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Diamond notes

Special to

Aug. 3

  • Oakland will not rush Ted Lilly back into action.

    Ted Lilly
    Starting pitcher
    Oakland A's
    18 87.2 4-6 27 66 3.39

    "He's been a big loss for us, because we've seen how good he can be," says A's GM Billy Beane. "But we won't let him pitch until September. We got him for four years, and he's too good to risk further injury before he gets some things straightened out."

    There are those in the Oakland organization who preferred Lilly to Jeff Weaver, but that is a subject to be evaluated four years or so from now.

  • The A's tried to get in on the Montreal-Boston deal involving Cliff Floyd and scoop up Red Sox Double-A third baseman Kevin Youkilis. The 22-year-old Youkilis was drafted in June, 2001 and was a scout's nightmare in terms of his Steve Balboni-esque appearance, but the guy can hit and he's a plate discipline machine (an 11/5 walk/strikeout ratio in his first seven Eastern League games) who has shot from the Class A South Atlantic League to the Double-A Eastern Leagues in his first full season. In fact, Youkilis is now up at the top of Boston's prospects list, along with catcher Kelly Shoppach and left-handed pitcher Phil Dumatrait.

  • One scout says "the reason Arizona's Matt Mantei breaks down is that he has too much arm speed. His body can't handle it." Curiously, several teams felt the same way about Jason Neighborgall, the talented high school pitcher from Durham, N.C. who was drafted by Boston in the seventh round, but likely will instead go to Georgia Tech.

  • The fact that Houston high school left-hander Scott Kazmir signed with the Mets for $2.15 million -- when before the draft there was speculation that he would get a Josh Beckett deal -- is testament to how much Kazmir wants to play, and second how much the market has changed.

    Four of the top five picks haven't signed; the Reds with the third overall pick got right-hander Scott Gruler to sign for $2.5 million with a pre-draft deal. Ten of the 30 first rounders are unsigned, and the Commissioner's Office handling of the negotiations has led to a distinct slotting system.

  • This has been a good summer for Cape Cod League hitting prospects, led by Wareham and Georgia Tech outfielder Matt Murton, who is an Edgar Martinez clone with 8 power. "He was scary in how he was so impressive in our workout," says one Red Sox official after Murton and several other Cape Leaguers worked out at Fenway Park. Cotiuit center fielder Pete Stonard, who plays at Alabama, is expected to win the league MVP award and is a terrific hitter with developing power. Wareham and Baylor right fielder David Murphy has been extremely impressive, and two years from now, UCLA first baseman Wesley Whistler will be a near-certain high first-round pick. And that's before getting to Arizona St. outfielder Rod Allen and San Diego State's Anthony Gwynn, who have major leagues written all over them.

  • Carlos Baerga, who owns the Bayamon team in the Puerto Rican League, says he will have John Rocker back this winter. "John called me and wants to come back and pitch," says Baerga. "He wants to get back to what he was, and we want him. He was nothing but great for us." Baerga also has Tim Spooneybarger, whom the Braves want to be their closer in case John Smoltz returns to the starting rotation.

  • The Cubs feel Hee Seop Choi has freed himself from the mechanical difficulties that got him locked up earlier in the season, and now see Choi and Bobby Hill on their way to Wrigley. GM Jim Hendry was calling around Wednesday trying to find takers for Tom Gordon, Jeff Fassero and Delino DeShields. Hendry's focus is now on finding a left-handed starter, bullpen help, a catcher and a third baseman.

  • Great scout's line: "It's good to see Erubiel Durazo back, because he's fun to watch hit. No one in the game hits pop ups higher in the air. He may hit the roof of The Bob once of these days."

  • The Players Association has a tendency to trash former players and dismiss anyone who doesn't agree with them, but when the Hall of Famers signed ther petition last weekend in Cooperstown, every current player should respect the fact that Senator Jim Bunning signed that letter. Players are constantly reminded of the history of their union, and Bunning was the man who found former union chief Marvin Miller and helped form the union as it is now, in many ways one of the most significant figures in the history of the MLBPA. Respect what Sen. Bunning thinks. And remember that the fight over the luxury tax has nothing to do with the rank and file, it is all about preserving the Yankees payroll, and trying to keep up the Alex Rodriguez/Manny Ramirez levels, period. It's about stars, not about constituents.

    Trot Nixon
    Right fielder
    Boston Red Sox
    104 368 58 17 62 .274

  • The Red Sox think that when Floyd relaxes in Fenway, The Wall, which makes that park the best for a left-handed hitter in the game, will allow him to stay back and put up huge numbers. And the fact that Floyd's lifetime numbers are better against lefties than righties allow the Sox a lot of flexibility.

    But the guy who is on the verge of finally being able to slow down and use The Wall is Trot Nixon, who works at going that way every day in batting practice. When it comes to Boston, the organizational feeling is that they will go as far as John Burkett, Tim Wakefield and Casey Fossum can take them in the 3-4-5 holes in the starting rotation.

  • The Padres are yet another team ready to shut it down with their drafts picks. They told their seventh-round pick, Florida State left-hander Matt Lynch, last weekend that their offer to him had to go off the table.

  • Mike Sirotka is such a sad story. Two years ago, he was the White Sox opening game starter in the AL Division Series against the Mariners, got traded to Toronto and has never pitched for the Blue Jays. He recently had a second arm operation, and has never thrown a pitch since that start against Seattle.

  • Speaking of that Chicago team that led the AL in wins (95) in 2000, manager Jerry Manuel still has owner Jerry Reinsdorf's backing, and with two more years remaining on his contract may well be back next season. Reinsdorf is blaming things other than the manager for the team's struggles, a novel concept.

  • Padres manager Bruce Bochy's contract extension is pending, which means that he and GM Kevin Towers will be together through the 2007 season. There is no manager/general manager relationship that works better.

  • When Rolen said, "I feel as if I've died and gone to heaven" on Monday, little did he know how different it is in St. Louis. There aren't threatened bed checks, either.

  • It turns out that Robert Person was hurt (he's likely out for the rest of the season with a tear in his right shoulder), wasn't faking it and is probably owed an apology in Philadelphia.

  • This week's winner of the Jason Simontacchi/Brian Daubach Award for persistence is Cardinals reliever Matt Duff, who was recently recalled from Double-A New Haven, where he was 10-1, 1.06 with a 17/84 BB/K ratio in 59 2/3 innings. Duff, 27, has been released a few times, including this spring training, has pitched for one Frontier and two Northern League teams (both independent leagues), and is now in The Show.

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  • Gammons: Dealin' Day

    Apolitical blues: Aug. 3

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