Catcher J.R. Towles the fall guy for Astros' abysmal start

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j.r. towles.jpgJ.R. Towles had to know his margin for error was pretty slim at the start of the year. That he beat out 2008 first-round pick Jason Castro for a starting job was partly a financial decision — the Astros had quite a bit to gain there by sending Castro down for another two months — and partly a nod to the fact that, at age 26, he deserved one final chance to show the organization what he could do.
That chance figured to extend two months. After June 1, the Astros could call up Castro without fear that he’d be a free agent after 2015 or arbitration eligible after 2012.
But what no one counted on was the Astros’ 8-18 start. And since the team has so many expensive veterans locked into jobs, there was no easy way to get to the root of the problem. Becausee doing nothing was no longer an option, Towles was sent down on Tuesday and replaced by light-hitting veteran Kevin Cash.
It’s a ridiculous move designed only to show that GM Ed Wade isn’t asleep at the wheel. A change for the sake of making a change. Towles was hitting .191/.235/.319 this season, but it was just 47 at-bats. Despite starting only 13 of the Astros’ 26 games, he was third on the team with eight RBI.
Humberto Quintero, now the Astros’ starting catcher, has been worse than Towles, hitting .214/.250/.286 with three RBI in his 42 at-bats. The 30-year-old Quintero is a career .231/.273/.322 hitter in 590 major leaguer at-bats. Cash, 32, has hit .186/.248/.287 in his 527 at-bats.
When it comes to defense, Quintero is almost certainly an upgrade over Towles. Towles, though, had been far from bad this year. He was 3-for-11 throwing out basestealers, and he hadn’t allowed any passed balls. His catcher ERA of 4.55 was higher than Quintero’s 4.01 mark, but that’s due the fact that the Spanish-speaking Quintero was used as the personal catcher for Spanish-speaking No. 2 starter Wandy Rodriguez.
In the long run, it’s really not going to matter. Castro is the future, even though he’s been quite a disappointment while hitting .221/.369/.250 in 68 at-bats for Triple-A Round Rock. Quintero is just keeping his seat warm. Towles was likely on his way out of the organization even if he came through with a solid 2010 as a starter. Of course, any chance that he’d have some actual trade value now appears to be gone.

The Dodgers tied a dubious major league record yesterday

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The Dodgers beat their arch rival last night and expanded their lead in the NL West over those Giants to two games. That’s good! They also set a record for the most players on the disabled list in a season. That’s bad!

Los Angeles placed Brett Anderson and Scott Kazmir on the disabled list yesterday. Anderson has a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand. Kazmir has neck inflammation. Kazmir is the 27th different Dodgers player to go on the DL this year, which ties the record held by the 2012 Boston Red Sox. No word on whether Anderson has set any records for any one individual’s trip to the DL, but he has to be getting up there.

Records on this particular mark only go back to 1987. I’m sure its possible some team lost more than that due to the 1919 influenza pandemic or to some iteration of a Yellow Fever epidemic or something, but this is easily the most since antibiotics were invented.

Orioles place Chris Tillman on the disabled list

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 20:  Chris Tillman #30 of the Baltimore Orioles is taken out of the game by manager Buck Showalter #26 in the third inning against the Houston Astros at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 20, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
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Bad news for the Orioles, as they placed their best starter, Chris Tillman, on the 15-day disabled list last night with an inflamed shoulder. Tillman received a cortisone shot but he’s getting the time off nonetheless. He’s expected to be activated on September 5.

The Orioles’ rotation has been thin all year, but Tillman has been great. He’s 15-5 with a 3.76 ERA in 153 innings of work. His last start, however, on August 20, was awful. He gave up six runs on six hits in two innings. Tillman says it was the result of rust due to a nine-day layoff, but it’s hard to imagine that whatever is bothering his shoulder didn’t have an impact on the outing. Ubaldo Jimenez will get the start in Tillman’s place Thursday. He has . . . been less than reliable on the year.

Baltimore wakes up this morning two games behind Toronto and Boston in the AL East but safely in the second Wild Card position for the time being.