January 30, 2008 should have been another quasi-fun day that bled into all other quasi-fun days on campus. I was in the newsroom of the Daily Kansan, swiveling around in my spinny chair. I didn’t like to work in that room. I liked to spin and sip Coke Zero and discuss the relative merit of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s career choices. Mostly, I liked to wait. In a newsroom, you’re always within an hour of experiencing something really interesting.
In a way, I got what I came for that day. I remember opening ESPN.com. I remember seeing a picture that didn’t make sense. I remember throwing my empty can of Coke Zero at the wall and pretending that I was aiming for the garbage can because an editor saw me. I remember the phone shaking in my hand as I called my father. I remember the way he said, “What?” I remember that it was a Wednesday, I remember that I walked into the JazzHaus in Lawrence prepared to wage war with my liver over sins committed by a man I’d been cursing all night, to my J-school friends, to my buddies back in Minnesota, and to my girlfriend.
“Who’s Bill Smith?” Sasha said.
The only way one responds to this question is by sauntering to the bar in a Johan Santana jersey and ordering a round of chilled rail whiskey.
This isn’t a story about Bill Smith. If it were, Deadspin would reject the column with a pleasant note referencing the website’s decency standards. My feelings about Bill Smith are neither interesting nor evolved. They more or less haven’t changed since that day.
My feelings about Phil Hughes are different because they are unresolved. And they are unresolved because there was one day in my life where it felt as though nothing in the world was more important than Phil Hughes' potential.
I returned with a table-full of shots. We downed them. I tried to explain why it felt as though I’d been betrayed. I explained that I knew my favorite team had to trade Johan, the best pitcher I’d ever seen, this former Rule 5 pick who threw a changeup that batters believed to be a fastball. I told her about the phenoms reportedly offered by the Red Sox (Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, and Jed Lowrie) and Yankees (Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Melky Cabrera, Ian Kennedy, and Austin Jackson). I briefly discussed Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey, and Philip Humber, but mostly I talked about Hughes. About how you had to acquire a sure-fire future ace if you were jettisoning a sure-fire current ace.
Phil Hughes never became an ace. And on Tuesday, he was unceremoniously demoted to the bullpen by skipper Joe Girardi in favor of a person named David Huff. Hughes posted a 4.86 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 26 starts. I don’t know where the impending free agent will pitch next season, but I can guarantee that I’ll do my annual spring ritual of talking myself into his potential, one of those bad habits that I secretly find endearing about myself.
Tampa Bay dominated the Angels in an utterly original way Tuesday night, using a starting pitcher coming off a one-month layoff and a reliever recently banished from the rotation to strike out 13 batters and allow only one.
Matt Moore, who emerged victorious from his bout with elbow soreness by allowing only one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings, was the evening’s big story, and justifiably so: He improved to 15-3 with a 3.27 ERA.
But Moore wasn’t Tampa Bay’s most impressive pitcher, not with Roberto Hernandez punching out seven of the 11 batters he faced to notch his first save. The Angels couldn’t even muster a base runner against him.
Not many people watched this game, and very few people will remember it, but there's a strong argument to be made that this was not only the most dominant relief outing of the season, but also the most impressive save.
A handful of top prospects were summoned to the big show on Tuesday:
Jonathan Schoop is the Orioles’ second baseman of the future, but he’ll be relegated to bench duty behind Brian Roberts this month.
James Paxton entered the season as Baseball America’s No. 87 prospect but struggled at Triple-A. Some believe the 24-year-old southpaw is headed to the bullpen long-term, but he’ll debut on Saturday against the Rays as the Mariners move to a six-man rotation.
Michael Wacha tossed six shutout innings as part of no-decision Tuesday against the Reds. He will remain in the rotation for the duration of the season while fellow promotee Carlos Martinez slots into the bullpen.
Erik Johnson debuts on Wednesday against the Yankees. Johnson was a dynamo between Double- and Triple-A this year – 1.96 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 131/40 K/BB ratio in 142 innings – and should be owned in AL-only leagues.
The Diamondbacks promoted Matt Davidson, who struggled mightily in the majors earlier this season, and Chris Owings, who was named Rookie of the Year in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. We don’t believe that either precocious 22-year-old will play enough to warrant much fantasy attention over the next four weeks.
AL Quick Hits: Erasmo Ramirez, documented in Class A, an early contender for baseball book of the year (full discloser: I went to grad school with Lucas Mann, the author), was recalled by the Mariners and allowed three runs over 6 1/3 innings against the Royals ... The Royals promoted Johnny Giavotella, Carlos Pena, Pedro Ciriaco, Donnie Joseph, Louis Coleman and Wade Davis ... Chris Perez was found guilty of marijuana possession and sentenced to pay a $250 fine and serve one year of probation ... Tampa Bay recalled Wednesday’s starter, Jeremy Hellickson, from the minors ... Jason Castro's MRI revealed a cyst on the medial side of his right knee. That sounds extremely unpleasant, but apparently it’s good news: Castro’s status has been upgraded to day-to-day ... The Astros bought some catching insurance by purchasing Matt Pagnozzi from the Braves in exchange for Joe Rogan’s fanny pack filled with loose change ... The Indians activated Ryan Raburn from the disabled list and added four pitchers to the active roster, including banished disappointments Carlos Carrasco and Vinnie Pestano ... Justin Masterson has been diagnosed with an oblique strain and will not make his next start ... Oakland recalled Tommy Milone from Triple-A ... Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be glued to the bench for the next days because of a non-serious lower back issue ... Elvis Andrus (back) missed his third straight game on Tuesday ... Josh Hamilton skipped Tuesday’s game with a sinus infection ... Alexi Ogando was activated from the DL; he’s expected to be used as a reliever for the remainder of the season ... Felix Hernandez (back cramping) is scheduled to start on Sunday ... FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that Adam Dunn may retire after this season.
NL Quick Hits: Tony Cingrani (back) is scheduled to rejoin the Reds' rotation on Thursday against the Cardinals ... The Padres signed Will Venable to a two-year, $8.5 million contract extension ... The Marlins added Brian Flynn to the 40-man roster and summoned him from Triple-A New Orleans, where Flynn posted a 2.80 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 138 innings ... Yadier Molina (wrist) returned to the lineup on Tuesday ... The Braves brought back Evan Gattis, who promptly went 3-for-3 with a home run in his return ... Jason Heyward (fractured jaw) was cleared to play catch and hit off a tee on Tuesday, though he’s uncertain to return for the postseason ... The Pirates activated Jason Grill from the 15-day disabled list; he’s going to be eased back into the ninth inning, so Mark Melancon owners needn’t worry during the current scoring period ... Pittsburgh also recalled potential NL-only factors Jeff Locke and Andrew Lambo; Locke is expected to rejoin the rotation Saturday against the Cardinals ... Dexter Fowler returned to the starting lineup after missing over a week with a mild sprain behind his left knee ... Carlos Gonzalez is back from the DL, but lingering discomfort in his right middle finger will limit the slugger to defensive-replacement and pinch-running duties ... Carlos Beltran (back) returned to the starting lineup after missing two games ... Matt Kemp (ankle) probably won’t be activated from the disabled list this week ... Zack Wheeler is slated to throw about 28 more innings (to reach 180) before being shut down ... Bryce Harper, who has been dealing with a sore left hip, will receive an off-day on Wednesday ... Billy Hamilton stole his first career base against St. Louis ... Teammate Homer Bailey shut the Cardinals out for seven innings in a 1-0 victory ... Johnny Cueto (strained right lat) threw a successful 35-pitch bullpen session.