John Smoltz landed on his feet Wednesday, signing with the Cardinals immediately after he cleared waivers. That he had multiple suitors isn’t a big shock, as apparently a handful of teams agreed with me that he can still get major-league hitters out, but finding a contender willing to hand him a rotation spot is surprising. Smoltz will make his Cardinals debut Sunday against the Padres, which is a very favorable matchup.
However, there’s already speculation that Smoltz may eventually head to the bullpen as a setup man for closer Ryan Franklin, which is interesting given that the Red Sox were told that he didn’t want to work in relief for them. Whatever the case, Smoltz is definitely worth grabbing in NL-only leagues. Expectations should obviously be held in check, but don’t be surprised if he looks like a totally different pitcher in the NL.
While the Cardinals get Smoltz for $100,000 after the Red Sox dropped $5 million on him, here are some other notes from around baseball …
* It sounds like Matt LaPorta will finally get an extended chance in Cleveland, as the Indians called him up Wednesday and manager Eric Wedge promised regular starts between the outfield corners and first base. LaPorta was on the bench for 12 of 24 games during his previous stint with Cleveland and has been stuck at Triple-A for the past three months despite hitting .299/.388/.530 with 17 homers in 93 games.
Cleveland has been out of contention for months now, yet LaPorta has stayed in the minors while guys like Trevor Crowe, Chris Gimenez, and Jamey Carroll get starts at his positions. Better late than never, of course, but the Indians’ treatment of LaPorta is odd given that he’s one of the top MLB-ready outfield prospects in baseball, turns 25 years old in January, and has crushed to the tune of .291/.384/.557 in the minors.
* Perhaps remembering how useless he was trying to play through a leg injury earlier this season, the Reds quickly put Willy Taveras on the disabled list with a strained quadriceps suffered Tuesday. They won’t miss Taveras much, as the speedster has hit just .238/.273/.284 in 93 games as the team’s primary leadoff man, and his injury provides an opportunity to look at 24-year-old prospect Drew Stubbs.
Stubbs was the No. 8 pick in the 2006 draft following a great career at the University of Texas, but has hit just .269 while showing little power as a pro. One thing he can do is run, with 46 steals in 107 games at Triple-A, and Taveras is evidence of Dusty Baker needing to see little else to deem someone a capable leadoff option. Stubbs is absolutely worth an NL-only pickup, but don’t expect much aside from steals.
AL Quick Hits: Clay Buchholz tossed six innings of one-run ball Wednesday, winning for the first time since his season debut … Justin Morneau remained out of the lineup Wednesday with dizziness from an inner-ear infection … Jake Peavy (ankle) plans to make at least two more rehab starts before joining the White Sox … Jered Weaver hurled his second complete-game shutout of the year Wednesday, cutting his ERA to 3.89 … Daisuke Matsuzaka (shoulder) is slated for a bullpen session Friday, with a rehab assignment next on the docket … Dustin Pedroia is expected to rejoin the team Thursday following the birth of his first child … Jeff Niemann leads the Rays with 11 wins after allowing one run in 7.1 innings Wednesday … David Ortiz took Roy Halladay deep Wednesday, homering for the third straight game … Dontrelle Willis exited his Wednesday rehab start at Triple-A with a knee injury … Paul Byrd allowed three runs over four innings in a Triple-A start Wednesday.
NL Quick Hits: Cliff Lee struck out 11, walked zero, and allowed just an unearned run in a complete-game two-hitter Wednesday … Joey Votto left Wednesday’s game in the first inning with blurred vision, which is a concern given his various maladies this season … Dan Haren served up three homers Wednesday and now has a 4.91 ERA since the All-Star break … Carlos Beltran (knee) ran in the outfield and took batting practice Wednesday, but there’s no timetable for his return … Barry Zito tossed six shutout innings Wednesday and has a 2.36 ERA in the second half … Gary Sheffield revealed Tuesday that he doesn’t expect to finish the season with the Mets … Mike Hampton has been diagnosed with a partially torn left rotator cuff, but will try to pitch through the career-threatening injury … Scott Rolen (concussion) is slated to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A … Paul Maholm threw 7.2 innings of one-run ball Wednesday for his first win since July 7.