Dodgers acquire Garland, Thome for stretch run

On the same day that the Giants signed starter Brad Penny and the Rockies added starter Jose Contreras, the Dodgers one-upped their division rivals by acquiring starter Jon Garland from the Diamondbacks and slugger Jim Thome from the White Sox.


In return, the White Sox will receive Minor League infielder Justin Fuller. The D-backs will receive a player to be named, who, according to several Dodgers, will be Tony Abreu, but Abreu needs to first clear waivers. Abreu once was considered a top infield prospect, but his progress was stalled by three years of injuries.

The right-handed Garland, 29, moves into a rotation that has struggled to find a fifth starter all season and has been further weakened by the loss of Hiroki Kuroda, who was hit on the head by a line drive. Garland is expected to take the place of knuckleball specialist Charlie Haeger, with Vicente Padilla holding the spot for Kuroda, who could return to the rotation as soon as Sunday.

Thome, 12th on the all-time list with 564 career home runs, will give the Dodgers the left-handed threat that Matt Stairs provides the Phillies, who beat the Dodgers with a home run off the bench in the playoffs last year.

Coupled with their addition of Ronnie Belliard over the weekend, the Dodgers have set themselves up for a World Series run with these two moves. After the Rockies got within two games of the division lead in the NL West last week, L.A. clearly isn’t taking any chances as they head into the final month of the season. These moves fortify the back of the rotation, their bench, and their overall position depth.

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Giants sign starter Brad Penny

After he went unclaimed at the 1:00 p.m. deadline on Monday, Brad Penny became a free agent and according to, has signed with the San Francisco Giants.

Initially, no one claimed Penny because a claiming team would have been responsible for the remainder of his contract. The Giants only have to pay him the pro-rated portion of the big-league minimum of $400,000, which will be less than $100,000.

Putting aside Penny’s numbers this season (7-8, 5.61 ERA), this is a quality signing by the Giants. He’s familiar with the NL West after pitching for the Dodgers for four and a half seasons and also offers an upgrade over Joe Martinez, who had been filling in for Randy Johnson after the Big Unit was placed on the DL with a shoulder injury in early July.

Pitching in the spacious AT&T Park should only help Penny’s performance, especially considering he had issues keeping the ball in the yard while playing in Boston this season. He should also be plenty motivated to join a contender, especially a contender whose rival is the team that Penny had a falling out with at the end of last season (the Dodgers).

Considering that Penny comes cheap, is still throwing in the mid 90s and will make an impact immediately, he’s a perfect fit for a Giants team that is coming off a sweep of the Rockies and is now tied for the NL Wild Card.

Released by the Red Sox, Giants should take flier on Penny

The Boston Herald is reporting that the Red Sox have released starter Brad Penny, who has been awful in his last four starts, compiling a 0-4 record and a 9.11 ERA. Penny will try to join a contender by the end of August in hopes of contributing this postseason.

One contender that would be a fit for Penny is the Giants. They’re a seriously flawed club offensively, so it would make sense that they would focus their attention solely on that weakness. But there aren’t any available bats, so their lineup is what it is. (Fans just threw up after reading that.)

They could, however, use an upgrade over fifth starter Joe Martinez, who is well liked and incredibly easy to root for, but has failed to get past the fifth inning in each of his last four starts. Granted, he’s 2-1 during that span, but he’s gotten an unusual (for the Giants) 8.0 runs per game over those four contests. The more telling sign of how Martinez has pitched is his ERA, which is 5.73.

Penny pitched for the Dodgers for four years (2005-2008) and therefore is familiar with the NL West. Outside of his bloated 6.28 ERA in 2008, he was anywhere from respectable to great while pitching in L.A., compiling a 3.90 ERA in 2005, a 4.33 ERA in 2006, and a 3.03 mark in 2007.

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Dice-K out of Boston’s rotation for good?

The Red Sox might have found the answer to their question about what to do with their starting rotation when John Smoltz comes off the DL, although it’s certainly not one they were expecting would unveil itself.

Boston fans and those unfortunate enough to have him on their fantasy team know that Daisuke Matsuzaka has been wretched this season. After the Braves beat him like a piñata last Friday, Dice-K dropped to 1-5 on the season with an 8.23 ERA and 2.20 WHIP.

Following that performance, the BoSox placed Matsuzaka on the disabled list for the second time this year, this time due to isuckitis and ican’tthrowastriketosavemylifeitis. And as the Boston Herald points out, Dice-K might not return to the starting rotation for the rest of the season, even if he does come off the DL in perfect health.

Smoltz is set to make his 2009 debut this week and with Brad Penny pitching as well as he has this season, there isn’t any room for the struggling Matsuzaka in the rotation. So even if the team doesn’t find anything wrong with him in his latest stint on the DL, Dice-K might have to ride out the rest of the season in the bullpen or on the pine.

Of course, there’s a major possibility that the 86-year old Smoltz and the fragile Penny could go down at some point this season and Dice-K could leap back into the rotation, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But it is staggering that a pitcher who went 18-3 last year with a 2.90 ERA has struggled so badly this season.

One issue that is sure to be brought up is Dice-K’s role in the World Baseball Classic. He pitched well int he WBC this year, yet he’s struggled mightily so far in the MLB season. How does a pitcher who went 18-3 one year go directly in the toilet the following season? Did he get worn out or hurt in the WBC? If he did, it would be yet another reason not to have the WBC be played before the MLB season.

Either way, Boston is thankful to have the pitching depth they do and despite other teams being interested in his services, it doesn’t look like Penny is going anywhere now.

Red Sox to skip Dice-K’s next start

With John Smoltz set to come off the DL, the Boston Red Sox have decided to skip struggling Daisuke Matsuzaka’s next start.

At the moment, Matsuzaka does not have a next scheduled start. John Smoltz is slated to go Thursday in Matsuzaka’s normal turn in the rotation. Pitching coach John Farrell said after the game, “I think until a determination comes from within, we haven’t announced a rotation beyond that.’’

“There’s certainly no imminent announcement, if that’s what you’re asking for,’’ Farrell added of what comes next for Matsuzaka. “But knowing how determined he is, knowing the work ethic that he has, he’s disappointed, I’m sure. But at the same time we can’t forget that this is a 33-game winner over the previous two years coming into this season. We certainly have some work to do. Consistency of strikes, particularly with his fastball, is the primary target. We’ll continue to work toward that.’’

Manager Terry Francona said that with Monday’s offday, the Sox have “the ability to be a little flexible in what we do going forward.’’ He also said that nothing is likely to be an nounced before Monday, prior to the team’s trip to Washington.

The Sox were contemplating moving Brad Penny to the bullpen to make room for Smoltz in the rotation, but he’s pitched well in his last two outings and it’s hard to move him with Dice-K pitching so poorly. Penny’s name has also surfaced in trade rumors the past week, but nothing serious has materialized yet.

While Boston would certainly love to have the Dice-K that went 18-3 last year, at least with Penny pitching well they can be patient while Matsuzaka works out the kinks. While they have the time, I’m sure the club’s training staff will determine whether or not Dice-K’s problems are physical. He could still be suffering from the shoulder injury that landed him on the DL last month.

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