Matt Holliday’s status still up in the air, which gives me an excuse to talk about ESPN’s new broadcast team

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There has yet to be a decision by the Cardinals as to whether they will put Matt Holliday on the disabled list in the wake of his appendectomy. He was reported to be feeling better yesterday, so the Cards are taking a wait-and-see approach and, in the meantime, going with a 24-man roster, effectively.

ESPN’s crew of Dan Shulman, Orel Hershiser and Bobby Valentine talked about this during last night’s Giants-Dodgers game. The consensus from Hershiser and Valentine, each of whom had appendectomies during their playing days, was that Holliday should be fine and back sooner than you’d think. And they were pretty straight-forward about it. They didn’t actually say that Holliday would be less than a manly-man if he went on the DL, but they sort of implied it. Only a half-hearted comment from Valentine to the effect of “well, if there was an infection or something …” gave them any wiggle room on their assessment.

That and a bunch of other stuff has me really liking this new broadcast team.  There’s a bluntness to them in the early going that I really, really like and I hope continues. They were frank on the Holliday stuff, avoiding the empty “we wish him well in his recovery stuff” because that goes without saying. Fans want to know how long he’ll be out and what an appendectomy means for a ballplayer.

The ESPN guys were likewise blunt when talking about Aubrey Huff’s defense. They didn’t sugar coat it by talking about Huff’s effort. They didn’t apologize for him. Nor did they slam him in anything approaching a mean way. They merely said, as former ballplayers and coaches/managers, that Huff’s defense was bad and unacceptable.  Think how rarely you hear that kind of thing from broadcasters even when the notion is as plain as day.

One common criticism of the new booth is that Valentine is superfluous and it would be better as a two-man operation.  I still think I fall in that camp, but last night I began to reassess.  Late in the game, when the Dodgers’ pitcher couldn’t find the strike zone, Miguel Tejada came up and swung at the first pitch he saw, in the dirt, ending a potential rally. Valentine — again, without rancor, but without any softening either — said how bad an at bat it was. He didn’t praise Tejada for trying to “be aggressive” or for trying to “make something happen,” which is what Joe Morgan would have done. He said it was just an awful at bat like a manager would say to the player behind closed doors.

This, I think, could be the difference between the new ESPN Sunday night booth being merely good and being potentially great.  If they can avoid falling into the trap of promoting the game rather than analyzing it. If they can resist the temptation to apologize or explain away bad play. If Valentine and Hershiser are allowed and, indeed, are encouraged, to use their genuine status and experience in the game to call out the horsesh** when they see it, Sunday Night Baseball could be appointment viewing.

Here’s hoping.

Marlins option Tom Koehler to Triple-A, recall Hunter Cervenka

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Long-time rotation mainstay Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Monday and reliever Hunter Cervenka was recalled, the Marlins announced.

Koehler, 31, made 131 starts out of the Marlins’ rotation over the last five years, but his 12 this season have not been good, so the club hopes he can figure things out with a stint in the minors. He’s carrying a 7.92 ERA with a 44/29 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. Koehler battled bursitis in his right shoulder in May and June, which may partially explain his struggles.

Cervenka, 27, posted a 4.50 ERA with a 34/21 K/BB ratio in 34 innings of relief with New Orleans. He hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season, but compiled a 3.53 ERA over 43 1/3 innings in the bigs last year in the Marlins’ bullpen.

Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are interested in Pat Neshek

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At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.

Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.