I think somewhere in the Cactus League rulebook, there’s something that says that in any given game, so as not to disappoint the fans, x number of “starters” must appear so that a sense of decency can be maintained. The Mariners, returning from Japan maddened by fame and sleep deprivation, have decided that the rules no longer apply to them. The Padres will be sending out a split squad, and will find themselves adhering to that starter quota, but oh, what they have in store for them, friends…
CF Denny Almonte
LF Daniel Carroll
SS Brad Miller
1B Rich Poythress
2B Stefen Romero
3B Mario Martinez
DH Joe Dunigan
C Jesus Sucre
RF James Jones
RHP Kevin Millwood
What I like best about this lineup is how the outfielders go in order from right to left as the lineup turns over and how the basemen do the same in the heart of the order. There are some things that make sense in this, like Carroll being a decent on-base presence as the #2 hitter and Poythress, Martinez, and to a lesser extent, Romero possessing some power for the middle of the lineup, but overall it looks like an arbitrary order was imposed without consideration for what might work best.
And we even have reserves! Johan Limonta, Jamal Austin, John Hicks, Mike Dowd, Leury Bonilla, and Scott Savastano could all see time. The bullpen will be Bobby LaFromboise, Brian Sweeney, Carter Capps, Stephen Pryor, and Tyler Burgoon. This is almost entirely meaningless to anyone but me!
Tune in at 6 pm for this particular brand of madness.
Sooooo, uh, more spring training anyone? Here’s the downside of having the team set a 28/25 man roster early: Spring training games that are pretty meaningless anyway now even less riding on them. Woo! The team faces San Diego tomorrow night in a game that will probably feature none of the jet-lagged players who made the trip to Tokyo. All of you who’ve been clamoring for another look at Kevin Millwood will be thrilled, but this will be a game made up of the M’s 4th starter backed by a team who have no shot at the 2012 roster.
Thankfully, there’s a lot going on in Marinerland:
1: According to Shannon Drayer, Franklin Gutierrez has been cleared to resume all baseball activities. It’ll be interesting to see how they work him back in, but this is the one thing that might make the next few “games” worth watching.
2: The M’s team blog From the Corner of Edgar and Dave has been doing the internet a great service by posting some box scores of the minor league games that have been going on for a few weeks (and which actually wrap up today). Of note, Carlos Triunfel’s hitting well, Carter Capps has been used as a reliever, Taijuan Walker had a so-so outing (gasp!).
3: One recent High Desert box score stood out – the game featured a reliever named Wes Alsup who pitched alongside 2011 Clinton closer Tyler Burgoon and 2011 HD closer Willy Kesler. Who’s Alsup? He pitched in the independent Northern League in 2010 and while his stats weren’t eye-popping, they were enough to get him a taste of affiliated ball with the Braves low-A team. Nine uninspired games later, he was released and he headed back to the indie leagues, this time with the Windy City Thunderbolts. He was wild, but also, well, this: IP: 34 Ks: 61. I know, I know, it’s the Frontier League – who knows what that means. But it seems that something changed – he had a so-so K rate in the Northern League and walked about as many as he struck out. Having had some success with a reliever from the indie leagues years ago, the M’s signed him in January.
I thought he must be a deceptive-delivery, mid-80s junkballer, but apparently that’s not the case. Jason Parks of BP was down in Peoria recently and saw Alsup’s appearance in a minor-league game. He reported that he sat at 95mph with his fastball, touched 97, and featured a very slider slider from 86-89. Now I’m intrigued. Again, this is a 25-year old who’s pitched one-quarter of a season in low-A, and did poorly enough that it got him cut. His command issues aren’t solved or anything as he still walked quite a few in the Frontier League, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for his name in the box scores when the season starts. Don’t know for sure if he’ll be with High Desert when the season starts; rosters haven’t been finalized yet.
4: While nothing’s official, it sounds like the M’s will have Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton start the year together in AA Jackson. This allows the 19-year old Walker to avoid the video-game run environment of High Desert and the chance to learn from the two lefty prospects. Walker’s not the only teenage uber-prospect to hit AA, as the Rangers will apparently send SS Jurickson Profar to the AA Texas League. I’d quibble about the M’s having to move AA leagues, but I think Profar and Walker will face each other plenty down the road.
High Desert’s a problem, but it’s not the only spot teams are loathe to send prospects. Here’s a story speculating that the Arizona Diamondbacks may start Trevor Bauer in AA to avoid homer-happy Reno, their AAA affiliate (hat tip: Mike Curto). Bauer was the inspiration for this great piece at Fangraphs this morning, which has nothing to do with anything, but it’s worth your time anyway. It’s basically impossible to root against Bauer at this point.
5: Fangraphs Org rankings are back for 2012, and the M’s have tumbled to #23. Better than Oakland (#28), but a chasm now separates the top two teams from the bottom two. The M’s quartet of pitching prospects could help close it, though Texas in particular has an extremely deep farm system of its own. The M’s need to develop some position players, particularly at CF and SS. Nick Franklin’s great, but he’s not closing the gap by himself. A renegotiated TV deal will help the M’s address the financial divide in the AL West (at a cost of higher cable fees for fans), but the M’s really need to identify and develop talent the way Texas is.
6: Here’s a great article on A’s Special Assistant to the GM (and ex-University of Puget Sound and UW coach) Grady Fuson, who addresses his portrayal in the book/movie “Moneyball” and what really went on in the A’s draft room in 2001 and 2002.
7: The M’s have the honor of facing Japanese sensation Yu Darvish in his MLB debut on April 9th. Larry Stone’s blog post echoes Ichiro’s classic quote before he faced Daisuke Matsuzaka in the latter’s home debut in Boston.
8: Kevin Goldstein’s AL West Prospect Preview‘s up at Baseball Prospectus ($). Of note, the player he thinks could make the majors this year is Forrest Snow who could move quickly as a reliever. He’s also high on Francisco Martinez who’s been hitting very well in the minor league games.
[UPDATE – 10:20pm]
9? – As many of you know, Michael Pineda’s got rocked by the Phillies in his Grapefruit league start today amid rumors that he’d begin the year in AAA. Then things got worse – he’s now got a sore shoulder and now the rumors involve things like MRIs. I think (thought?) Pineda was amazing, and I have to admit my first reaction to the big trade was feeling like I’d been punched in the kidneys. I don’t take any joy in hearing of his struggles, but I can admit there’s something weirdly satisfying about “winning” a trade; about feeling like the M’s pulled one over on another team. Jeff’s post at Lookout Landing beautifully explores the weird psychology of fandom and the way trades in particular make things more binary, more Manichean somehow.
I sent 10 questions to Jay last week, and while it would’ve been timelier to get this posted before opening day, we’ve still got some spring training and 160 regular season games to go. I’d love to do these throughout the year, and if you’ve got any burning M’s-related questions, feel free to suggest some.
1: The M’s roster’s set. Which player is going to surprise us this season? Who’s going to blow their projection out of the water?
JAY: In a pick that will surprise robots and fans that don’t pay that much attention to spring training (why should they when there’s ’round the clock Peyton Manning coverage?), I’m thinking this is Saunders’ year. The new swing is doing stuff for him that we simply haven’t seen before and the anecdotal evidence from camp seems positive. I don’t expect him to be the most productive hitter on the team or anything, but he’ll get the job done often enough to where we start to wonder about where to put him when Guti comes back. I also believe that Ichiro is not quite done yet, but his positive returns will lead to the usual “contract year” jackassery.
Me: Hard to argue with that, though given the offensive projections for the M’s, we’re not exactly starved for choice. Justin Smoak’s probably the other obvious one, and I think he’ll exceed his projected wOBA easily, though I don’t think he’s ready to become the star that M’s fans want him to be just yet. Ackley’s in a similar situation, where his projections are really pretty low, and fan expectation (at least that I’ve encountered) is really high – like elite, franchise-player high. I think we’re going to have a few “good” years before we get there. I think Charlie Furbush annihilates his (crappy) FIP projection, though of course this has as much to do with him changing role as anything. That’s a whole lot of non-answers, so for an answer-answer, I’ll go with Kyle Seager, who’s got a CAIRO-projected wOBA of .291 and a ZIPS-projected wOBA of .306. If he gets consistent playing time, which may be tough to do in April/May, I think he can comfortably exceed that.
2: Who’s going to disappoint? Either by producing at a lower clip than projected, or by disappointing fan expectations?
J: I like Casper Wells as an amusing human being, but I don’t know that he’s the solution in left any more than the previous attempts at filling the position. As far as disappointing fan projections, I think that anyone expecting Montero to hit 30+ bombs out of the gate might be hoping a bit much. Carp might be regarded as an easy target (like shooting fish in a…), but he’s been a different hitter in each of the past three seasons he’s played and I’ve given up on trying to make sense of him. Brendan Ryan may hit better if he’s healthy, but he still won’t approach his 2009 levels of production.
M: Good answers. I’ve got to go with Carp, more for the fan expectation thing. As you mention, Mike Carp’s transformed himself and his approach over the past few years, and he’s much better than I thought possible at this time last year. That’s awesome, but the high BABIP and K rate seem to portend some regression. In an about-face from his pre-2011 career, he started pounding lefties in Tacoma and then kept it up in Seattle. In his small-sample MLB call-up, he was much better against lefties than righties. Of course, this is the number we’d regress heavily given the tiny sample. I think Carp’s given himself the right to a job and the opportunity to prove that he’s figured out lefties, but the risk of a sub-par season’s pretty high. [Ed.: We did this before the season started; now it just looks like I’m kicking Carp while he’s down.]
3: Which M’s prospect take a big step forward this year? Who’s the sleeper in the M’s system who’s going to break out in 2012?
Yesterday morning’s losing pitcher, Andrew Carignan, has a mid 90s fastball, and the surname of a lesser-known Rhone varietal that’s often blended with syrah or grenache. This is odd, to say the least, and can be problematic for people like me who tend to see these coincidences as yet another reason to imbibe. It’s not unprecedented, however. There have been several players who share a name with a vinifera grape varietal who’ve made an appearance in professional baseball, but only two have achieved anything approaching fame.
Cotton “Cot” Tierney was an infielder with the Pirates, Braves and Dodgers (Robins, technically) who, despite a few very good years, is remembered today mostly for the website named in his honor, Cot’s Contracts, which collects salary data on MLB players. Cot is also the original name of the Malbec grape, which was developed ages ago in Cahors and Bordeaux, but achieved success as a varietal much later when transplanted in Argentina. Tierney’s career was cut short due to injury, and Cot (the grape) is similarly susceptible to rot, disease and frost.
Joe Charboneau burst on to the scene as a 27 year old rookie with the Indians in 1980. He won the AL Rookie of the year following a 23 HR, .289/.258/.488 season for the Tribe, then quickly faded into obscurity, playing only 70 more MLB games before calling it quits. “Super Joe” was perhaps more famous for his off-field antics, including opening beer bottles with his eye sockets and eating cigarettes. Before his baseball career, he was an enterprising prize fighter, boxing for $25 wherever he could – a habit that led to several arrests and a life-long penchant for bar fights, the latest of which occurred just over two years ago. In an eerie echo of Tierney, the grape varietal known as Charbono or Charbonneau – which arose in France but wasn’t widely cultivated – thrived in Argentina, where, under the name Bonarda, it became the second most widely planted varietal after Cot/Malbec.
Carignan represents the second wave of vinifera baseball talents to hit the major leagues. In addition to the A’s righty, there’s Antonio Bastardo of Philadelphia who shares a name with a Portuguese varietal, and Russ Canzler, whose surname is awfully close to the German white wine varietal, Kanzler. Carignan, the varietal, is often referred to as “full bodied” and “rustic.” What adjectives come to mind when you look at Andrew Carignan, reader? Bastardo is most often used in port, and Antonio Bastardo is a port-sider. Russ Canzler was basically unknown before Dirk Hayhurst called attention to his exploits, and until he won the International League’s MVP in 2011. You’d never heard of Kanzler until this paragraph.
Bastardo’s got the early lead, having put up a solid 0.7 WAR with a gaudy ERA and win total last year. Canzler caught on with the Indians, and is in a fight for the LF job with Shelley Duncan. Carignan and his 95 mph fastball hopes to have better games than today/yesterday’s in Tokyo. Will one of these three challenge Tierney’s all-time WAR lead? Will one of them post a 2+ WAR season like Charboneau? Will they achieve lasting success an ocean away, say, in Japan? It’s too early to tell, but I’ll be watching closely.
1: I’ve excluded two named after varietals even more obscure than Kanzler – Kevin Flora of the Phillies and the delightfully named Colonel “Bosco” Snover who played 2 games in 1919. Both of them amassed negative WAR, so I don’t feel too bad about it.
2: How about the minor leagues, you ask? Yes, there are a number who never made the majors, including Primitivo Molina and what is quite possibly the most wine-drenched name in baseball, Henry Madera Graciano.
3: What about players named after hop varietals? Well, like wine varietals there are a few who never made the bigs, but the career MLB WAR leaderboard includes just one name: ex-Mariner Sterling Hitchcock. By fWAR, Hitchcock’s racked up 12.2 WAR, which is comfortably more than the total WAR earned by the wine-players. Score one for beer, I guess. By rWAR, Hitchcock drops to 7 WAR, but Tierney’s down to 4 and Charboneau’s only at 1.1.
4: Feel free to add in others that I missed in the comments. If there was a player named Fuggles, I’d love to know about it.
I decided to sleep rather than try to make it through another day bleary eyed. From the box score, that seems to have been the right decision. I’ll watch this thing later, but yeah, obviously this isn’t what the M’s needed to start the season. More of the same is not how you get fans interested again.
Also, apparently my attempt to give Eric Wedge credit for putting Carp on the bench was missing some information – he hurt his shoulder in game one, and was placed on the 15 day disabled list. That means that Carlos Peguero is now on the roster. I’ll just leave this paragraph there and not saying anything further.
This should theoretically open up playing time for Casper Wells and Kyle Seager. The M’s could move Figgins between 3B and LF and use those two to replace Carp depending on the pitching match-ups, and this could actually give them a better team on the field, honestly. That probably won’t happen though. We all know we’re going to have to watch Peguero flail around now. Man, and I told myself I wasn’t going to say anything.
Because the M’s have a week off before resuming regular season games, Carp basically is really more on the 7 day DL, since half the stint is just going to involve travel and the remainder of the Cactus League schedule. If the shoulder heals quickly, he won’t actually miss all that many games. These are the kinds of injuries that can linger, though, and we probably can’t assume he’ll just be back immediately.
Vargas vs Colon, ungodly a.m.
Hey, remember how Mike Carp was going to be the everyday left fielder? Not saying that Eric Wedge has already changed his mind, but Carp isn’t playing in game two, even with a right-handed pitcher on the mound. Instead, Kyle Seager is getting his line-up spot, and Chone Figgins has moved to left field for the game.
Now, this is absolutely the right move, as Vargas is an extreme flyball left-hander, so there’s going to be a lot of balls hit out to left, and Carp isn’t particularly good at that whole defense thing. You could argue for Wells in left instead of Figgins, but Seager gets another left-handed bat in the line-up against a righty, and as much as I know everyone hates Figgins, we just have to realize that he’s going to be in the line-up most days to start the season. So, it was Seager or Wells, and against an RHP, going with Seager is probably the better option.
So, kudos to Eric Wedge for this move and running out a line-up that gives the team a better chance to win, even if it forced him to bench his “everyday left fielder” in game two of the season.
Also, despite my statement earlier in the week, no live blog for this one. The game starts in four hours and I haven’t even gone to bed since getting up this morning to watch the first one. If I do make it out of bed in time to watch Game Two, I won’t have any ability to form coherent sentences. FanGraphs is doing a live blog again, though, so you could join in on that one, or just hang out in the comments here. Or sleep. That’s an idea too.
This won’t be all that long, since I’m tired and have work to do, but a few notes from today’s opener.
Dustin Ackley is sneaky strong. He really destroyed that pitch from McCarthy for the home run. He looks a bit bigger this year as well, as he no longer has the frame of a 14-year-old girl.
Felix looked about as good as you’d expect. His change-up, especially, was lights out. The A’s don’t have a good line-up, but I’m not sure how many teams could have hit him today.
Mike Carp did not look so great in left field, and he swung at some ridiculous pitches. I know they want to give him a chance to play everyday, but Wedge is going to have to consider using Wells for more than just extra inning defensive replacement. Especially when a tough LHP comes in out of the bullpen.
Speaking of Wells, it was pretty surprising that he didn’t get to pinch hit for Saunders against Fuentes. Tie game, short porch in left, Fuentes really struggles against RHBs… that was an obvious move to make. Yes, you lose Wells as a defensive replacement for Carp, but you can always just move Figgins to the OF and put Seager at third. Why talk up Figgins versatility if you’re not going to take advantage of it?
Wilhelmsen’s curve was really working, but he threw a ton of them. I have to wonder if the league will begin to adjust and begin to sit on his breaking ball at some point. The fastball is good enough that he doesn’t have to rely on the curve so much.
Overall, nice to see the M’s win the opener, but I don’t think they helped ease too many people’s minds about the offense. It would be comforting to see them jump on Bartolo Colon tomorrow.
Opening Day of 2012. I know it’s tougher to get excited about the game when it’s on at 3am, when we’ve got more spring training games to slog through and when it’s only March 27th. Er, 28th. But opening day is still opening day, and Felix is still Felix.
Here’s the first M’s line-up of the season:
1: Figgins (no, stay awake, it gets better)
2: Ackley (2b)
3: Ichiro! (RF)
4: Smoak (1B)
5: Montero (DH)
6: Carp (LF)
7: Olivo (C)
8: Saunders (CF)
9: Ryan (SS)
SP: KING FELIX
The M’s face off against Brandon McCarthy, twitter superstar and 2011 league leader in FIP. Yoenis Cespedes gets the start in CF, but hits 9th. Seth Smith, the OF acquired from Colorado for Guillermo Moscoso starts in the clean-up spot and plays DH. The name the A’s have selected to get the start today from their impressive collection of AAAA 1Bs is…Brandon Allen. Eric Sogard gets the start at 3B ahead of Josh Donaldson, which is funny because Eric Sogard gets an opening day start.
GO M’S! I NEED CAFFEINE!
UPDATE: This isn’t exactly news, but, for the good of the order: the M’s have moved Franklin Gutierrez and Adam Moore to the 15-day disable list.
Feel free to use the comments of this as the game thread, or follow along with Dave’s commentary in CoverItLive below.
The season kicks off tonight/tomorrow morning with an AL West battle. Sure, it’s not the AL West battle most baseball fans are interested in, but it’s a divisional game nonetheless. The experts are split on the particulars, but everyone’s got the Angels and Rangers very close together at the top, and the Athletics and M’s very close together 15 wins or so back. Let’s take a quick look at the division as the curtain rises on the 2012 season – we’ll look at each team’s projections, their top prospects, and what could go wrong/right in this campaign.
(Note: The composite runs scored/runs against and wins are simple averages of PECOTA, CAIRO and Davenport projections. You could certainly quibble with the inclusion/exclusion of one or many of these, but I had them at hand.)
Los Angeles Angels:
Composite RS: 721
Composite RA: 657
Composite Wins: 88
The Angels rode strong pitching to a surprisingly good 2011 season, as Dan Haren and Jered Weaver both notched top-five seasons by FIP in the American League. Their run production was mediocre, as the disastrous acquisition of Vernon Wells combined with Mariner-esque production from the catcher spot prevented the Angels from fully taking advantage of their pitching. They looked like a pretty good team with a top-heavy but thin farm system and poor management, but this off-season produced a massive overhaul that, coupled with a lucrative TV deal, puts the Angels on (essentially) even footing with the two-time AL Champion Rangers.
First, the Angels fired the man responsible for the Wells deal (Tony Reagins) and replaced him with Jerry Dipoto. Dipoto flipped hard-throwing but hittable pitcher Tyler Chatwood to Colorado for C Chris Iannetta, who’s nothing special but represents a massive upgrade over 2011 starter Jeff Mathis. To ensure that this move produced tangible results, Dipoto then traded Mathis to Toronto to prevent manager Mike Scioscia from being tempted to use his beloved, hitless wonder. Then, utilizing the new TV revenue, Dipoto acquired the biggest FA hitter AND pitcher on the market, bringing in a 1B named Albert Pujols along with the Rangers top starter in 2011, CJ Wilson.
The addition of Wilson makes their top three starters the envy of baseball, as only the Phillies and Rays (and possibly the Giants) can boast similarly talented troikas. THis is reflected in their composite runs-allowed which is easily the best in the division. There’s still some question marks on the offensive side, though adding Pujols helps answer many of them. Wells was atrocious last year and Torii Hunter will turn 37 this season. Mark Trumbo, the surprise of 2011, no longer has a position (he’s playing a lot of 3B, where he may share time with Alberto Callaspo). Erick Aybar had a great year, but he’s been wildly inconsistent, following a 3.8-win 2009 with a 1.4-win 2010. Overall, they figure to improve on last year’s runs scored, and they project as an average to above-average defensive group.
Last year, I mentioned that Peter Bourjos’ was something of an enigma at the plate, and could turn into an elite, Franklin-Gutierrez-in-2009 level hitter, or add a bit of value as a disappointing Franklin-Gutierrez-in-2010 hitter. Unfortunately for M’s fans, Bourjos had a fantastic 2011, and is poised for the career we all thought Guti would have back in March of 2010. Bourjos is a phenomenal defender and he projects as a bit above an average hitter. Factor in the positional adjustment, and that makes Bourjos a 4-6 win player. The Angels also have one of the best prospects in all of baseball in CF Mike Trout. Trout struggled a bit in his call-up to the Angels last year, though the Angels cannily gave him several starts against an awww-F#%@-it Mariners team; he made his MLB debut against Seattle and then featured in a late-season series at Safeco where he was able to feast on Anthony Vasquez pitching. Trout’s the classic five-tool player and while he’ll begin the year in the minors, he could rack up several WAR spelling all three Angels OFs over the course of the year.
After Trout, however, things get a bit muddled. The Angels 2nd best prospect, Jean Segura, missed most of 2011 with hamstring issues. He’s a solid 2B/SS with contact skills and surprising pop, but the 22-year old hasn’t played above the High A California League (brief fill-in stint in AAA notwithstanding). Scouts seem to love his potential – and he ended up in the middle of BA’s top 100 prospect list – but there are a lot of question marks there. To be fair, the same could be said of the M’s Nick Franklin, who lost much of 2011 to a head injury and mononucleosis. Behind Segura, the Angels have starting pitcher Garrett Richards, a hard-throwing righty who made his debut in 2011, and then made his debut on the DL shortly thereafter. Presumed 5th starter Jerome Williams has battled injuries this spring, so Richards could end up starting the year in the Angels rotation, but his projections are pretty bad for 2012.
If everything goes right, this is an elite team – a 95-100 win behemoth that will go toe to toe with the Rangers and Yankees for the AL crown. The rotation’s top-heavy, but solid production from Williams/Richards/Ervin Santana would give them a league-leading runs-allowed, and if the Angels get some growth from Bourjos and Trout along with continued contributions from Trumbo and Hunter, the offense could score quite a bit more than they did last season. Vernon Wells could bounce back, and the bullpen could be better as the Angels allocate high-leverage innings away from Fernando Rodney and towards Jordan Walden. The Rangers get quite a bit of (deserved) credit for building an organization the “right” way, while the Angels have been harder to get a handle on – they swing from dumping Mike Napoli for one of the worst contracts in baseball to drafting and developing Bourjos and Trout.
If things go wrong, the back of the rotation will become an anchor, and a moribund Vernon Wells could become a distraction. Mark Trumbo could struggle at 3B and Iannetta’s hit tool could mean he’s not quite as big of an upgrade over Mathis as many thought. If any of the starting pitchers goes down, the team could suffer. The starters (and back-ups at certain positions) are neck and neck with the Rangers; it’s really only depth that separate the two teams. With Dipoto at the helm – and their revenue – this is an elite team, and one that can compete with Texas in every facet of the game except for the farm system. Damn it.
The Mariners just made three roster moves to shift from their 30 man roster down to the 25 man group that will start the season as active members on Wednesday. Because of the strange rules regarding the team’s roster beginning in Japan, they first announced 28 active members of the roster – all of whom are now eligible to be on the US opening day roster – and then deactivated three players from that roster to get down to 25 for the games in Japan.
To go from 30 down to 28, Carlos Peguero and Chance Ruffin were optioned to Tacoma, and Guillermo Quiroz was re-assigned to minor league camp. This actually brought them to 27, but the team also had to include Kevin Millwood on the 28 man roster, since he’s scheduled to open the US part of the season with the team. Munenori Kawasaki and Erasmo Ramirez also had their contracts purchased, but they were already on the travel roster, so this just gets them on the 40 man. Subtracting Peguero, Ruffin, and Quiroz while adding Millwood pushed them from 30 to 28.
To get down to 25, the team deactivated Millwood, Hector Noesi, and Hisashi Iwakuma for the two games in Japan. While all three will be added back to the roster before the team resumes play over here, their spots for the first two games will go to Alex Liddi, Steve Delebar, and Charlie Furbush. Those three will be eligible to play in the first two games, and then are all likely ticketed for Tacoma before the team opens play in Oakland next week.
From what I’ve gathered, it sounds like the team simply believes that Ramirez is capable of getting big league hitters out right now, and they’re going to break him in as a reliever. They’re not converting him to the bullpen like the team did with Brandon Morrow, but they believe he can get his feet wet as a middle reliever and still be able to move back into the rotation if an opportunity presents itself. This used to be a very normal way to break in rookie pitchers (Earl Weaver is a big proponent of the plan), so don’t freak out and think the team is wasting Ramirez in the pen. They just don’t think he has much left to learn in the minors, and believe that having a strike-thrower in the pen will be an asset.
It’s possible that they could still change their minds before next week and give that last bullpen spot to Furbush, but everything I’m hearing says that Ramirez has made the squad. Will be interesting to see how Wedge chooses to use him, since they’re already carrying Iwakuma as a long guy.