Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for]]> In the bigs

Those who were excited when Felix Pie was called up last week, I hope, had measured expectations. He hasn't exactly torn the cover off the ball in his first five games, going 3-for-22. Alfonso Soriano is returning to the starting lineup, but in left field. It's not known whether Pie will remain in center or get sent down to play every day in Triple-A with Jacque Jones shifting over to play there. Either way, if you're in a keeper league that needs a guy to be in the big leagues in order for you to pick him up, you still have a little time. Even if Pie gets sent down now, he would be a guy to stash away on your reserve keeper list if you can.

What exactly is going on in Arizona? I'm pretty sure the Diamondbacks have called up just about every pitcher from Triple-A over the past several days. Poor ,b>Dustin Nippert has been up and down and up again (when Juan Cruz was put on the disabled list). Micah Owings, after a promising start, hit the DL and Dana Eveland was recalled. Then Yusmeiro Petit got promoted in place of Mike Schultz. Got all that? What does it mean? Petit got the start on Sunday and pitched well, going seven innings and allowing two runs, though he got saddled with the loss. But that might be his only start. Randy Johnson returns to the rotation on Tuesday, so Petit could be headed to the 'pen or back to the Minors. He's been awful as a reliever, so he's really not worth picking up. Nippert and Eveland both have starting experience, but there's no room at the inn, so just don't bother with either of them unless you see the D-backs yank Edgar Gonzalez out of the rotation. By the time that happens, it'd probably be Owings who'd get the nod when he returns.

I'm one who still believes Kendry Morales will hit at the big-league level, but it's not going to happen in this callup. Supposedly, he's going to share some time at designate hitter with Shea Hillenbrand, but he's gotten just one at-bat since he was brought up. The good news is for Erick Aybar fans. Aybar is the one who'll be playing every day in Howie Kendrick's stead. He's got some speed, though he's been caught twice stealing so far, so if you're desperate for stolen bases, he's not a bad fill-in.

Phone call away

OK, it's really time for the Royals to call Billy Butler up, isn't it? The 22-year-old is hitting .344 with a 1.089 OPS in Triple-A. He's second in the Pacific Coast League with 20 RBIs, and he's got five homers. KC is in last place, so what does it have to lose? Besides, Emil Brown is hitting just .152. Ryan Shealy is hitting only .116, by the way, so the Royals could even shift things around and move Mark Teahen to first to make room for Butler (a less likely scenario). They need Butler's bat in the lineup, pronto. If they make the move, no matter what league you're in, you have to pick him up.

I'm going to have to at least mention Tim Lincecum every week while he's still in the Minors. He's run his record to 3-0 and hasn't allowed a run over 18 2/3 innings. In that time, he's yielded nine hits and five walks while striking out 28. He pitched last night, allowing one run and no hits in six-plus innings versus Tucson. ... Just so Lincecum doesn't monopolize the space here, let's give some love to Yovani Gallardo as well. After getting roughed up in his first start of the year in Triple-A, the Brewers prospect has allowed just one earned run over 12 innings, giving up just six hits and three walks while striking out 19. No one in Milwaukee's rotation is really in jeopardy of losing his job, but keep a loose eye on Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas as the season wears on. If they falter, Gallardo will be ready.

A year away

There was some concern (outside the Braves organization, anyway) when catching prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit just .230 last year during an injury-riddled campaign. But he finished up 2006 strong and has carried his momentum into this season. Back in Double-A, he's hitting .373 with four homers and four doubles for a .686 slugging percentage. He's also drawn 10 walks for a .475 on-base percentage, so he's doing everything right. He's got a six-game hitting streak going now and has gotten a base hit in all but two games in April. The only question -- and it's the same one that's been hanging over his head for some time now -- is where he's going to play when he's ready. Trust me, if he keeps hitting like this, room will be made somewhere. Maybe it'll be at a new position. Perhaps it will be with another team. Regardless, he's going to hit enough for you to want him.

When the Blue Jays drafted David Purcey back in the first round of the 2004 Draft, the hope was that the college lefty would move pretty quickly through the system. They rushed him a bit to Triple-A last year and he never recovered, finishing with a 5.53 ERA and 82 walks allowed in 140 innings. He's off to a great start this year as he attempts to erase the memories of 2006. Starting the year in Double-A, he's gone 13 1/3 innings across two starts, giving up just one run on six hits while striking out 18. Even better, he's walked just two. He's always been a southpaw with better-than-average stuff, so if he can regain his command, he still has plenty of time to get to Toronto, where shuttling young pitchers up and down is commonplace.

Down the road

The Dayton Dragons are off to an 11-2 start, and there are several reasons for it. For this week, we'll highlight one: Chris Valaika. The UC Santa Barbara product had a huge debut last summer with a Pioneer League-record 32-game hitting streak, and he's showing so far in the Midwest League that it was no fluke. He leads the league with a .423 average and continues to show some extra-base pop (.596 SLG). As Dayton's No. 3 hitter, he's also tied for fourth in the league with 12 RBIs in just 13 games. He really belongs at a higher level, but the Reds are deep at short. Even with the logjam, he bears watching because he could switch positions, and that would hasten his arrival in the big leagues.

Why don't we stay in Datyon to talk pitching? I'll throw out two intriguing names. One is Sean Watson, a strong right-hander who was a closer at the end of his college career but is back to being a starter -- with some good results. I saw him pitch on Opening Day, and the 2006 second-rounder was pretty sharp in 30-degree weather. He hasn't gone more than five innings in a start yet, but don't let that bother you. He's given up just four earned runs over his three outings for a 2.40 ERA while walking just two and striking out 18. He whiffed 10 in his last start. ... The other name is Rafael Gonzalez, who has always had outstanding stuff but hasn't been able to put it together due to poor conditioning, among other things. The 2004 fourth-round pick is spending time in Dayton for the third season, but it looks like maybe he's starting to figure some things out. He hasn't allowed a run in his first 11 innings of work while holding hitters to a .190 batting average.]]>