Sheesh, we went through the ringer today and didn't even play a game.
First Duaner Sanchez — fearless, fist-pumping, goggle-wearing Duaner Sanchez — was out for the year. Now he may not be. 50-50 he'll need surgery, Omar says. Regardless of the outcome, word of the injury forced the front office into a hurry-up offense on the trading front. When a last-minute deal fell through, the final tally was Xavier Nady departing, Oliver Perez arriving (and immediately heading for Norfolk), Roberto Hernandez returning, and Lastings Milledge reappearing.
You have to assume Sanchez won't be back until 2007, but let's not panic. Bert was awfully good for us last year and has decent numbers this year — and he's the kind of player one would expect to find another gear now that he's been airlifted off the roof of the Pirate embassy. And if Bert can't handle the eighth-inning role? Well, Aaron Heilman's looked better of late, and Pedro Feliciano and Chad Bradford have been trustworthy. Who says they can't step it up a notch? And if they can't, there are intriguing players a phone call away — a revitalized Royce Ring, Heath Bell and his always-tantalizing peripherals, Henry Owens having had a taste of the Show, maybe Perez if he can find his 2004 form. If that doesn't work? Come October we're not going to need five starters. Steve Trachsel's too much a creature of habit for pen work, but Orlando Hernandez has shown he can handle it. You're telling me there's no way John Maine could prove valuable in October? Or Mike Pelfrey? Even the forgotten Brian Bannister may have something to add to this equation before it's completed — Bannister turned in a glittering rehab start in St. Lucie tonight.
None of this is on a level with seeing Jason Schmidt in orange and blue (or Dontrelle or Zito, if you were really thinking big), but that dream was dashed when Duaner Sanchez's taxi crashed. Fortunately, we're not exactly in a dogfight here. We have a 14-game lead over the Phillies, who just raised the white flag; 14.5 over the up-and-coming but still-too-young Marlins, and 15 over the stiffening corpse of the Braves. We have far-from-bad options internally, and time to find answers.
And if there is no answer in-house? Again, no need to panic: After today I trust Omar even more.
Dontrelle Willis and Barry Zito probably weren't ever in the cards. But according to various reports, Sunday night Omar was working on a three-way deal that would have gotten us Roy Oswalt — not Cliff Floyd's best pal, but 29, an All-Star and signed through '07 –for Milledge. Then Omar was forced to scramble, so he moved quickly and creatively, swapping Nady for Bert and Perez with an eye toward turning around and trading Perez and Bell to the Padres for hard-throwing lefty specialist Scott Linebrink.
That deal fell apart, apparently when the Padres blinked, but even so, it's pretty impressive for an audible. I doubt the San Diego trade can be resurrected — it's hard to imagine Linebrink, Bell or Perez getting through waivers — but considering how close he came, I have faith Omar will find a way if a way needs to be found. And if there is no way, if the current roster is what we head into October with? After Jose Valentin and Darren Oliver, I trust Omar's eye. Besides, remember how we got Sanchez. Anybody miss Jae Seo?