Halman Up, Saunders Down
Greg Halman was recalled from AAA this evening and Michael Saunders was finally, mercifully, optioned to Tacoma. This move wasn’t exactly difficult to foresee; when you’ve got a CF with a wOBA of .212 in 150+ PAs, you reach for another CF. Halman fits the bill as a good CF (unlike Peguero/Wilson), and he won’t need to play as often as Saunders did now that Franklin Gutierrez has a few weeks under his belt.
Halman’s missed several weeks himself with a broken bone in his hand, and he showed some rust tonight in his last AAA game: he had some late breaks on shallow fly balls and struck out twice. That said, he’s shown some improvement from 2010, when he hit 33 HRs, but struck out in over 36% of his plate appearances. He’s around 20% this year, though the sample’s quite small.
While the improvement in plated discipline looks nice, this move is all about Mike Saunders. Halman’s just the CF who’s closest to the majors. In an ideal world, he’d have more ABs in AAA to get his timing back after missing so many games. Of course, in an ideal world, Saunders wouldn’t force the issue with a .212 wOBA. Saunders altered his batting stance near the end of spring training and had a decent game or two with the new mechanics in Peoria, but since the season’s started, he’s looked lost. It’s not like he’s been the victim of bad luck: in May, he struck out in nearly 40% of his plate appearances, and I’m actually surprised the figure’s that low. He’s been good defensively, but you simply can’t carry a hitter this bad for long. Halman’s famously a tools project with poor discipline and pitch recognition, but he’s found himself in a situation in which his discipline/pitch recognition skills may be better than the guy’s he’s replacing.
Something’s really, really wrong with Saunders, and he’s forced the M’s hand here. Gutierrez still isn’t playing back-to-back games in CF, so they desperately need a competent back-up (this is why Halman gets the call and not Carp, as Ryan Divish and others have noted). Everything was set up for Saunders to stake his claim as a legitimate MLB center fielder, and instead he’s looked far, far worse than his initial MLB call-up. We’ll see if Alonzo Powell can work with him better than Chambliss could, though it’s worth pointing out that Powell was Saunders’ hitting coach in the 2nd half of last season too. Saunders has looked so lost that it seems the problem’s more mental than mechanical. Here’s hoping he can work things out in Tacoma.
In other recent transactions, Nate Robertson made his first rehab start for Tacoma tonight, going 6 innings with 6H, 3R, 2K, 1BB, 2HRs. The ex-Tiger sat 87-88 with his FB, with a decent two-seamer at around 84-85 and a change-up in the 80 range. He’s always been a fly-ball pitcher, so the two HRs don’t come as too much of a surprise, and Reno’s line-up hit him harder than his line might suggest, but all in all it was a decent first outing for a guy who missed all of spring training with bone chips in his elbow.
Manny Delcarmen asked for his release and got it yesterday; the veteran reliever is now a free agent.
Here’s a photo from tonight’s game – Robertson’s first and Halman’s last in a Tacoma uniform.