Depletion showed its presence in the Bulls’ 5-2 loss at Rochester yesterday. According to the Bulls’ official game story, sent by broadcaster Neil Solondz when the team is on the road, only one reliever was available last night. Chad Orvella pitched three innings in relief of an inoffensive James Houser (five innings, four hits, three walks, two runs) and apparently faded in the last of them: He gave up a game-winning, three-run homer to the Red Wings’ David Winfree. Normally, Orvella wouldn’t have been out there for a third frame.
Answering a general question I asked him during the last homestand, Charlie Montoyo told me that there’s no ban on relievers working consecutive days, but I’m fairly certain that he hasn’t allowed that to happen this season. He may have meant that he would only do it if absolutely necessary, like in an extra innings game or due to an in-game injury—and remember that merely winning a game isn’t always a necessity when you’re managing an increasingly motley and unstable roster of players, and also hauling a cargo of invalids along with you. The herd has been hard to keep together over the last week, and it just got harder. A stampede of transaction notes follows.
* Chris Richard was placed on the 7-day DL retroactive to May 24th. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll be back on May 31st: 7 days are simply the minimum he must stay out of action. Presumably, Richard’s hamstring continues to, er, hamstring him, but I’ll ask Montoyo about what ails the first baseman on Friday, when the Bulls return.
* John Jaso hasn’t been placed on the DL, but he also hasn’t played since Saturday, when he pinch-ran for an injured Ray Olmedo and then stayed in the game as catcher. No word about the type of injury. A few weeks ago, he missed a few games after being hit in the knee by a pitch, but it could be something else. Jaso is really struggling at the plate, hitting just .115 over his last 10 games.
* Like Jaso, Ray Olmedo hasn’t been DL’d, nor has he played since Saturday. From the circumstantial evidence at hand, the guess is that he injured himself running the bases that day, but no explanation has been given yet.
* According to one report, reliever Dewon Day was having “forearm stiffness,” a popular general description that isn’t quite a medical diagnosis. More on that as (if) it’s revealed, but I wonder if that’s why Winston Abreu replaced Day during the eighth inning of Monday’s game, right around the same time as what the Total Cast recap calls an “injury visit to the mound.” In any case, Orvella’s three-inning stint almost certainly owed to Day’s unavailability.
* After Thayer, Brignac, Price and Choate all moved up to Tampa within the last week, they’ve now been joined by Joe Dillon, who spent just a few weeks in Durham (as the player received in return from Oakland for Adam Kennedy). The utility player is filling in for injured Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett, who went on the DL yesterday. Bartlett is expected to miss a few weeks.
* Infielder Matt Hall was added back onto the roster after a stint with Class-A Charlotte. He started at third base yesterday, going 1-3 with an RBI single. He also committed an error. Hall is batting .200 for the year with a .569 OPS.
* Middle infielder Brandon Chaves was promoted from AA Montgomery and played shortstop for the Bulls yesterday, going 0-3 with a walk and a strikeout. The Hawaii native Chaves is a switch hitter; I’ll look at his splits when I can to see whether he swings the bat equally well from both sides of the plate. His stats are a little unusual: .350/.297/.647, which means he’s selective but perhaps a bit punchless; it’s rare to see an OBP 60 points higher than a SLG. Chaves drew 23 walks against 24 strikeouts, an excellent rate, in 138 at-bats for the Biscuits.
Of the four Bulls infielders yesterday, only one—Chris Nowak, filling in for Chris Richard at first base—was with the team five days ago. That’s likely to make pitchers nervous, so you can understand why Houser chose to record 12 of his 15 outs in the air or by strikeout yesterday.
* To replace Price in the rotation, the Rays signed free-agent pitcher Matt DeSalvo, who will probably start tomorrow night in Rochester. DeSalvo’s signing interests the book critic in me. When he was a Yankee—he started a few games for injury-ravaged New York in 2007 (I remember seeing him pitch in Durham for the Yankees’ AAA team that season)—he attracted attention not so much for his repertory of breaking balls as for his literary interests. I’ll see if I can get him to show me his novels, or at least find out what he thinks of Camus.
More changes are sure to come soon, but for now this Bulls team lacks the ability to score as many runs as it could with Richard, Brignac, Kennedy, Jaso and Dillon in the lineup. The Bulls are managing to mask their spavin with smoke (and mirrors), but they need the big bats back if they’re going to keep up with 30-14 (!) Norfolk, whom they now trail by 2.5 games in the IL South. Fortunately, the Bulls caught a break yesterday when blue-chip catching prospect Matt Wieters was called up to Baltimore. It’d help the Bulls out a lot if Hernandez, Salazar and Tillman followed him. Given how many Bulls have been lost or relocated lately, it seems only fair.