PLAYING TIME: Richards, Arrieta demoted; Howard activated


Garrett Richards demoted, Hurley called up

Just a week ago it appeared that Garrett Richards (RHP, LAA) might challenge Jerome Williams (RHP, LAA) for his rotation spot when Williams returns from the DL. However after two rough starts, in which Richards allowed 19 hits,  six walks, and 12 earned runs in 8.2 IP, the rookie was demoted to AAA-Salt Lake. He was replaced on the roster by Eric Hurley (RHP, LAA), who might get a spot start against Baltimore on Sunday.

A first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 2004 and a 2006 Futures Game selection, Hurley did not pitch in 2009-2010 due to a variety of injuries. In 2011 he had a 5.55 ERA at AAA-Round Rock, with only a 1.3 Cmd.  His command has been better this season, at 1.9 in 97 IP, with a 5.38 ERA.  In spite of the improvement, he hasn't shown anything that would predict major league success at this point and is too high risk for a fantasy roster.

As for Richards, it's safe to predict that he'll be back.  A 31% hr/f rate in his two disastrous starts reflects a mechanical issue, an injury, or simple back luck. Prior to those starts, he had PQS performances of 5-3-3-4 and a 1.63 ERA, although his 4.22 xERA reflected control issues and a GB rate that was not up to the 50% rate Richards was producing in the minors. 

Arrieta demoted

The Baltimore Orioles demoted Jake Arrieta (RHP, BAL) to AAA-Norfolk after two horrendous starts, in which he allowed 11 ER in 7.1 IP. Arrieta has struggled in both May and June, with monthly ERA's of 6.17 and 6.68, but a BPV of 89 and a 3.75 ERA speak to his considerable skills.  His 7.9 Dom, 2.8 Ctl, and 2.9 Cmd are all impressive.  He's been the victim of a 33% hit rate and 57% strand rate. 

It's unclear who might replace Arrieta in the rotation after the break. It's possible that he could be recalled at that time, but Joel Pineiro (RHP, BAL) might also be an option.  In two starts at AAA-Norfolk, Pineiro has a 3.65 ERA, with nine strikeouts and no walks in 12 IP.  Pineiro was shut down in early May with shoulder soreness, but a recent rehab start indicates that he may soon be ready to contribute in Baltimore. 

How much of a contribution he could make is a serious question. Over the past few seasons falling Dom and a falling GB rate have left Pineiro with little margin for error.  His control is still outstanding, but a 3.8 Dom last season calls into question his ability to miss major league bats.  He's best avoided if the Orioles should decide to go in this direction.


Dempster ready to return from DL

The Chicago Cubs confirmed that Ryan Dempster (RHP, CHC) will start on Sunday against the Mets. Dempster has been on the DL since June 16 with a right lat strain, and he'll have several starts to prove that he's healthy prior to the trade deadline, as trade rumors swirl around him.

Dempster has rebounded from last season's 4.80 ERA with a 2.11 ERA thus far. His 3.57 xERA says he's been a bit lucky, with a 25% hit rate and 83% strand rate, but his skills have still been vintage Dempster. His 7.3 Dom is down a bit from the 8.5 and 8.7 of the past two seasons, but his 3.0 Cmd is the best of his career. And his current 85 BPV is in line with 83, 85, 84, and 76 he has produced in the past four years. He should be an attractive trade target as the deadline approaches.

Dempster's return will send Chris Volstad (RHP, CHC) back to the pen, at least temporarily. Volstad's 7.94 ERA is ugly, but he's been incredibly unlucky, with a 35% hit rate and a 49% strand rate, in spite of an 8% hr/f.  His 4.72 xERA speaks to better skills.

Howard activated from DL

The Phillies activated Ryan Howard (1B, PHI) from the DL, and he was in Friday's lineup hitting cleanup.  Howard has missed the entire season recovering from October surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon. His 181 PX last season shows that he still brings plenty of power to the table, and while he hit only .253 last year, his .275 xBA gives hope for a rebound. His health remains an issue, and the Phillies will undoubtedly ease him back into an everyday role, as they have done with Chase Utley (2B, PHI).

Howard's return will reduce the playing time of Ty Wigginton (1B/3B, PHI), who has appeared in 61 games at 1B thus far.  Wigginton's versatility, however, suggests that he will still find some AB spelling Placido Polanco at 3B as well as giving Howard some rest. Wigginton is hitting .249 with nine homers and 35 RBI. However, his 74% contact rate is the lowest of his career, and that along with a .228 xBA reveal possible BA downside for the second half.

NL short takes

The Cardinals placed Yadier Molina (C, STL) on the bereavement list, and he is returning to Puerto Rico after the death of his wife's grandmother.  He will miss at least the upcoming weekend series, and the All-Star game.  Molina was replaced on the roster by Bryan Anderson (C, STL), who will share catching duties with Tony Cruz (C, STL).  Anderson was hitting .210 at AAA-Memphis, while Cruz is hitting .196 in 58 AB for the Cardinals...

The Rockies announced that Juan Nicasio (RHP, COL) will have surgery on July 16 for a "floating body" in his left knee. Nicasio has been on the DL with fluid in his knee since early June, and now there won't be a timetable for his return until after the surgery. This announcement extends the stay of Drew Pomeranz (LHP, COL) in the Rockies four-man experimental rotation, and with Jhoulys Chacin (RHP, COL) not expected back until mid-August, Pomeranz could get a month-long opportunity.  Pomeranz' 4.81 xERA and -12 BPV emphasize that he's still a work in progress.  For a full analysis, see Ray Murphy recent Fact/Flukes column...

Andrew Cashner's  (RHP, SD) final start prior to the All-Star break will be made by Jason Marquis (RHP, SD), working on three days rest.  Cashner is expected to miss four weeks with a strained lat, and the Padres have not announced who may take his rotation spot, although Ross Ohlendorf (RHP, SD) would appear to be a possibility.  Ohlendorf currently has a 7.31 ERA, 1.3 Cmd, 5.6 Ctl, and -23 BPV.  Clearly, he does not belong on a fantasy roster, no matter what his role...


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