Scrappy utilityman Nick Punto was placed on the disabled list for a second time this season Wednesday, this time because of a strained forearm.
Punto missed the first three weeks of the season following hernia surgery. Because of injuries throughout the St. Louis infield, he had played pretty regularly since returning on April 20 and he was hitting .262/.355/.385 in 65 at-bats. That’d be a career-high .740 OPS for the long-time Twin if he could keep it up.
Replacing Punto on the roster and making his major league debut is 2007 first-round pick Pete Kozma. The 23-year-old Kozma, known strictly for his fine defense at shortstop, was hitting just .220/.284/.284 in 141 at-bats for Triple-A Memphis. He had 31 strikeouts and no homers in 38 games.
Bypassed again was third baseman Matt Carpenter. Carpenter appeared to make a strong impression on the Cardinals this spring, but the team declined to give him a try when either Skip Schumaker (elbow) or David Freese (hand) landed on the disabled list and he went unselected again now despite an OPS 250 points higher than Kozma’s.
Schumaker figures to be the first one to return out of the three injured infielders. Tyler Greene, who was sharing time with Punto at second base, will get most of the starts there for now.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”