Sure, Omar Minaya botched the Willie Randolph firing. But the M's one-upped him Thursday, firing manager John McLaren three days after they fired GM Bill Bavasi. Why not can both at the same time? It's hard to say, but Seattle Times writer Geoff Baker rightly contends that the team has become "the laughing stock of baseball." Meanwhile, underperforming (and basically fantasy-irrelevant) veterans continue to block promising youngsters, last year's AL Gold Glove center fielder is playing right, and team president Chuck Armstrong ("Bavasi's and McLaren's positions are secure" --Armstrong, May 24) and CEO (but mostly video-game magnate) Howard Lincoln continue to blunder through their tenures in Seattle.
Can anything be salvaged, fantasy-wise, out of this 25-47 mess? Are any significant changes coming? If interim GM Lee Pelekoudas retains impending free agent Richie Sexson (.220 AVG/.294 OBP/.380 SLG), he ought to have his head examined. Expect Sexson to be released. Jose Vidro (.219/.264/.326) should be right behind him. If the Mariners could find a way to dump Carlos Silva's asinine four-year, $48-million contract, they'd do it, but that's not a tradable deal. Erik Bedard is eminently tradable, and will be a free agent after the '09 season (the same situation, incidentally, as Mark Teixeira was in last year, and Matt Holliday is in this year), but it's not likely the team will get anything close to Adam Jones, George Sherrill, Chris Tillman and Tony Butler for Bedard. And because Pelekoudas doesn't seem likely to get the "interim" removed from his title, one wonders if the wizards at the top of the M's organization chart will be able to commit to dumping Bedard so soon.
But Jeff Clement is already back in the bigs and has caught five games already. He's expected to be the team's starter behind the plate for the rest of the year. As soon as he's catcher-eligible, he's going to be worth a flyer in all leagues. Kenji Johjima (.224/.265/.564) is taking grounders to play first base, and considering Miguel Cairo is the only other option at first, Johjima actually might stay a regular if and when Sexson goes. At some point the team will realize how magnificently stupid it is to move Ichiro Suzuki to right so that they can get Willie Bloomquist more playing time. There's no reason Wladimir Balentien should stay at Triple-A, so I think he'll be back up soon and be worth a look in deep leagues for power-starved fantasy squads. Plus, Jeremy Reed has shown signs of life over the past 10 days and is a couple years removed from being considered a decent prospect.
Finally, add me to the list of folks who think the Mariners are wasting time making Brandon Morrow their closer. Can he do a fine job in that role? Yes. But he still has the makings of a dominating three-pitch starter. His fastball, on average, is already second-fastest in the majors behind only the Marlins' Matt Lindstrom, and when Morrow's on, his slider is nasty. The slider and the sinker still need work, so any immediate transition to the rotation might be rough; in fact, a minor-league stint makes some sense. But why waste a former No. 5 overall pick as a closer on a team that might not win 60 games, especially when he was a tremendous starter in the Pac-10 in college? Morrow should be a starter, and would be interesting in deeper fantasy leagues (though, granted, not as interesting as the saves-gatherer he is right now).
With Jason Bartlett held out of Thursday's game against the Cubs because of a sore foot, Evan Longoria got his first big-league start at shortstop. That could make him eligible in some leagues. ... Jermaine Dye blasted two homers Thursday, including a grand slam, and finished with six RBIs. Dye has four homers in four games. ... Kosuke Fukudome hit leadoff for the Cubs for the second straight game on Thursday, and Lou Piniella told the team's official Web site he expects to see Fukudome in that spot a lot in place of injured Alfonso Soriano. Of course, that pronouncement came just three days after Sweet Lou said Reed Johnson would be his leadoff guy, so stay tuned. ... Aaron Harang became the majors' third 10-game loser Thursday, allowing 10 hits, three walks and five runs in five innings. Most disconcertingly, he only struck out two hitters, this after fanning seven Red Sox in his previous start. ... Dave Bush had a no-hitter through seven innings against the Blue Jays on Thursday, and left after eight innings with an 8-1 lead. The Milwaukee bullpen tried really hard to blow the game, but the Brewers still won 8-7. ... Gavin Floyd's ERA didn't take a hit, but he pitched badly Thursday, allowing six hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings to go with seven runs, only one of which was earned. Incredibly, he also got his eighth win. Considering Floyd's BABIP is currently a league-luckiest .207, and considering he's allowed nine homers in his past six starts, a correction is coming. ... Remember when Shawn Hill was a sleeper candidate? Not so much anymore. He allowed 10 hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings against the Twins, allowing seven runs (six earned) in the process. Hill has one win all year and has allowed 80 hits in 60 1/3 innings. ... Jay Bruce was ejected from Thursday's game in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes. ... Michael Bourn stole his 28th base Thursday, fourth-most in the majors. He's also hitting .352 in June. ... Chipper Jones went 0-for-4 Thursday and saw his season batting average finally dip below .400. He's now at .394, the lowest it's been all year. Ted Williams may be safe. ... Michael Young broke a 1-for-31 slide with a game-winning RBI single. ... A.J. Pierzynski extended his hitting streak to 11 games Thursday. ... Mike Aviles hit second in the Royals lineup for the sixth time this year, going 2-for-4. He's hitting .321 as a big-leaguer and has bumped Mark Grudzielanek down to fifth in the order. ... Kory Casto had started in place of Wily Mo Pena for two straight games, but Pena was back in the Nationals' lineup against lefty Glen Perkins. It's possible Washington is looking at a platoon in left field.
Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies
He struck out 10 Indians over six innings for his first win since May 8. It was a solid follow-up to his five-inning, one-hit, eight-strikeout start last Saturday.
Carlos Marmol, Cubs
Chicago's top setup man took the loss by giving up four runs without recording an out ... or giving up a hit. Marmol walked two and hit two with pitches in the Rays' seven-run seventh.
Curt Schilling hasn't pitched all year and won't now, as he said he'll undergo season-ending surgery on his injured shoulder that he's been trying to rehab. However, most fantasy owners weren't really relying on him this season anyway. But like John Smoltz, his career may be in jeopardy. ... Lou Piniella told the team's official site that he expects Carlos Zambrano to miss at least his next start, scheduled for Tuesday, because of the shoulder issue that took him out of Wednesday's game. Zambrano is scheduled for an MRI on Friday. ... Albert Pujols took grounders before the Cardinals' most recent two games, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which might mean Pujols is on schedule to return from the DL next week. ... Ron Washington told the Rangers' official site that closer C.J. Wilson, who allowed two runs in a third of an inning in a save opportunity Thursday, is in danger of losing his job to Eddie Guardado. Of course, it was Wilson's third straight appearance, but he's allowed at least two runs in three of his past four save chances, and has held opponents scoreless in only three of his past seven. ... Eric Gagne threw in the bullpen Thursday and reported no pain in his rotator cuff, meaning he's on track to return in about a week. However, Brewers manager Ned Yost told the team's site that Salomon Torres will remain the closer. Gagne will jump into the setup role he badly botched with the Red Sox last fall. ... Hideki Matsui had fluid drained from his swollen knee on Wednesday and didn't play Thursday. However, Yankees manager Joe Girardi told the New York Daily News that Matsui was available to pinch hit and expects Godzilla to be in the starting lineup Friday. ... The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves are no longer certain Rafael Soriano will return from the DL on Saturday. Soriano hasn't suffered more trouble in his elbow, but he might need another bullpen session to test it. Mike Gonzalez is back from Tommy John surgery and has assumed the Braves closer's role at the moment. ... The Associated Press reports that Dr. James Andrews told Travis Hafner his shoulder doesn't need surgery. The Indians are expected to reevaluate Hafner again in 7-10 days. ... The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Ken Griffey Jr. has missed the last two games because of "flu-like symptoms." ... Yadier Molina, who got crushed by Eric Bruntlett in a home plate collision on Sunday, traveled with the Cardinals to Boston, but hasn't been cleared to play yet. Jason LaRue, who's hitting .194, has been St. Louis's starting catcher this week. ... Michael Cuddyer won't play against Arizona on Friday, as he'll be with his wife as she gives birth.
"[Erik] Bedard hasn't performed poorly, especially when you consider that he apparently is pitching without a gut or a spine. He routinely bails out of games at the 100-pitch mark so he can go set up the Cone of Silence at his locker, which is hardly what you're looking for in your ace."
-- Jim Caple Full Story
• The Dodgers' Web site reports that Hiroki Kuroda will go on the 15-day DL with tendinitis in his pitching shoulder. Chan Ho Park is expected to take Kuroda's turn in the rotation Saturday.
• The A's activated Santiago Casilla from the DL and will move him back into a setup role. Casilla went 18 appearances and 17 1/3 innings before giving up a run this year, until elbow soreness sidelined him May 15. He's a name to know if the A's deal closer Huston Street. To make room for Casilla, the A's designated Kiko Calero for assignment.
• Sean Marshall gave up one run in eight innings Thursday for Triple-A Iowa. The Chicago Sun-Times speculates he may be the leading candidate to replace Carlos Zambrano in the Cubs rotation.
• Texas first base prospect Chris Davis drilled two homers for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Wednesday, giving him nine homers in 26 games since his promotion. He's a strikeout machine, but if the Rangers call him up in the second half, he'd be worth a look in most leagues.
• He certainly won't see the bigs this year, but No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham is in the Rays fold after getting a $6.15-million signing bonus. The Rays went through a protracted negotiation with David Price last year and wanted to avoid such a mess in '08. Beckham, a high school shortstop who needs plenty of seasoning, is a five-tool talent.