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Saturday, May 2, 2009

This Post Is Almost About The Bulls

Posted by on Sat, May 2, 2009 at 3:33 PM

I imagine one of my colleagues will post some thoughts today about the Columbus Clippers grinding the Bulls into a fine paste (ratio of water to Bull: 14:1) last night at the DBAP. Meanwhile, a minor (league) transaction yesterday got me thinking about Chris Wise's pondering over at Watching Durham Bulls Baseball the other day. Taking note of my rundown of Gerry Hunsicker's/Tampa's organizational philosophy and how the Bulls fit into it, a thread on Rays Index about potential trade bait on the Durham roster, and Jessica Havens' tearing the major league squad a new one (by throwing her voice, via erstwhile manager Lou Piniella, into current one Joe Maddon) on Her Rays, Chris asks:

Left out of the equation, as might be expected, is much consideration of the Durham Bulls as a baseball team. Too bad. Would like to know more about what Hunsicker thought about that. Is what’s best for the Rays by definition best for the Bulls?

The bummer answer is, Yes, what's best for the Rays is by definition best for the Bulls: You don't plant marigolds because they're pretty; you plant them because they're supposed to help you grow delicious tomatoes. (Actually, for this metaphor to work, you'd plant marigolds because they might someday become tomatoes. But anyway. Never mind.)

But the news arrived today that the New York Yankees signed journeyman Casey Fossum to a minor-league deal, terms undisclosed. He started today for their AAA affiliate, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and not long before I started writing this post, was lifted for a reliever after giving up one run in 3 2/3 innings.

Well, so, who cares? If you've followed baseball much, you may remember that Fossum was once a prized prospect of the Boston Red Sox, most famous for being the guy the Red Sox loudly refused to trade for Bartolo Colon back in 2003, which scotched the deal Boston was trying to work out with Montreal. Instead, they traded him the following year to the Diamondbacks for Curt Schilling (that move worked out pretty well for Boston, no?). The D-Backs weren't impressed, so they flipped him to Tampa the following year. Fossum played three seasons for the (Devil) Rays before making stops in Pittsburgh, Detroit, San Diego, and New York with the Mets, who recently designated him for assignment.

Fossum had shoulder trouble that led to surgery in 2003, and although he throws a good curveball (actually three different curveballs, and apparently even an Eephus pitch that he calls the "Fossum Flip") to go with a high-80s/low-90s fastball, he hasn't found a way to succeed in the majors -- certainly he was never anywhere near as good as Bartolo Colon. Now 31 years old, he's hanging onto professional baseball by his stirrups.

So why would the Yankees -- a team that not only has all the money but most of the pitching prospects, too -- bother signing him? Well, here's where we get back to Chris Wise's question: Scranton pitchers Jason Johnson and Ian Kennedy are currently out with minor injuries, and they had no one to start today's game. Both pitchers are expected back soon enough that the Yankees' front office didn't want to bother promoting any of their Double-A prospects (none of whom the Yankees feel is ready for AAA) only to send them back down when the two presidentially-named incumbents return to office. Instead, New York GM Brian Cashman cruised the baseball unemployment line and found Fossum -- so skinny at 6-foot-1, 165 pounds that his nickname is "The Blade" -- looking for a bowl of soup or for a baseball game to start. Sign here, please, Mr. Nixon Fossum.

Which is to say: This was a case of What's-Best-for-Scranton-Is-Best-for-Scranton. (That sounds like it ought to be a line in a Preston Sturges movie.) The SWB Yanks needed a starting pitcher, on the double, toot-sweet, period-&-paragraph. Fossum's job is to toe the rubber for Johnson and Kennedy until they set their cleats back on it again, and it would be no surprise to see the Yankees release him immediately afterward. Certainly they aren't expecting him to make a single pitch in a New York uniform.

(Even though the Yankees' major-league bullpen is currently second-worst in the majors?)

(You sure, Mr. Cashman? You sure you aren't hoping, maybe just a little, that Fossum has something left in his arm? Not even a scoche?)

No truth to the rumor that if the Bulls' James Houser and Carlos Hernandez get injured again, Tampa will sign Hideki Irabu and Jose Lima and assign them to Durham. I know it isn't true, because I made it up.

Another lefthander who used to pitch for Tampa Bay starts for the Bulls tonight against Columbus: Some guy named David Price. Price faces off against Hideki Irabu's countryman Tomo Ohka (hey, that's Tomozaku to you, buddy), who, unlike Casey Fossum, was once traded from Boston to Montreal. So there.

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