First off, an apology.
I wrote last week that recent Orioles call-up Jeff Fiorentino was "a solid prospect" who "won't stick around long." What I meant to write, in retrospect, is that Fiorentino is "a big-league ready hitter who can spray the ball to all fields" who "will probably take over as a full-time center fielder in the weeks ahead."
Fiorentino got into the lineup last week following an injury to Larry Bigbie, and he's hardly had a rest since. The 22-year old outfielder, who was in Single-A at the beginning of last week, picked up base hits in his first four major league at-bats the first two coming off Chicago's Jon Garland and made his fourth consecutive start in center field on Wednesday night while Bigbie recovers from a mild hamstring injury.
OK, so the full-time center fielder thing is a bit of a stretch. And for fantasy purpose, Fiorentino doesn't have much value outside of the deepest of keeper leagues. But the rookie has at least earned an extended look, and he should stay with Baltimore when Sammy Sosa returns likely early next week and have a limited role as a pinch-hitter and spot starter until Luis Matos comes back from his hand injury. The latest on Matos has him possibly returning in three weeks, much sooner than the six to eight weeks that were originally projected.
Meanwhile, in the seven games since Matos was lost, Jay Gibbons (.400, 2 HRs), B.J. Surhoff (.391, 5 RBIs) and Rafael Palmeiro (.429, 2 HRs, 7 RBIs) have all helped pick up the slack.
And now a look around the rest of the majors:
- Morgan Ensberg, Astros: With Jeff Bagwell, going under the knife, Ensberg found his power stroke just in time with three HRs on Sunday night vs. the Giants. He's 21-for-48 (.434) in May.
- Hee Seop Choi, Dodgers: Put so-so start in his rearview with .381 average, 1.170 OPS in May. At 26, maybe he's finally ready to live up to the enormous promise he showed in the minors.
- Trot Nixon, Red Sox: Batting .422 this month with 13 RBIs and multiple hits in seven of 12 starts. A quarter of the way through the season, he's right on pace to match his 2003 numbers (.306, 28 HRs, 87 RBIs).
- Kenny Rogers, Rangers: Scoreless streak is at 30 innings and counting heading into Thursday's game against the Astros. Question is: Hold `em or fold `em?
- Cesar Izturis, Dodgers: Shades of Brett Butler. Light-hitting shortstop has become the NL's best leadoff hitter with his .339 average, 28 runs scored. A few more walks would be nice, but who's complaining?
- Dan Kolb, Braves: A rotten week that included two botched saves finally cost Kolb the closer's role. John Smoltz owners rejoice.
- Victor Martinez, Indians: Stuck in a sophomore slump of sorts, a 1-for-23 stretch has dragged his average back below .200.
- Rafael Furcal, Braves: A 3-for-31 stretch has dropped Furcal's average to .224 and neutralized his most valuable asset speed. Like Braves, Furcal's owners have little choice but to be patient and ride it out.
- Chone Figgins, Angels: Another struggling leadoff hitter. Snapped out of a 1-for-34 slump with three hits on Tuesday night but hasn't stolen a bases since May 4.
- Paul Wilson, Reds: Had his next start pushed back to Monday at the earliest that's what happens when you run up a 16.55 ERA through three May starts. His next stop could be long relief.
This weekend's matchups
Philadelphia at Baltimore
Washington at Toronto
New York Yankees at New York Mets
Atlanta at Boston
Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs
Tampa Bay at Florida
Arizona at Detroit
Cleveland at Cincinnati
St. Louis at Kansas City
Milwaukee at Minnesota
Houston at Texas
Oakland at San Francisco
San Diego at Seattle
Los Angeles Angels at Los Angeles Dodgers
Stewart, Arlington, Mass.: I've been wondering whether the Angels might bring Ervin Santana up later this summer. He had a surprisingly good spring and is doing quite well at Double-AArkansas. Is Santana or Joe Saunders a possible summer call-up, or do the Angels not have room for either of them until after the season?
Answer: Looks like your question was at least partially answered this week, as Santana came up from Double-A Arkansas to make a spot start on Tuesday at Cleveland in place of Kelvim Escobar. Escobar is on the 15-day for now and is having more elbow problems, which could require surgery and put him on the shelf for a couple of months. Doesn't sound good.
Santana wasn't very good, either, surrendering six earned runs in four innings against a team with an AL-worst .237 batting average through Monday's games. The 22-year old was pitching well at Double-A (5-1, 2.49 ERA, 29 Ks in 36.2 IP), but obviously it's a big jump to the big leagues. Still, if Escobar is out for any extended period of time, Santana could get another chance later in the year. He's put up great numbers everywhere he's been, so he'll be back sooner or later. Keep in mind, it was about this time a year ago that the Orioles called up Daniel Cabrera from Double-A Bowie, and he's been in the majors ever since.
As for Saunders, he was a first-round pick in 2002 but is a bit of a sleeper after missing all of 2003 with a rotator cuff injury. But he seems to be getting his strength back now, and he's putting up nice numbers in Double-A, notably 30 Ks in 37 IP. He's not quite on the same fast track as Santana, but he could earn a spot in the Angels rotation in a few years, particularly since he's a lefty. My guess is he'll be in Triple-A by June or July, but they're not going to rush him. Barring a couple more injuries, there's not a spot for him in Anaheim right now; plus, Santana, Corey Lee and Chris Bootcheck all figure to be in front of him in the spot-starting pecking order.
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