Greetings from the Midway,where I am spending a week with Diane, primarily to observe the half-century birthday of cousin Cherie. Of course that means right now that football is the focus, not just because of the time of year, and the fact that the Cubs and Sox are going home post season, but the Bears taking down the Cowboys? That will be the talk of the town for the next five days, and makes next Sunday at the sportsbar more than promising.
Still, it does not mean that baseball is in our tailight, and that means another cluster of names to watch, most of whom are ressurection projects, starting with Kansas City's Luke Hochevar. A former first rounder, the 26-year old has been a yo-yo the past four years, coming up to the majors, dropping back down to the minors. He is a distressing--distressing both for him as a player and his now long-suffering team--5-5, 4.81 this season, but the Royals have been doing their best to play spoiler, and Hochevar's last start against Oakland he did go a good five innings, allowing just a couple of hits, losing on an unearned pair of runs.
Now 30, former roto-darling (way back in 2008) Rich Hill was brought forth by the Red Sox, his new home. Hill was 3-1 3.74, with 55 whiffs over 52 innings toiling at Pawtuckett, though control and his 29 walks are still an issue. Released mid-season by the Cards, Hill could get a start or two over the final weeks of the season and help your team in unexpected ways.
Much the same could be said of Willie Bloomquist, who moved to the Reds during the week, and who can help out with this ability to play anywhere and by adding some speed. With a .296 OBP, and .388 SLG this year, don't look for much of a contribution from Bloomquist aside from potentially filling a hole, and picking up a swipe or two, both of which are real possibilities these last weeks. As with all the players above and below this time, they may not be pretty, but, they have a skill, and if you are fighting for position in the standings right now, getting it done is the point. Worry about how pretty after the last out is recorded.
Aki Iwamura is sort of a Bloomquist counterpart, getting some playing time with the Athletics in deference to Kevin Kouzmanoff's injury issues. Aki is playing the hot corner, and like Bloomquist cannot add much pop, with .177-2-11 totals for 2010 over 181 at-bats. But, if Iwamura gets some playing time--and he has been--the 31-year old could add a couple of runs or swipes and that could be a difference maker.
No one seems to have had more promise at first, or subsequent trouble at first than the Rangers and their AL West rivals the Mariners, so Justin Smoak, with his .199-10-39 totals this year, over 302 at-bats, split between those franchises, could not prove the case better. Smoak was hitting .271-7-25 at Tacoma over 133 at-bats since the Mariners sent him off after the big league strugges, but that is of little significance. Smoak has to prove it at Safeco. It is in the majors he needs to show his worth, so, if you need some pop, he is likely available in pretty much every format.
Perhaps the best shot at a helping arm this time is the Padres Chris Young, called back from his rehab time in Portland where he was 0-0. 1.42 over 6.1 innings. Young, though, was among the first of the latest wave of San Diego hurlers, and his return could really make a difference as the Padres struggle to hold onto first place and post season play. Young actually has the resume, so, if by some reason he is floating in the free agent pool, Young is a good gamble.
Finishing with some journeymen bats, Mike Aviles was the leading hitter in the majors last week, poking the ball at a .609 clip, with 14 hits over 23 at-bats, including a swipe and four homers.
The Phillies Wilson Valdez has hit .469-0-4 this past week, over 22 at-bats and as his team streaks for another crown, the hot bat will get serious attention.
Then, the Padres Will Venable has hit .474-0-2 over 19 at-bats this past week, and though he has been caught stealing twice, the point is his team is sending him.
With this last troika--and as noted above--the documentation is less than what I usually write in support or suspicion of a player. But, the end of the season is upon us, and, winning pretty is no longer part of the equation. At this point you want any live body who will play, deliver at-bats and help your points, and get the job done.
And, all three--Valdez, Venable, and Aviles--could indeed do that as can their counterparts this week. They could, similarly, blow up, but if you are now fighting for a title and points, playing it safe is simply not an option. Adjust your roster accordingly.