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Rockies follow Hampton's lead

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Mike Hampton
Mike Hampton's eighth career shutout came against his ex-teammates.

  • When Giants general manager Brian Sabean worries about Colorado and a couple of Mets players suggested the Rockies might be the best team they've seen, the impact of the Mike Hampton signing and what he brings to the pitching staff's psyche cannot be underestimated. "He's an incredibly tough man," Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd said. Five times since Coors Field opened has a Rockies pitcher gone into the ninth with a shutout -- and Hampton's done it twice already. In three of his four home starts, he's allowed one run or less. Denny Neagle hasn't allowed more than three runs in four Coors starts and Pedro Astacio is 31-25 lifetime at Coors. If John Thomson pitches better than he did in his May 12 debut, the starters may finally do what has to be done in Coors -- eat up enough innings to save the bullpen so Buddy Bell is allowed to have a few positional players on his bench.

  • Felipe Alou told the Giants coaches during the week that if the Expos don't come home with a good road trip, he was told by ownership that he is gone. Losing four of their first five in San Fransisco and Colorado wasn't a good trip, although to be fair they are awfully tough places to play. Meanwhile, the Expos this week began English radio broadcasts for the first time since 1999, and team vice president David Samson reports that TV ratings are up. To owner Jeffrey Loria's credit, he has absorbed $40 million in losses his first two years. As Samson points out: "English radio here is what Spanish radio is to the Yankees -- not that big a deal."

  • As he looks ahead to November free agency, Barry Bonds says, "I'd like to play into my 40s," but adds, "it might be better for me to go to the American League where I can DH a couple of days a week. But I'm looking at that at just the wrong time. The National League is becoming more like the American League because of the new ballparks, and the American is becoming more like the National. Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Houston have all become home-run heavens. Jokes. Detroit, Seattle and some of the AL parks are pitchers' parks. Just my luck."

  • White Sox GM Ken Williams talked at length with Frank Thomas' distraught mother Friday, and afterward told Thomas to go home and spend time with his family. "Frank is devastated right now, and the best thing for him is to go home and be with his mother, who after her husband passed away needs Frank as much as he needs family," Williams said. As for speculation that Jerry Reinsdorf might exercise his right to implement a clause in Thomas' contract that would allow him to defer all but $250,000 a year because of "declining skills," Williams said: "That's something I need to put to rest. It's not going to happen."

  • Apparently, neither is the imminent trade of David Wells. "We're asking our players to grind it out, day after day, and see where we go," Williams said. "The GM isn't going to ask that of the players in early May, then turn around and trade David Wells. We now have given the opportunity to Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Rocky Biddle and Kip Wells to step forward. We'll see what happens."

  • The Diamondbacks have not made a trade since Buck Showalter was fired, for one reason or another.

  • Scouts in New Orleans this week were so impressed with the way Zephyrs manager Tony Pena threw batting practice that they pulled out their radar guns. A consistent 88. "I don't think there's been a bad day in his life," said one scout who considers Pena prime major-league managerial timber. Repeat 88 mph BP.

    Diamond notes

  • Devil Rays GM Chuck LaMar was calling around at the end of the week offering a yard sale. He has a lot of interest in Albie Lopez, but typical of Tampa Bay's luck, Lopez is now sidelined with a pulled groin. Greg Vaughn, Gerald Williams, Fred McGriff, Bryan Rekar and most every veteran player is available.

  • Lou Piniella strongly believes that the Mariners need a No. 5 hitter, and then maybe even another hitter after that. They took a run at Mark Quinn, but could not give up Jose Paniagua and minor-league infielder Antonio Perez, whom Reds GM Jim Bowden said "will be remembered as 'the guy for whom Junior Griffey was traded.' " The Indians have made Wil Cordero available. Piniella said "we hope to have Gil Meche back by the All Star break because Freddy Garcia is really our only power pitcher." Piniella believes that finesse pitchers struggle in hot weather; last August, when M's starters were being waffled, Piniella predicted they'd come back in the cool fall. They did, going 19-10 in September and making it to the sixth game of the ALCS.

  • Last summer, Mets manager Bobby Valentine said that Ichiro Suzuki was one of the 10 best players in the world, then amended it to "one of the five best" during the World Series. "People didn't believe me, but they're finding out now," Valentine said. "And they haven't seen the best yet. The more he sees pitchers, the better he'll hit them, and in the second half he'll have that leg kick going and he'll really take off. I faced him 17 games, and when Irabu was really good and throwing 96, Ichiro owned him. Hey, Shinjo is a really good player who's helped us." When Valentine was told that one scout he admires said Ichiro is the best defensive outfielder in the American League, Valentine added, "Next to Andruw Jones, Shinjo may be the best defensive outfielder in this league."

  • There were several Ivan Rodriguez trade rumors this week. Pudge becomes a 10-and-5 man June 20, his five year, $42 million contract is up at the end of next season and the Rangers know that after giving A-Rod $252 million, Pudge is entitled to a huge raise. Will it happen? There was a Jorge Posada rumor in New York, but the Yankees don't have the pitcher to put in the deal. Remember, the Rangers once had a deal to send Pudge to the Yanks for Posada and Tony Armas Jr., only to have Rodriguez walk in and ask to sign at the club's rate to stay in Texas. He was told there wasn't any more money. There was.

  • Jerry Narron has said that Scott Sheldon wll see more action at third with rumors that Ken Caminiti again is considering retirement. "The Rangers are trying to do some things," one GM said. "Don't be surprised if they move Andres Galarraga."

  • This is how confused it is in Baltimore: Syd Thrift called the Mets in pursuit of Jorge Toca. He gave them a list of pitchers, including Jason Johnson. The Mets accepted the deal. Then Thrift rejected the deal he'd offered. But Thrift is out looking for a young third baseman to force Cal Ripken's hand (forget Phil Nevin) and an outfielder with power, like one of the Cincinnati guys.

  • It seems everywhere outside Boston I am hit with a manager, coach or player asking, "Is it really that bad there?" They talk to players and coaches, and they know the cancer of overpriced $4 million to $7 million players on the last years of their contracts is a deadly virus.

  • Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker is still declining trade requests for Daryle Ward, but after moving Octavio Dotel and Roy Oswalt into the bullpen in front of Billy Wagner, he has to hope that after Wade Miller they get better production from Shane Reynolds, Jose Lima, Scott Elarton and Kent Bottenfield, whose collective ERA was over 6.00 going into the weekend.

  • Good friend Rex Hudler is so well recovered from being hospitalized with bleeding at the base of his brain that he will be back at work doing Angels games this week. They don't come any better than The Wonder Dog.

  • There was some consternation in Toronto when veteran John Frascatore was sent to the minors, ostensibly to avoid his making 50 appearances that would guarantee his 2002 salary at $1.55 million.

  • The Mets thought they had a deal for Tigers outfielder Roger Cedeno before Wendell Magee went down.

  • A scout on Cubs first baseman Julio Zuleta: "He could be a steal for an American League team. He's got interesting power, and remember this is a guy who in his first three professional seasons ('93-95) didn't hit a homer and in '96 hit one in 221 at-bats."

  • Ricky Williams had his agents order him bats this week, which will add to the baseball speculation. It still may be a negotiating tool in re-doing the bad contract Master P cut for him with the Saints.

  • Don't be surprised if the Reds use one of their outfielders to trade for a starting pitcher this week, then bring up 21-year-old monster prospect Adam Dunn. The 6-foot-6 former University of Texas quarterback can fly, hit for power and is contending for the Southern League triple crown.

  • Carlos Perez has gone home to the Dominican Republic to wait to see if he gets a major-league offer. That's doubtful, but Perez believes his velocity will continue back from the 82-84 mph range to 88-89. Boston and Montreal are among the interested teams.

  • A.J. Burnett throws a nine-walk no-hitter, but Randy Johnson strikes out 20 in nine innings and is officially listed as second all-time to Tom Cheney, the second greatest Cheney in Washington history.

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