Thursday, August 31, 2006

ChiSox Skipper Ozzie Guillen Lauds Delmon Young

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, following Chicago's defeat by lowly Tampa Bay on Thursday, pronounced 20-year-old Devil Rays rookie Delmon Young a "future Hall of Famer." Young, batting .727 since being called up at the end of August, went 4-5 to help bring down Chicago, 5-3. "I think this kid is the real deal," Guillen said after the game. Young, finally called up from the Durham Bulls after a year in which he tarnished his reputation with a 50-game suspension for throwing a bat at an umpire, has been hailed as the most promising prospect in baseball. His brother Dmitri Young, who plays for the Tigers, has been exhorting his younger sibling to punish the White Sox to help Detroit maintain its first place lead in the American League Central Division.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Magglio Ordonez's Woes Coincide with Tigers Fall

The soft underbelly of the Tigers batting order has been exposed with the decline of its lynchpin, Magglio Ordonez. Ordonez, who had 17 homers in the first two thirds of the season, hit just one in August. At the same time his batting average has fallen into the .280s as he complains of discomfort in his surgically repaired knee, which may be affecting his ability to turn on a pitch. Meanwhile, Detroit's division lead, once 11 games strong, has narrowed to just five games as the club dropped 13 of its last 19 contests.

Doctors Roll Dice with Twins Pitcher Brad Radke

The point of giving Brad Radke yet another cortisone shot in his ailing shoulder is not so much to keep him in the rotation for the next 30 days as it is to help him limp into the post-season, when his availability will be more critical than ever. Doctors are gambling the shots will not weaken his tendons excessively, which would cause a rupture that not only would immediately end his career, but impact his quality of life in his long awaited retirement at the close of the season. Radke, 33, who plans to maintain his home in the northern Mississippi Valley, where he is native, is building a palatial, 5,000-square foot home in Bel Air Beach, Fla., which will become his main base after he hangs up his spikes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dodgers Nomar Garciaparra Still Hobbled by Knee

Los Angeles first baseman Nomar Garciaparra, despite being back from a sprained knee for two weeks, continues to go at half speed because of lingering pain. To one degree or another, Garciaparra remains in danger of missing more time as his injury could linger into mid-September, but he plans to play through it if he can. Utilityman Olmedo "Killer Tomato" Saenz stands to gain an appearance now and then to rest Garciaparra, but Saenz's opportunities are limited as both he and Garciaparra are righthanded. Look for the Dodgers to seek help from lefty rookie James Loney after rosters are expanded Sept 1. Loney was demoted to Las Vegas last week to make room for mopup pitcher Elmer Dessens, coming off the disabled list. As reported in advance by MLB Rumors Clearinghouse, manager Grady Little has decided to carry 12 pitchers to hold off fatigue in the bullpen.

Twins Face Endurance of Long, Long Schedule

With SS Luis Castillo struggling with sore legs, OF Shannon Stewart out with bad feet and 2B Nick Punto, C Joe Mauer and OF Jason Kubel all with bad knees, the Twins greatest challenge of the season remains before them. Beginning at the end of the month, Minnesota will play 33 games in 34 days, with only one day off, Sept 18. It's an exhausting pace not only for the tired and injured, but for the relief corps and the starting staff. Even healthy players such as youngsters Jason Tyner and Jason Bartlett, both with hefty .300 batting averages at the bottom of the lineup, will be challenged as both are without the familiarity of how to endure a grueling schedule at the end of a long, long season. Though the Twins have come to the brink of overtaking the Chicago White Sox in the Wild Card rankings, don't be surprised if the team begins to stumble.

Marlins Drop Jeremy Hermida to No. 8 in Order

Florida Marlins rookie Jeremy Hermida, batting .255 with just five homers and 22 RBI, has been dropped to No. 8 in the batting order, the first time in his career he has batted that low. Highly prized for his hitting potential, Hermida began the season in the No. 5 hole.

Lance Niekro Poised for Comeback with Giants

Former San Francisco first baseman Lance Niekro, who struggled at the plate for the Giants earlier this season, is poised for a September callup from the AAA Fresno Grizzlies, where he is on a tear. The 27-year-old son of former major league pitcher Joe Niekro is batting .321 while hitting a homer every 10 atbats for the hit-happy Pacific Coast League contender. Niekro, who had difficulty sharing time with Mark Sweeney when the two played first base for the Giants at the beginning of the season, appears to be recovered from injuries he battled earlier, including a groin injury that held him back for two weeks in June and a sore shoulder that caused him to miss 10 days in May. Look for Niekro to win a bench spot when rosters are expanded to 40 players Sept. 1, then compete to win a fulltime job next spring if not sooner. Ironically, his playing time will be limited now that the Giants have acquired veteran Shea Hillenbrand from the Blue Jays. Both Hillenbrand and Niekro bat right-handed. However, with aging outfielders Barry Bonds, Moises Alou and Steve Finley missing time or needing frequent rest, watch closely to see whether manager Felipe Alou moves third baseman Pedro Feliz to the outfield from time to time, allowing Hillenbrand to slide over to third and Niekro to start at first base.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

KC Royals Looking for a Spot for SP Zach Greinke

If the Royals are to make room for the return former top pitching prospect Zach Greinke, 22, the choice comes down to a bullpen demotion for somebody, perhaps either the veteran Odalis Perez, 29, recently acquired from the Dodgers, or Runelvys Hernandez, 28, once deemed to be a big part of the team's future. Though Perez is winless with a 5.32 ERA in four starts for the Royals, he's not pitching that badly, haven given up only 19 hits in 22 innings with 18 walks. The more highly regarded Hernandez, however, has been terrible, with a 3-8 record and 7.50 ERA, having given up more than a homer per game. With pitchers like that, it shouldn't be too difficult for the Royals to create a start or two for Greinke once rosters are expanded Sept. 1. Greinke left the team earlier this year because of reported psychological problems related to his being painfully selfconscious and excessively shy. But observers say he has come out of his shell somewhat since joining the AA Wichita Wranglers on June 2. Already he has racked up an 8-2 record with a sub 3.00 ERA, winning four of his last five starts, with a no-decision. Greinke has struck out 30 batters in his last 28 innings while surrendering only five walks, and has been described as virtually unhittable.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Who'll Replace Tom Glavine? How About Glavine?

After the all the magnetic resonance imaging, angiogramic applications, electronic soundings, physical examinations, X-Rays and whatever else the doctors try on the shoulder of Mets hurler Tom Glavine, what will the doctors say in the final analysis? Ca-ching! Ca-ching! Ca-ching! And what will be the determination? Don't be surprised if Glavine returns to the club with what is known as a "non-diagnostic workup," or possibly a determination of little worse than poor other words, a fairly clean bill of health. No risk of stroke, no risk of a lost career, no risk of being out for the season, and no risk of missing significant time. Look for Glavine to make his next start at the end of the week, and remember you read it here first.

Aging Jamie Moyer At Last Goes Home to Die

Jamie Moyer, the 44-year-old flyball pitcher who has stretched out his career by relying on the distant fences of his spacious home park in Seattle, looks a little like an old horse going to the glue factory now that he arrives in his native Philadelphia area. While he has been effective at times in Seattle (he was 10-0 at home last year) , expect him to be hammered at the Phillies launching pad.

Mets Acquisition of Pirates Oliver Perez Brilliant

The Mets acquisition of former Pirates pitcher Oliver Perez in the Xavier Nady deal seems especially brilliant now with starters Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine missing significant time, and their outlook questionable for the remainder of the season. Perez, 25, who was 12-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 239 strikeouts in 195 innings for Pittsburgh in 2004, lost the confidence of the Pirates after struggling since last year. But he appears to be back on track after being relegated by the Mets to the AAA Norfolk Tides, where he is 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA in his last two starts, giving up just six hits in 13 innings. The Mets have several other alternatives, including Brian Bannister, currently on a rehab assignment with the Tides, but Perez's numbers are hard to ignore.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Crohn's Disease Continues to Impact Todd Helton

Rockies 1B Todd Helton has been restored to his customary No. 3 spot in the batting order, though his bat still appears unusually slow. Only three weeks ago Helton, his average dipping to .270 with just 11 homers, told manager Clint Hurdle he should be dropped to ninth in the batting order because he was swinging so poorly. Helton was tried briefly at No. 2, and finally settled in the No. 5 spot. But subsequently Helton -- traditionally a better second-half player -- has hit .347 with a .440 OBP and nearly .600 slugging, thus being restored to the No. 3 spot where he has batted since he became a Rockies regular in 1997. Though Helton has hit only one more homer since Aug. 3, bringing his season total to an even dozen, he is hitting with better authority to the gaps and right field line. Helton's homer drought may be attributable to some degree to the Rockies use of a cedar-lined humidor, an airtight storage compartment that causes game balls to play heavier and more compressed, preventing excessive deep flies in the Mile High City. Helton, who was hospitalized with fever and severe intestinal pain in May, has likely felt, weak, uncomfortable and out of sorts due to lingering effects of his malady, acute terminal ileitus, a type of Crohn's manifestation specific to the end of the lower intestine. As a consequence, Helton remains committed to diet restrictions and an anti-inflamatory drug regimen that may be impacting his performance. Though he has lost more the 30 pounds of muscle as a direct result of Crohn's, and his bat has been noticeably slower, Helton may finally be feeling a little more like his old self lately. Although Crohn's is rarely fatal, once contracted it lasts for life, occasionally affecting its victim's strength for weeks, months, a year or even longer.

Devil Rays May Look at Joel Guzman at First Base

Don't be surprised if the Tampa Bay Devil Rays give rookie Joel Guzman a look at first base if and when he's added to the 40-man expanded roster Sept. 1. Incumbent Travis Lee, though swinging a hot bat lately, literally can't hit his weight, and patience runs short. Even though Guzman, acquired from the Dodgers in the Danys Baez deal, has been trained as a third baseman, he should be capable of crossing the diamond. Besides, the Rays are already committed to the conversion of ex-shortstop B.J. Upton at third.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Devil Rays Bedeviled by Interest in Delmon Young

Tampa Bay Devil Rays management and staff continue to be hounded by dozens of questions about the status of troubled outfielder Delmon Young. Interest in the 21-year-old future phenom is so intense that even Young's overseers in North Carolina have been unable to escape, including former major league superstar Richie Hebner, the AAA Durham Bulls all-around coach. "I'm busy right now!" barked Hebner after being pestered for the umpteenth time about the hot prospect. Consultations regarding Young are reportedly ongoing weekly in the inner sanctum of the Rays front office in St. Petersburg, Fla., where Young as recently as 21 days ago had supposedly been ticketed for a callup, then forsaken. Young continues to be under contemplation, but considering that the team has lost eight of its last 10 games and has ranked last in the league in offense for August, it bodes poorly for him that executives can't make up their minds even when they are in such desperate need of help.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Theo Epstein, Meet Wily Mo Pena of the Red Sox

Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein's acquisition of lefty IF/OF Eric Hinske from Toronto comes at a peculiar time if Hinske is expected to platoon with righty OF Wily Mo Pena. Pena, the 24-year-old potential phenom who needs to play every day if he is ever to reach his full potential, has been nothing short of sensational since given a shot at full-time play three weeks ago due to the disablement of his platoon mate, veteran lefty OF Trot Nixon. Maybe Epstein missed it, but in 18 games since Nixon went down, all Pena has done against both righty and lefty pitching is hit five homers, two triples and three doubles with 13 runs scored while going 20-65, a .308 average. The sample is small, admittedly, but if Pena hasn't earned a shot at full-time play yet, then when? Pena's season's average against righties in limited appearances tops .370. Hopefully for Pena, Hinske's outfield starts will come against only certain righties.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Desperate Cardinals Call Larry Bigbee to St. Louis

With center fielder Jim Edmonds missing time due to post-concussion syndrome, the Cardinals are so much in need of help that even ailing Larry Bigbee has been summoned from Springfield. Bigbee, who underwent surgery for an umbilical hernia June 8, has twice failed to complete rehabilitation assignments at AAA Springfield due to acute abdominal pain, leaving his ability to reappear this season in doubt. By appearing in St. Louis, Bigbee is more accessable by the medical staff that performed his surgery, plus trainers who must evaluate Bigbee's potential to return to the Cardinals lineup. It remains to be seen whether Bigbee will need yet another rehabilitation session. Once a prized prospect in the Texas Rangers organization, Bigbee has missed time due to injuries or other ailments eight times since 2003, and has been virtually cast off by Baltimore and Colorado. Now nearly 29, Bigbee has come to be regarded as something of a journeyman -- journeyman of the trainer's room.

Demoted by Astros, Brad Lidge May Still Close

Despite his demotion to a setup role, expect Brad Lidge to be given an occasional shot at a save or two as part of a so-called committee of closers. Mysteriously, Lidge remains perhaps the most skilled pitcher on the roster despite an anomalous ERA of more than 5.00. Lidge ranks at the top of the league with 1.4 strikeouts per inning while holding batters to a .235 average, .195 against righties alone. Though manger Phil Garner likely will develop confidence in Dan Wheeler as primary closer, Lidge is a likely candidate to return to the role as his history, pedigree and stamina shows him to be a potentially capable two-inning closer, leading Garner to stay with him if he looks strong at the conclusion of the eighth inning. Garner can use such outings to help restore Lidge's confidence and the part of his game that coaches have been unable to correct: the part between his ears.

Dallas McPherson, Kendry Morales Callup Doubted

An anticipated September callup to the Angels for former prized prospect Dallas McPherson appears in serous doubt as the AAA Salt Lake City Bees have sidelined the young third baseman yet again. Returning from three weeks of disablement because of a back injury, McPherson is hurt again with a strained oblique, the prognosis of which can be very tricky. Ironically, when McPherson reports to the trainer's table he will find rival Kendry Morales waiting for him. McPherson had been battling Morales for playing time at first base before the two of them were demoted from Anaheim. Morales has already missed more than a dozen games due to a similar muscle strain.

Dodgers to Banish James Loney to Distant Desert

Dodgers rookie first baseman James Loney will be odd man out when the band stops playing "Elmer's Tune" in the Los Angeles Dodgers most recent round of musical chairs. Loney, one of three first basemen the Dodgers are carrying, will have to make room for long reliever Elmer Dessens' imminent return from the disabled list. Expect manager Grady Little to carry 12 pitchers in light of a recent 15-4 loss to Florida that exposed the team's weakness at the end of the rotation. Such relatively marginal starters as Mark Hendrickson and Aaron Sele, or alternately rookie Chad Billingsley, point up the necessity for additional long relief, maybe even a spot starter. Expect Loney, bound for the Las Vegas '51s, to return to Los Angeles soon, but not before September when rosters are expanded to 40 players.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

D'Backs Shawn Green Likely to OK Trade to Mets

It would be nothing less than shocking if Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Shawn Green invoked his no-trade clause to block his theoretical trade to the Mets. With the acquiescence of his family, the 35-year-old Green would jump at the chance to play in New York, not only because the aging veteran could finish his career with a team possibly bound for the World Series, but because he feels unappreciated in Phoenix. After more than 300 homers, some 150 stolen bases, 1,000 RBI in more than 4,000 atbats in a dozen years of service to Major League Baseball, Greenie feels manager Bob Melvin has made it abundantly clear he favors that new kid in town, Carlos Quentin, 23, over Green and his so-so .280 batting average and dozen or so longballs.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Closing Chores May Be in Store for Jose Valverde

Diamondbacks relief pitcher Jose Valverde, returning to Phoenix from Tucson with a sparkling 1-0 record and 3.06 ERA in 15 relief appearances there, may eventually work his way back into the closer's role he lost to Jorge Julio. Julio has been somewhat spotty with four losses, three blown saves and an ERA topping 4.00, while Valverde had been among the league leaders when he saved 14 games during the first seven weeks of the season. A lot depends on whether Valverde has regained his confidence after watching his ERA burgeon to more than 8.00, prompting his subsequent demotion July 4. Valverde has reportedly retained his 97-mph heater and other skills that won him the closer's job in the first place, but must avoid what manager Bob Melvin sees as his becoming predictable with his pitch selection.

Cloud Hangs Over Delmon Young, Elijah Dukes

The anticipated callup of troubled outfield prospects Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes from AAA Durham to Tampa Bay had been murmured so plainly and so often that it seemed almost palpable as recently three weeks ago. And yet at the moment of consumation, the transactions seemingly have vaporized as Dukes finds himself suspended for continuing disciplinary problems and on the verge of losing his career before it has started, and Young continues to languish in the Carolina Piedmont. What is most troubling about Young's case is that Young was supposedly ahead of Dukes, and was rumored to have been readying for a callup as recently as Aug. 1. Yet as the team returns for a two-week homestand, no news appears to be very bad news indeed.

Green's Trade Would Open Door for Carlos Quentin

Diamondbacks outfielder Carlos Quentin is universally recognized for his fine eye at the plate, ability to hit to all fields and hit with power. Quentin is hitting at a more than .300 clip with a homer every 10 atbats in limited play for the Diamondbacks. All that stands between him and a starting job is the trade of veteran Shawn Green, who has cleared waivers. And all that stands between the trade and its consumation is the Mets willingness to absorb Green's contract, Green's willingness to waive his no-trade clause, and for Mets owner Omar Minaya to agree to part with rookie Lastings Milledge, or perhaps a lesser luminary. Look for Quentin to find something good in his pinata for his 24th birthday on Aug. 28, or shortly thereafter.

Gary Sheffield, Practicing at 1B, Ready to Swing

New York Yankees slugger Gary Sheffield, back in uniform and playing first base with the team during infield practice, is ready to start swinging a small lightweight bat, and continues to envision his return to the team before the end of the season. At 37, Sheffield has all but officially lost his right field job to the newly acquired Bobby Abreu, but is seen as a potential first baseman because he has considerable experience playing the infield. Don't expect him to win any gold gloves, though. Sheffield has not played third base since 1993 for Florida, and has not played shortstop since 1989 for Milwaukee.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Tony Gwynn Jr.'s Callup to Brewers a Certainty

Tony Gwynn Jr. -- son of future Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn Sr. -- is an absolute, stone-cold lock for a September callup to the Brewers. After going 7-15 in a brief appearance as a bench warmer in Milwaukee, and hitting at a better than .300 clip in Nashville, Gwynn's days of struggle at the plate appear to be behind him. Gwynn also has stolen 25 bases for the AAA club, and is described as a textbook copy of his father both in psychology and form, with superb work habits and a positive clubhouse presence. What remains to be seen is how much playing time he will get at the expense of youngsters Gabe Gross and Corey Hart, who have usurped floundering veteran Jeff Jenkins, 32. In any case, Gwynn's appearance only further buries Jenkins, whom the Brewers would gladly trade if there were any takers.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Rockies Humidor Here to Stay, Despite Complaints

Despite the grousings of opposition teams, media types and sundry camp followers, the Colorado Rockies humidor is here to stay. Many have complained that use of the humidor, which helps keep balls at normal compression in the mile-high atmosphere, gives the Rockies an unfair advantage. In point of fact, however, its use was adopted with consultation of the ball manufacturer and has withstood the ongoing scrutiny of Major League Baseball. The commissioner's office has been unable to find that the humidor provides any advantage whatsoever to either the home or visiting team. Meanwhile, now in its fifth year of use, there is every reason to think that the humidor has finally leveled the playing field in the Mile High City, as the Rockies finally have a competitive staff and hitters without gross home-away disparities.

Francisco Lirano Tries Ultrasound; Races with Clock

Doctors are bombarding Twins lefty Francisco Liriano with state-of-the-art ultrasound to raise the temperature of the tissue surrounding his strained "Tommy John tendon" and injured shoulder, thus increasing circulation and promoting healing. What remains to be seen is not so much whether the treatments will be effective, but whether they will be effective soon enough that Liriano might return before the end of the season. Liriano is also undergoing mild, "range-of-motion" excercises and other heat applications, but the primary treatment for the time being is rest, rest and more rest. In rudimentary terms, Liriano has thrown out his arm, plain and simple, and the outlook for him to return before October is dubious at best. Like the California vintner who will "make no wine before it's time," Lirano's arm will be ready when it's ready, and not a moment sooner.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Scott Baker Fails to Win Gardenhire's Confidence

Despite the fact that AAA Rochester's SP Scott Baker struck out six and held AAA Charlotte, the International League's most offensive team, to just seven hits in 7.33 innings in Baker's most recent outing, the Twins next callup will go to Boof Bonser, who will start in the No. 5 spot Saturday. Baker pitched a nice game for the Red Wings, but manager Ron Gardenhire is concerned that the promising sophomore left too many pitches up in the zone. With Francisco Liriano on the disabled list, and Brad Radke and Carlos Silva bothered with injuries and performance lapses all season, and Kyle Lohse shipped off to Cincinnati, the Twins fourth starter role has gone to Matt Garza, 22, who has impressed with his 14-4 record and 1.99 ERA in three minor league stops. Bonser and Garza have no guarantee to stick, so wait to see whether Baker gets another chance before the end of September. The 25-year-old former second round pick projects as a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter and innings eater, with an occasional 95-mph fastball to keep hitters respectful of his variety of offspeed pitches. Baker has much more experience than any of the other pretenders

Ervin 'Magic' Santana Should Return for LA Soon

Findings at Lutheran Hospital in Cleveland have determined there is no structural damage to the knee of Angels hurler Ervin "Magic" Santana, merely broken blood vessels and severe bruising. Santana's knee was struck by a vicious liner back to the mound during Thursday's game with the Indians, causing him to go down in acute pain before being helped off the field. Santana will remain on the active roster and miss some activity for a few days. It's possible his spot in the rotation could be pushed back by 24-72 hours or so, depending on his recovery.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Delmon Young Enroute; Jonny Gomes to Pay Fare

Regarded by many to be the top prospect in the minor leagues, Delmon Young has been advised to get his affairs in order and be prepared for an immediate callup to the Devil
Rays. If the 21-year-old phenom doesn't appear instantly, expect to seem him not much later than Tampa Bay's Aug. 15-24 homestand versus the Blue Jays, Indians and Rangers. Young's playing time likely will come at the expense of Jonny Gomes, Russell Branyan and Damon Hollins, all in protracted slumps, none worse than Gomes. Gomes, 25, a free-swinging, former 18th-round pick who seemed to come out of nowhere last year to hit 21 homers in 348 ABs, has flamed out like meteorite as pitchers have discovered they can take him up the ladder with high fastballs, or get him to chase pitches in the dirt. Though the San Francisco Bay area native hit 14 homers in his first 40 games this year, Gomes has only six in the subsequent 70 games and is batting a mere .056 since the All Star break. Astonishingly, Gomes can count all his hits on one hand for the period, nearly 80 appearances. By comparison, Young at last count was hitting .357 with six homers and 21 stolen bases in just 268 ABs for the AAA Durham Bulls.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Seth McClung Coming Into His Own for Devil Rays

After a history of false starts, injuries and other setbacks, Tampa Bay pitcher Seth McClung may finally be coming into his own. The 25-year-old, 6 foot 6, 235-pound righty earned five saves and a win while posting a 2.20 ERA and 1.10 whip in 14 games for the Durham Bulls, a performance that has earned him a callup and a probable chance to close a game or two for the parent club. McClung appears fully recovered from 2004 Tommy John surgery.

Chad Billingsley Likely Odd Man Out for Dodgers

Young Chad Billingsley has pitched admirably for the Dodgers since being called up from AAA Las Vegas, going 2-3 with a 3.93 ERA in nine games. But look for the Dodgers to relegate the 22-year-old future ace to the bullpen, or send him back to Las Vegas until September. The acquisition of Hall-of-Fame starter Greg Maddux, 40, necessitates that someone be dropped from the rotation. GM Ned Colletti has never been sold that Billingsley is major league ready, but relented to bring him up when no veteran pitchers could be found on the open market. Coaches continue to work with Billingsley on issues of pace, pitch selection, attitude and mechanics. While Billingsley has had better results than fellow starter Aaron Sele, 36, the veteran is considered to be unfit for the bullpen and would be expected to react better to pressure situations than Billingsley.

Sandy Alomar to Take ABs from A.J. Pierzynski

Expect newly re-acquired 39-year-old backstop Sandy Alomar to begin cutting into the playing time of starting White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski now that Alomar has been reunited with his battery mate of old, Mark Buehrle. Buehrle, 0-5 with a near 10.00 ERA in his last six starts, warmed to Alomar as the aging veteran helped him to a respectable showing in his last outing. Though Buehrle did not get a decision in the 7-5 victory over the Royals, he retired 13 of his last 14 batters including 10 straight, surrendering only four hits and two runs in six innings on 96 pitches. Alomar, acquired from the Dodgers, last caught Buehrle as a member of the ChiSox in 2004, when Buehrle put up a 16-10 record and 3.89 ERA. Alomar may soon be designated as Buehrle's personal catcher.

Cesar Izturis Comes to the Cubs with a Hitch

The Dodgers acquisition of 40-year-old pitcher Greg Maddux and his balooning 5.00 ERA has been roundly criticized at coming at too high a price as the team to get him has given up highly accomplished middle-infielder Cesar Izturis. Not only had Izturis been envisioned as the team's shortstop for years to come, he was under contract for three years while Maddux can walk at the end of the season. What Dodgers GM Ned Colletti downplayed, however, is that while Izturis has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, and should be fine, in point of fact his throwing arm remains at less than 100 percent strength and accuracy.

Gary Sheffield Eyed as Potential First Baseman

Yankees manager Joe Torre has reported that injured right fielder Gary Sheffield, a former shortstop and third baseman, may see time at first base. Sheffield, who injured his wrist in a baserunning collision, may return from the disabled list in September. While his agent since spring has pressured the team to pick up Sheffield's $11 million option, GM Brian Cashman has refused to do so. Cashman has not ruled out re-signing, Sheffield, however, even though the team has acquired former Phillies right fielder Bobby Abreu, and has him under contract for the this and the following year, with an option on a third year. Cashman considers Sheffield and Abreu equals in terms of productivity.

Vinny Castilla, Eric Young Last Original Rockies

Unless ex-Padres Vinny Castilla and Eric Young, both 39, sign on with other teams -- an open question at best -- their departure from the game marks the end of the last of the original Colorado Rockies. Both have been designated for assignment in anticipation of granting their unconditional releases. While both have had productive careers since coming up with the Rockies in 1992, it remains puzzling why such players are able to collect relatively lucrative paychecks year after year when it has become increasingly obvious that they have little left to contribute. Ironically, however, Castilla was still playing respectable defense, especially compared to his replacement, Todd Walker. Walker, 33, who came over from the Chicago Cubs, primarily played at second base for Chicago and is somewhat disadvantaged as a left-handed thrower turning to find the correct angle to throw across the diamond. In his first start, he had trouble finding first base on each chance, and had two throwing errors.

Vicente Padilla Drunk Driving Case 'Insignificant'

The pending adjudication of the July 7 case of suspected drunk driving against Texas Rangers pitcher Vicente Padilla likely will have insignificant impact on Padilla's appearance schedule and the team's race for the playoffs. While drunk driving allegations cannot be expected to be taken lightly, prosecutors will at the very least accede to have the initial court appearance postponed until after the season. The defense will then seek to have the case dismissed or indefinitely deferred on condition of good behavior. At issue is evidence gathered by police at the time the portly righthander was stopped. While drivers are required to submit to breath analysis, prosecutors cannot concretely prove intoxication over the 0.8 blood level when the test is refused, even if the suspect appears wobbly or intoxicated. Even if the suspect submits to the test, the test can be challenged for accuracy. In the unlikely event the case goes to trial, the defense may concede that while the defendant may have consumed an "unspecified adult beverage," he had not been drinking to excess, was sober and innocent of drunk driving. That would leave prosecutors to decide whether they have enough evidence to convince a jury or magistrate to the contrary. In choosing not to bring the case to trial, prosecutors or the court might be expected to consider Padilla's record as a "good citizen," or good non-citizen. Padilla's past apologists have denied he was involved as a passenger in an unrelated, supposedly alcohol-tainted automobile collision in which he bore no culpability. And while Padilla, then with the Phillies, was reportedly accompanying former Phillies outfielder Jason Michaels on a night of disorderly revelry when Michaels was arrested in Philadelphia and charged with aggravated assault of a police officer, Padilla was not present at the moment of altercation, complicent nor subject to arrest.