Notes from Tuesday's moves and callups

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– The White Sox brought up both Tyler Flowers and Josh Fields to help fill the void left by Jim Thome’s departure. Fields’ return was never in doubt, but he may not see as much playing time as expected if the White Sox want to see if Flowers is ready to hit in the majors. Flowers, a product of the Javier Vazquez deal with the Braves, batted .302/.445/.548 in 248 at-bats with Double-A Birmingham and .286/.364/.438 in 105 at-bats following a move up to Triple-A Charlotte. His defense behind the plate is subpar, so it’s possible that he’ll end up being a long-term first baseman or DH. The White Sox, though, intend to continue developing him as a catcher.
– The Marlins didn’t wait until the end of the minor league season to bring back Cameron Maybin, their Opening Day center fielder. He hit .319/.399/.463 in 298 at-bats for Triple-A New Orleans, and it’s likely that he would have returned more than a month ago if the penny-pinching Marlins weren’t trying to keep him from eventually becoming a super-two player. The Marlins figure to start him against every left-hander and at least the occasional right-hander. He seemed in line for more playing time before Jeremy Hermida bounced back and hit .312/.413/.442 during August.
– To open up a 40-man roster spot, the Rangers designated Thomas Diamond for assignment. Diamond, the 10th overall pick in the 2004 draft, was shaping up as a fine prospect before blowing out his elbow in the spring of 2007. He missed the season following Tommy John surgery and hadn’t returned to form in two years since. This season, he had a 4.20 ERA and a 58/44 K/BB in 55 2/3 innings as a reliever between Double- and Triple-A.
– As Aaron wrote earlier, both Sean Rodriguez and Kevin Mulvey were included in trades Monday. I just wanted to bring it up again as an illustration of the point I made last week when the Yankees temporarily blocked Boston’s move of Chris Carter to the Mets by claiming the outfielder on waivers.
There were seven AL teams that could have interfered with Rodriguez going to the Rays. There were 13 AL teams and five NL teams that could have blocked the move of Mulvey to the Diamondbacks. Not one of them did, even though those two players wouldn’t have gotten past any teams had they been on irrevocable waivers.

Nationals activate Stephen Strasburg off the disabled list

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The Nationals officially activated Stephen Strasburg off the 10-day disabled list, the team announced Saturday. They’ll pencil him into the starting lineup for their second set against the Padres on Saturday night. Strasburg is expected to assume Max Scherzer‘s roster spot after Scherzer landed on the disabled list with neck inflammation prior to Friday’s series opener. No other roster moves appear to be necessary for the time being.

Strasburg, 28, is finally looking stable after serving a 26-day stint on the DL with a right elbow nerve impingement. It’s the first serious injury he’s sustained since last August, when he missed 20 days with inflammation in his right elbow, and one the Nationals are taking seriously as they juggle multiple stints for their elite starters. He’ll enter Saturday’s competition with a 10-3 record in 20 starts, supplemented by a 3.25 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 through 121 2/3 innings.

Elbow issues are nothing to be played around with, but Strasburg’s performance in his lone rehab outing relieved any residual apprehension the Nats might have had about his activation this weekend. He tossed 66 pitches for High-A Potomac, hitting 95 MPH with his heater and logging three hits, one run, one walk and five strikeouts over five innings. Club manager Dusty Baker is hoping for a similarly dominant start against the Padres, and told reporters that he’ll hold Strasburg to a performance count as the righty works his way back to a full-time gig.

MLB umpires will wear white wristbands to protest “escalating verbal attacks”

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The World Umpires Association is dissatisfied with the punishment meted out to Tigers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler following his lengthy criticism of MLB umpire Angel Hernandez on Tuesday. Kinsler’s comments were sparked by a confrontation on Monday night, when the infielder was ejected after arguing balls and strikes with Hernandez in the fifth inning.

“It has to do with changing the game. He’s changing the game. He needs to find another job, he really does,” Kinsler told reporters. “Candidly, leave the game. No one wants you behind the plate anymore. No one in this game wants you behind the plate any more, none of the players.”

Kinsler was fined an undisclosed amount for the remarks, but did not receive a suspension. Hernandez, meanwhile, returned to cover second base the next day and appeared to resolve the conflict with a brief conversation and a handshake.

Whether or not the comments speak to underlying truths about Major League Baseball’s flawed umpiring system, they clearly got under the skin of the World Umpires Association. The union released a statement Saturday condemning Major League Baseball for choosing to overlook the “escalating attacks” on the men in blue:

This week, a player publicly and harshly impugned the character and integrity of Angel Hernandez – a veteran umpire who has dedicated his career to baseball and the community. The verbal attack on Angel denigrated the entire MLB umpiring staff and is unacceptable.

The Office of the Commissioner has failed to address this and other escalating attacks on umpires. The player who denigrated Hernandez publicly said he thought he would be suspended. Instead got far more lenient treatment – a fine. He shrugged that off and told reporters he has ‘no regrets’ about his offensive statements calling for an end to Hernandez’s career.

The Office of the Commissioner’s lenient treatment to abusive player behavior sends the wrong message to players and managers. It’s ‘open season’ on umpires, and that’s bad for the game.

We are held accountable for our performance at every game. Our most important duty is to protect the integrity of the game, and we will continue to do that job every day. But the Office of the Commissioner must protect our integrity when we are unfairly attacked simply for doing our jobs.

Starting Saturday, umpires will don white wristbands in protest of the Commissioner’s lack of support, and will continue to do so until their concerns are addressed.

Kinsler’s comments may have been in poor taste, but given the established in-game ramifications for challenging an umpire’s decisions, it’s difficult to tell where the union wants MLB to start drawing the line. If players already face ejections for questioning the parameters of a strike zone (often immediate ones, without any room for a productive or non-confrontational discussion), it seems unfair to hit them with suspensions for venting their frustrations after the game. Until Major League Baseball finds a way to start automating calls, however, the “human element” of the game will continue to pose problems for players and umpires alike.