bullpen, one too many. Bale and Ryan were the two choices to go, and for whatever reason, the Orioles chose Bale.

Julio has pitched well at Bowie (0 ERA, 2 hits, .095 opponents' average, 8 strikeouts, 4 saves) since his demotion following a mediocre spring, but we're only talking about six appearances spanning 6 1/3 innings. He throws hard, which means that he'll get every opportunity to prove himself. The Orioles claim he's only in Baltimore to set-up for closer Ryan Kohlmeier, but expect that to last about as long as it takes Kohlmeier to notch another blown save. Julio has been mediocre-to-bad as a minor league starter until this point, and we'll repeat what we've said before: minor league closers virtually never become successful major league closers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Placed RHP Sidney Ponson on the disabled list, retroactive to Monday. Purchased contract of RHP Chad Paronto.

The Orioles talked about Ponson's velocity being down after his last start. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Orioles treat him as though his arm were mechanical rather than flesh and blood. He's been around long enough that it's hard to remember sometimes that he's only 24 years old, and he's been worked harder than most veteran pitchers, including being among the league leaders in complete games each of the past two seasons. It's supposedly just tendinitis, but that can mean anything from "Minor muscle pull" to "Arm falling off but our team doctors haven't noticed yet." It should be noted that Ponson himself denies that his velocity is a problem, arguing that he just made some bad pitches.

Ponson has pitched poorly this season, certainly, (6.62 ERA) but he's the only Oriole starter with any real potential (19 K and only 4 BB in 17.2 IP), so it would be a major blow if there were something wrong with him. The Orioles intend to move Willis Roberts into the rotation for what, supposedly, will be just 1-2 missed starts by Ponson. But if Roberts impresses, expect to see him replace Chuck I Was a Reliever For a Reason McElroy in the rotation.

Chad Paronto was one of the last pitchers cut in March after a solid spring. Still, he's nothing more than generic roster filler, a guy who can start or relieve but won't impress at either, brought to Baltimore to allow the Orioles to move Roberts into the rotation.

Friday, April 13, 2001

Outrighted RHP Calvin Maduro to Rochester, and called up LHP John Bale.

Maduro is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Orioles' staff. Usually he gets scapegoated when the pitching isn't going well. Apparently he's so disliked by management that he's now getting scapegoated for a lack of offense. Maybe he should have somehow pep-talked Melvin Mora into hitting a ball out of the infield. He wasn't wanted before the season, barely got a spring training invitation, and it took a perfect spring for him to get a spot. As soon as he had a bad outing, bye bye. If there were a way for the Orioles to blame the Chinese plane incident on Maduro, they would. Oh, they'd say nice things about him first, but they'd talk about the need to improve the nation's air force while demoting him.

Bale is a generic left-handed short reliever, joining BJ Ryan and Buddy Groom in the bullpen. There's nothing particular to recommend him other than the fact that managers afraid to evaluate players on their own merits will use platoon matchups whether or not there's a real reason to do so. He could be good, he could be bad. In the handful of innings he'll pitch this year, is it really going to matter? Is the identity of the sixth man out of the bullpen important? Of course not, even though teams put so much emphasis on it. Earl Weaver used to point out that the last batter on the bench was the man who would get used as a pinch hitter/pinch runner/defensive replacement in a tight game, so he was important. On the other hand, the last man out of the bullpen is the guy who comes into the game in blowout situations, so he's not important.

Saturday, March 31, 2001

Optioned OF Eugene Kingsale and LHP John Bale to Rochester.

Kingsale is one of the passel of Arubans the Orioles have developed in recent years. Although it seems as if he has been around forever (he was actually called up briefly in 1996 in order to get the honor of being the first Aruban ever in the majors), he is only 24. But this is now the make or break year for Kingsale, who is now out of options. Either he establishes himself as someone who belongs in the majors, or he gets buried behind Luis Matos. It has been injuries which has kept Kingsale from prospering, but now, thanks to the separated shoulder suffered by Matos, Kingsale has a last chance to show his stuff, playing everyday in CF for Rochester. He could be a Brett Butler type leadoff hitter or a Curtis Goodwin-type pinch-runner.

Bale, who the Orioles picked up from Toronto in the offseason when they gave up on Jayson Werth, is what minor league analyst John Sickels terms a "LOOGY," a Left-handed One Out GuY" -- one of the infinite number of interchangeable lefty short relievers that float around baseball. As a lefty, he had an easy path to a job, but he blew it with a miserable (6.91 ERA, 26 baserunners in 14.1 IP) spring. If the Orioles succeed in trading Chuck McElroy, he'll be back, because with injuries to pitchers Matt Riley and Mark Nussbeck, the Orioles are almost out of LHPs.

Friday, March 30, 2001

Sent SS Brian Roberts to minor league camp for reassignment, and placed RHRP Alan Mills on the disabled list.

Mills had surgery last September, and wasn't ready for the season, as shown by his pitching (9 ERA) and his inability to pitch on consecutive days. Barring unforeseen complications, he'll be back after a rehab assignment.

The Roberts decision was illustrative of the team's management style. He's a somewhat promising 23 year old prospect, but he has never played above A ball, so it would seem natural to send him to the minors but promote him rapidly. But he played very well in camp and, since the Orioles shipped off his predecessor Jesus Garcia, they talked all spring about keeping him. Then the Orioles decided to keep 18 catchers and 14 DHs, leaving no room for a utility infielder. So now he's back in AA Bowie, and the Orioles are planning on using their starting centerfielder as their utility infielder.

Thursday, March 29, 2001

Sent RHRPs Chad Paronto and Jorge Julio to minor league camp for reassignment.

Both were longshots to make the club, and needed injuries or a decision by MLB to expand roster sizes to 30 people. Paronto's a 25 year old starter who will be starting or relieving in Rochester, while Julio's a 22 year old reliever who is expected to be Bowie's closer. Either one could be an early callup if/when current Orioles relievers falter.

Paronto, drafted in 1996, is a typical organizational product, working his way up through the ranks, a level every year or two, never pitching well enough to make him a prospect but always pitching well enough to get promoted. He had a decent spring (3.27 ERA, 11 Ks in 11 innings), but didn't do enough to stand out. Story of his career.

Julio is a young guy with a "live arm" (baseballspeak for "He throws hard but can't get anybody out") who had a good season in winter ball and who Psuedo-general manager Syd Thrift fell in love with, picking him up from the Expos in exchange for washout Ryan Minor. He's only 22, which is the only good thing you can say about him. He has spent the last 4 years in A ball, compiling a 4.37 career minor league ERA, including a pathetic effort last year, with a 5.90 ERA in 80 IP at Jupiter. He has been a starter all career, but the Orioles have decided he'll be successful as a reliever, so they've converted him. Don't expect it to work; minor league closers virtually never become successful major league closers.

Sunday, March 18, 2001

Optioned RHPs Leslie Brea, John Parrish, Jay Spurgeon, and Josh Towers, and IF Ivanon Coffie to Rochester. Sent IFs Steve Sisco and Ed Rogers, and C Willie Morales to minor league camp for reassignment.

The second round of spring roster cuts. Some of these were expected; Willie Morales is just minor league roster filler, and Ivanon Coffie is a AAA infielder, no more. Ed Rogers is an extremely highly thought of shortstop prospect -- oft (insanely) compared to Alex Rodriguez by the Orioles' propaganda department -- but he's several years away from the majors, expected to start the year at Bowie.

Sisco, who the Orioles got from the Braves in trade for Jesus Garcia in the offseason, was presumed to be the frontrunner for the utility infielder position. But he was hampered this spring by a pulled oblique muscle which kept him from playing much (he got just 12 ABs over 7 games), and thanks to the strong play of Mike Kinkade and Jay Gibbons, he fell victim to the numbers game, as well as falling behind surprise contender Brian Roberts on the depth chart.

The pitching demotions are the real killer, giving the lie once again to management claims that they're interested in young players, particularly from their own farm system, is a lie. Brea, Parrish, Spurgeon, and Towers didn't show very much -- but then, it's difficult to do that in 4-10 innnings, which is all they were given. Same old Orioles. Spin about chances for the kids, but then giving guaranteed jobs to the Chuck McElroys of the world. Oh, well. We're sure Shawn Boskie is waiting by the phone for Pseudo-general manager Syd Thrift's call.

Monday, March 12, 2001

Optioned RHPs Juan Figueroa, Sean Douglass, and Mark Nussbeck to Rochester. Optioned RHP Juan Guzman to Bowie. Sent RHPs Rick Huisman and Miguel Felix, IF/OF Carlos Casimiro, RF Wady Almonte, and C Adan Amezcua to minor league camp for reassignment.

No surprises here. None of these guys were scheduled to make the 2001 roster anyway, though Nussbeck had an outside shot if things had gone right for him this camp. The bigger news is that Nussbeck is injured, had to have surgery, and is now going to miss the entire 2001 season. Nussbeck, Figueroa, and Felix were three of the pitchers acquired in last year's midseason firesale. Nussbeck becomes the third pitcher acquired in those deals, along with Pat Gorman and Luis Rivera, to require surgery and miss the 2001 season. They join pitchers Scott Erickson and Matt Riley in the "miss the entire year after surgery" club. At some point, you have to wonder about the Orioles' medical staff. As we recall, one of Frank Wren's sins was calling the team doctors "quacks."

Casimiro has always played infield (primarily third base) in the minors, but he was used solely in the outfield during spring training, presumably because Ivanon Coffie has surpassed him on Rochester's third base depth chart. Since he can't hit, even in the minors, shifting him to the outfield is like taking a used battery from your flashlight and installing it in the smoke detector -- it isn't going to help, and just creates the potential for even more trouble.

Almonte is a story of falling from grace. With a warped, Oriole twist. In December 1999, after a mediocre AA season, he was bizarrely named Organizational Player of the Year. If he was really the Player of the Year, it said more about the utter lack of talent on the farm than it did about his talent. He has no strike zone judgment and he was old for his level (24), but he had a cannon for an arm and just enough offensive skills to make him look superficially good: he hit for average -- but not a high average (.293) -- and he hit for power -- but not a lot of power (17 HRs). But the Orioles overlooked all that to name him Player of the Year. Then, a few weeks later, they released him, despite giving him this high honor. Then they later re-signed him. He stagnated last year and will never be a major leaguer.

Finally, no, that isn't a typo: Amezcua's name really is "Adan," though a lot of sources assume that it is a mistake and "correct" it to Adam. Either way, it's Mexican for "stiff."

© 2001 The Orioles Warehouse
Danger! Peligrosa!
Last Updated: August 13, 2001
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