MLB News and Notes September 15

MLB News and Notes September 15

Notes from Friday's games
September 14, 2007

NEW YORK: Andy Pettitte extended his streak to 64 starts without allowing a first-inning homer. ... 1B Jason Giambi was back in the lineup after sitting out Thursday night's 2-1 loss in Toronto and allowed J.D. Drew's third-inning grounder to go through his legs for a run-scoring error. ``Giambi is feeling better. There has been no tightness in his shoulder,'' manager Joe Torre said. ... Torre confirmed that Roger Clemens will start the series finale Sunday night. Clemens had said Thursday he had ``no doubt'' he'd start after he threw 40 pitches in a bullpen session before the game against Toronto. He had been feeling discomfort in his right elbow. ... Boston's Josh Beckett and New York's Chien-Ming Wang, both 18-6, face each other Saturday. ``I can't fault whoever votes for Beckett or Wang for the Cy Young, but they're two different type pitchers,'' Torre said.
BOSTON: CF Coco Crisp was a late scratch from Boston's lineup with a sore left hip. Rookie Jacoby Ellsbury replaced him in the field and in the No. 9 spot in the lineup. ... Ellsbury had an RBI single in the second inning, extending his hitting streak to 12 games since he was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. ... Manager Terry Francona downplayed consecutive fastballs from New York's Joba Chamberlain that went over 1B Kevin Youkilis' head in the previous game between the teams on Aug. 30. Chamberlain was suspended for two games. ``That was a long time ago,'' Francona said. ``I think we have a way of moving on with things maybe better than the media.'' In the first inning Friday, Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka hit Alex Rodriguez with a curveball in the left thigh, loading the bases.''

KANSAS CITY: Manager Buddy Bell is pleased with the C John Buck's season. Buck's already reached a career high with 18 home runs. ``I think he's a guy who will hit for more power than average,'' Bell said. ``He puts in a lot of hard work, which has paid off.'' ... Rookie 3B Alex Gordon, who is 10-for-24 during a six-game hitting streak, didn't start Friday against LHP C.C. Sabathia. He's 0-for-7 in his career against the Indians' ace. ... LHP Odalis Perez (strained left knee) and OF Reggie Sanders (torn left hamstring) are done for the season. Perez has returned home to the Dominican Republic after going 8-11 with a 5.57 ERA in 26 starts. Sanders, who played in only 24 games, will remain with the club until the season ends. Sanders hit .315 with two homers and 11 RBIs. ... The Royals will have a say in the AL Central race. Including Friday night, they'll play the Indians six times, including a three-game series in Kansas City to end the season. The Royals have a three-game series against the second-place Tigers in Detroit next weekend.

CLEVELAND: If LHP C.C. Sabathia ever wanted to hire a campaign manager to help him win the AL's Cy Young vote, Joe Borowski would be the guy. Sabathia entered Friday ranked third in the AL in wins (17), fourth in strikeouts (185), third in ERA (3.15), second in complete games (4) and he led the majors in innings (220). To Borowski, Sabathia is second to none. ``C.C has stepped it up in every way,'' the closer said. ``If the bullpen needs a rest, he'll go out there and throw eight or nine innings. If we're coming off a two- or three-game losing streak, he'll go out there and give us the best opportunity to get a win. ``He'll go out there for seven or eight games in a row and get only a run of support and he'll never complain.'' The only Indians pitcher to win the Cy Young was Gaylord Perry in 1972. ... In Sabathia (17-7), Fausto Carmona (16-8) and Paul Byrd (15-6), the Indians are baseball's only team with three 15-game winners.

BALTIMORE: OF Corey Patterson, who has missed the previous seven games, tested his sprained left ankle by running before Friday's game. Manager Dave Trembley said Patterson could return in time for the start of a three-game series against the New York Yankees that begins Monday in the Bronx. ... 3B Melvin Mora (tight lower back) was held out of the starting lineup Friday and is expected to miss one or two more days, Trembley said. ... RHP Danys Baez (sore elbow) did not travel with the team to Toronto, remaining in Baltimore to undergo an MRI exam. He is day to day. ... LHP Kurt Birkins will start Saturday in place of RHP Victor Zambrano, because the Orioles want Zambrano to be available out of the bullpen. Entering play Friday, Baltimore starters had pitched more than five innings just once in the team's past eight games. RHP Jon Leicester worked 5 2-3 innings Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels

TORONTO: The Blue Jays claimed INF Joe Inglett on waivers from Cleveland and placed 3B Troy Glaus on the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster. Inglett will not report to Toronto, which has 16 games remaining. Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said Glaus is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery Monday to repair a nerve in his left foot. He will not return this season. ... Ricciardi said the Blue Jays will wait until after the season to work on a new contract for free agent OF Matt Stairs, who has hit 19 home runs in 306 at_bats this season. ... Ricciardi said he will make a decision ``very soon'' after the end of the season on the status of Toronto's coaches, all of whose contracts are about to expire. Only manager John Gibbons is signed through 2008.

DETROIT: The Tigers have sustained a series of injuries in their rotation this season, and rookie Yorman Bazardo will be the latest youngster to get a start, on Saturday. Manager Jim Leyland said he's not looking at it like a tryout, though. ``I think he's a good choice. They haven't seen him. I'm trying to win the game,'' Leyland said. ... Leyland said DH Gary Sheffield, who missed two weeks with a shoulder problem and has had trouble with the injury all season, could play the outfield some next season. The manager downplayed the issue of whether Sheffield was in better shape now than earlier this summer. ``I just think it's sore, and some days it's more sore than others,'' Leyland said. ... Leyland said he was sad to see Twins GM Terry Ryan resign. Leyland was managing in Class A for Clinton in 1973, when Ryan went 10-0 as a pitcher for Wisconsin Rapids in the Midwest League.

MINNESOTA: The Twins have removed struggling RH Boof Bonser from the rotation. He'll be replaced by Kevin Slowey, who is scheduled to start Monday against the Rangers. ... RHP Carlos Silva, who hurt his groin and was pulled from his start Wednesday against the Royals after only two innings. Silva was upset by the early hook, claiming he could still pitch. He'll throw a bullpen session on Saturday, when the Twins will decide if he's healthy enough to stay on track and start again on Tuesday. If not, he'll be pushed back.

LOS ANGELES: OF Vladimir Guerrero (inflamed right triceps) was relegated to DH duties for a fourth straight game, but manager Mike Scioscia hopes to have his slugger back in right field within a few days. ``But it will still probably going to take a bit of a progression to get him out to play right field,'' Scioscia said. Guerrero was 6-for-14 with two homers and eight RBIs the previous three games. ... OF Gary Mathews Jr. missed his third consecutive game with a sprained right ankle but did get in some work before Friday's game. ``He's going to play some catch today but it's still tough to put a time frame on,'' Scioscia said. ... RHP Justin Speier found out why he had been experiencing some discomfort in his right knee. ``I thought it was just knee tendinitis, and then I got it evaluated and it was a slight strain of the MCL,'' he said before throwing on the side.

CHICAGO: Manager Ozzie Guillen might have experienced some flashbacks watching the Angels. He sees a team winning with speed, and that reminds him of Chicago's 2005 championship club. ``That's what we did in 2005,'' he said. ``We had the guys healthy. You always are going to execute if your players can execute. ... That's the way I like to manage. Hopefully, next year with the bunch we put together, I get a chance to at least earn my money. This year, I was just talking to you guys and taking pictures.'' ... Guillen said he has no plans to buy a new house or car after agreeing on a contract extension that runs through 2012 on Tuesday. ``I already got all those,'' Guillen said. ``My kids are going to be more comfortable, I guess.''

TEXAS: 3B David Metcalf tested his strained left hamstring on Thursday and manager Ron Washington said he showed enough to be in the lineup. ``We put him through agility movements and he moved pretty good,'' Washington said. ``He said he felt no residual effects so we're giving him a chance to get in there.'' ... The Rangers are the only team in the AL without a complete game. Their relievers have pitched a league-high 532 2-3 innings entering play on Friday, but they also have the third-best ERA (3.55) and the most wins (29). ``The amount of innings our bullpen has is too much,'' Washington said. ``Getting 470 to 500 innings would be great. But not having a complete game has no meaning to me. I'll take seven or eight innings out of starter.'' ... SS Michael Young is closing in on 200 hits for the fifth consecutive season. Only Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki has more hits over that same span. ``He's a hitting machine,'' Washington said of Young. ``It goes to show that he comes out every day and grinds it out.''

OAKLAND: Manager Bob Geren, who received his ballot for the Gold Glove Awards, won't be able to vote for 2B Mark Ellis but thinks he deserves a lot of consideration. Ellis, who set a major league record for the best fielding percentage (.997) by a second baseman last year, had a team record 102-game errorless streak end recently. ... The A's second round draft pick, outfielder Greg Desme, took batting practice with the team. ``He has a nice swing,'' Geren said. ... C Kurt Suzuki, brought up in June and taking over the starting job in July, said his biggest adjustment has been dealing with veteran pitchers like RHP Dan Haren. ``When I come out to talk to him it's like he's comforting me,'' Suzuki said. ``He gets me and himself on the right page.''

TAMPA BAY: LHP Scott Kazmir will get three more starts, including Saturday night, manager Joe Maddon said. He is third in the AL in strikeouts and could reach 200 innings for the first time in his career. Kazmir's first win came in Seattle in 2004. ... Thursday was Tampa Bay's third straight loss where they have led by at least four runs. In the three losses, the Devil Rays' bullpen has allowed 21 hits, 20 runs and 11 walks in nine innings. ... Injured C Josh Paul (lower back) did a little bit of throwing and swung a bat on Friday, but his return hasn't been determined. Paul could still be used in an emergency situation.

SEATTLE: Despite lasting just 1 1-3 innings on Thursday night, RHP Jeff Weaver will remain in Seattle's rotation. Weaver got a no-decision in Seattle's 8-7 comeback win. He was rattled for five runs and six hits by the Devil Rays, his fourth straight poor start. Weaver hasn't lasted beyond the fifth since Aug. 23, which was his last victory. ``We're going to stay where we are right now,'' Seattle manager John McLaren said. ... LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith picked up his first major league win on Thursday night with 2 1-3 innings of relief, striking out five. He is the sixth Mariners' pitcher to pick up their first win this season, joining Sean Green, Brandon Morrow, Eric O'Flaherty, Ryan Feierabend and Sean White. ... Thursday's win gave Seattle 41 come-from-behind wins. They're tied for the AL lead with Texas.

ATLANTA: 3B Chipper Jones returned to the lineup Friday night after missing three consecutive starts because of a strained muscle on his right side. He hurt himself Monday during batting practice and was a late scratch from that day's game at the New York Mets. Jones wound up missing the rest of that series. Jones entered Friday batting .330 with 25 homers and 87 RBIs and singled in his first at-bat. ... GM John Schuerholz and four players - John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur - went to the White House and visited with President Bush. ``He said, 'We need some pitchers' - that's what I heard,'' Schuerholz said of his Oval Office chat. ``I said, 'We've been trying for two months. We can't get any.''' And Bush's reply? ``No, John, pictures.''

WASHINGTON: The Nationals got Class-A batting champion Andrew Lefave from the Brewers to complete the Sept. 4 deal that sent reliever Ray King to Milwaukee. The 23-year-old Lefave is an outfielder and first baseman who hit .345 with 17 homers and 79 RBIs in 112 games in the South Atlantic League this season. ``The kind of player you want at the plate with the game on the line and a runner in scoring position,'' Nationals GM Jim Bowden said. ... RHP John Patterson had surgery Friday on a nerve in his right arm. Patterson went 1-5 with a 7.47 ERA in seven starts this season. He went on the DL on May 6. ... LHP Micah Bowie is going to St. Louis to have surgery to repair a sports hernia and will be put on the 60-day DL.

RHP Antonio Alfonseca was suspended for four games, a day after he was ejected for hitting Colorado's Todd Helton with a pitch. Alfonseca appealed the suspension and was available for the opener of Philadelphia's crucial weekend series against the NL East-leading New York Mets. ``I think four days is kind of harsh,'' manager Charlie Manuel said. ... Entering Friday's game against New York, the Phillies were leading the major leagues with 43 come-from-behind wins.

NEW YORK: 1B Carlos Delgado (strained right hip flexor) took ground balls and played catch before the game. Delgado hurt himself on an awkward swing during an 11-7 victory over the Reds on Sept. 4. ``Right now, just a lot of treatment, a lot of heat, a lot stuff like that,'' manager Willie Randolph said. ... 1B Jeff Conine swapped numbers with C Sandy Alomar Jr., who will wear No. 28. Conine went back to No. 19, the number he has used for most of his career. ... C Ramon Castro (lower back arthritis) played in a rehab game with Class-A Brooklyn. ``Hopefully he'll be back the next couple days or so,'' Randolph said.

CINCINNATI: With RHP David Weathers, the team's closer with 30 saves, and RHP Jared Burton having pitched three days in row, manager Pete Mackanin said that the two relievers were unavailable for Friday night's game. While the decision leaves the team ``somewhat in jeopardy,'' he was not going to use them regardless of the situation. Instead, left-handed relievers Mike Stanton, who has plenty of experience as a closer, and Bill Bray would get the call with the game on the line. ... INF Joey Votto, called up Sept. 4, made his seventh start at first base. He came in batting .455 with two homers and eight RBIs. ``I'm pleased with what I've seen so far,'' Mackanin said. ``He's keeping his ears open and his mouth shut.''

MILWAUKEE: Manager Ned Yost said that his team's collective approach in the final 17 games is to do all the things necessary to win. ``There's no egos involved anymore this time of year,'' he said. ``We've got to show up every day with the intention of winning this baseball game.'' ... The Brewers sent OF Andrew Lefave from their Class-A affiliate in West Virginia to Washington as the player to be named in the Sept. 4 trade that brought LHP Ray King to Milwaukee.

PITTSBURGH: OFs Jason Bay and Xavier Nady were out of Friday's starting lineup, but manager Jim Tracy said both will see action before the end of the Houston series. Bay has tendinitis in his knee, while Nady is recovering from a concussion he suffered when he was hit by a pitch in St. Louis on Sept. 3. ... Rookie Steve Pearce, who made his major league debut on Sept. 1, started in right field on Friday night. Pearce has started 10 games since his call-up from Triple-A Indianapolis and was hitting .438 in his last five games. ``Let's let him have a look at Roy Oswalt,'' Tracy said. ``It's very prudent for us to do that because of the progress this kid has made.'' ... Tracy said John Van Benschoten will start in San Diego on Monday, replacing Tony Armas. Van Benschoten, recalled from the minors on Sept. 4, went 0-5 in seven starts for Pittsburgh between June 15 and July 28. Tracy said Armas will pitch out of the bullpen.

HOUSTON: The one bright spot in Houston's 6-2 loss to Chicago on Thursday was Dennis Sarfate's scoreless inning of relief. Sarfate was acquired on Tuesday from Milwaukee for cash considerations and manager Cecil Cooper wants to use him often before the season ends. ``That's a pretty powerful arm,'' Cooper said. ``We just have to make sure that the mechanics are good. If he gets anywhere close to what he was last night, he'll be a guy that's here in the league, helping us.'' ... Josh Anderson and Cody Ransom, recalled from Triple-A Round Rock earlier this month, were in the starting lineup. Anderson led off in his first big league start and was playing CF. Ransom was starting his third game at SS. Cooper said he would start another rookie, C J.R. Towles, on Saturday and Sunday. ``We're just looking to see how they respond in this atmosphere,'' Cooper said. ``Hopefully, we'll get them in some games where they'll be able to strut their stuff a little bit.''

CHICAGO: 1B Derrek Lee returned to the lineup. He was a late scratch on Thursday after fouling a ball off his knee. Lee was batting .370 in September, second best in the NL. ... The Cubs had 20 homers this month, one more than their total from August and seven more than their total from July, and had connected in six straight games. ... Alfonso Soriano hit his eighth leadoff homer on Thursday, tying the franchise record set by Rick Monday in 1976, including three this month. ... The Cubs were 58-33, a percentage of .637, whenever starting pitchers worked at least six innings, and 17-38 otherwise.

ST. LOUIS: SS David Eckstein was scratched about an hour before the first pitch Friday due to back soreness. ``He felt a little tweak and we didn't want to push it,'' manager Tony La Russa said. ... Assessing a shaky rotation, La Russa said Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper will start on regular rest the rest of the season, bumping back the other candidates. ``Probably the best thing to do is let it lie like that,'' La Russa said. ... Albert Pujols had gone 73 at_bats and 20 games since his last home run on Aug. 22 against the Marlins. ... Prior to the game, members of the 1987 NL pennant-winning team were honored, including manager Whitey Herzog, Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, Bob Forsch and Vince Coleman. ... La Russa said he didn't think the Cardinals had been reduced to spoilers after an 0-7 trip, the franchise's worst since 1972. ``That's not a label that comes to my mind,'' he said. ``What comes to mind is we've got four games against the team that's ahead of us.''

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 15

FLORIDA: The Marlins left RHP Armando Benitez behind in Miami. ``He will work with a physical therapist to work on his back problems,'' manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ``There was no sense of making him get on a plane for four hours with his sore back.'' ... Gonzalez will start RHP Byung-Hyun Kim on Monday in Atlanta and start either LHP Chris Seddon or RHP Daniel Barone on Tuesday. ... C Matt Treanor was in the lineup on Friday because he was 5-for-6 against RHP Josh Fogg. ... LHP Renyel Pinto was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list.

COLORADO: OF Brad Hawpe wasn't in the starting lineup Friday night since the Rockies were facing LHP Dontrelle Willis. Hawpe is hitting .179 against lefties this season. ``There have been challenges from that side,'' manager Clint Hurdle said. ``We need to explore every opportunity to help him get better.'' ... OF Jeff Baker made his first start since suffering a mild concussion on Aug. 10 when Chicago Cubs starter Jason Marquis hit him in the helmet. Baker has appeared as a pinch hitter, going 0-for-3. ... Hurdle grew irritated at being asked about Philadelphia RHP Antonio Alfonseca's four-game suspension for hitting 1B Todd Helton with a pitch Thursday. ``I'm not going to stay here for 15 minutes talking about Alfonseca's suspension,'' Hurdle said.

ARIZONA: 2B Augie Ojeda was a late scratch from Friday night's lineup because of a stiff back. As a result, Emilio Bonifacio started there for the third time this season and batted leadoff for the third time. ... 3B Chad Tracy, sidelined since Aug. 15 because of tendinitis in his right knee, impressed manager Bob Melvin during batting practice and could be activated during the next homestand. ``I thought it was real good,'' Melvin said. ``He's chomping at the bit to get activated today, but we're going to have to see him run out here on the field before we clear him to go. To have a left-handed bat on the bench would help us, even if it's in a pinch-hitting role.'' ... RHP Micah Owings, 0-2 in his last four starts, will be back in the rotation next Tuesday against San Francisco after being skipped a turn. He threw 50 pitches in a side session before the opener of a series against the Dodgers.

LOS ANGELES: The Dodgers honored Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda on Friday with a pregame ceremony noting his upcoming 80th birthday, which is Sept. 22. Lasorda was presented a cake at home plate. ... RHP Derek Lowe believes the Dodgers have a solid shot at making the playoffs. ``We're right there,'' he said. ``We've just got to continue to play and take what we gained from this last series and take it into this series (against Arizona). We have no ace in the hole. We've got the players to do it with, and it's just a matter of getting it done.'' ... Lowe said 1B James Loney is blossoming at a good time. ``The way he's swinging the bat, the timing is good for him and this ballclub,'' Lowe said. ``There's no telling what he might do by the time he's done.''

SAN FRANCISCO - There was far less buzz for Friday night's series opener than the last time the Giants were in San Diego. On Aug. 4, Barry Bonds tied Hank Aaron with his 755th homer at Petco Park. ``It's nice,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ... Asked his emotions on seeing his former team, the Padres, in playoff contention, Bochy said: ``I really don't have any. I've moved on and I want to concentrate on getting this turned around and getting us back into playing important games in September.''

SAN DIEGO - The Padres will skip RHP Justin Germano's next scheduled start, on Monday against Pittsburgh. ``Justin is going to take a step back,'' manager Bud Black said. ``It might be a good time for him. Now's the time for him to catch his breath. He's going to miss his turn and we'll re-evaluate it.'' Rookie Jack Cassel will take his place. ... Shaun White, who won the snowboard half pipe gold medal at the Turin Olympics, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. White, aka ``The Flying Tomato'' because of his mop of red hair, threw an eephus pitch to Padres ace Jake Peavy.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 15

Baseball Today - September 15


Saturday, Sept. 15

Chicago Cubs at St. Louis (8:10 p.m. EDT).

Sean Marshall and the Cubs defend their NL Central lead against the Cardinals in the second game of a doubleheader.



-Khalil Greene, Padres, homered to left field with one out in the 10th inning to give San Diego a 5-4 win over San Francisco.

-Nomar Garciaparra, Dodgers, had three hits, including a home run in a four-run fifth inning, to help beat Arizona 7-4.

-Timo Perez, Tigers, had three hits and drove in three runs, leading Detroit over Minnesota 4-2.

-Jose Bautista, Pittsburgh, hit a two-run homer to lift Pittsburgh over Houston 4-3.

-Brandon Phillips and Adam Dunn, Reds. Phillips drove in three runs and Dunn hit a two-run shot for his 39th homer in Cincinnati's 6-5 win over Milwaukee.


The Yankees closed within 4 1/2 games of AL East-leading Boston with an 8-7 victory Friday night in a 4-hour, 43-minute marathon - two minutes shy of the record for a nine-inning game set by the clubs on Aug. 18 last year. New York had not overcome a five-run deficit on the road to win since May 9, 2004, at Seattle. ... Philadelphia picked up its major league-leading 44th come-from-behind win and cut the Mets' lead in the NL East to 5 1/2 games with a 10-inning, 3-2 victory. It was the first matchup between the top teams in the division since the Phillies swept a four-game series last month to cut New York's lead to two games.


Cliff Floyd hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh and the Chicago Cubs beat St. Louis 5-3 Friday night to send the Cardinals to their eighth straight loss. St. Louis has lost eight straight for the first time since July 27 to Aug. 4 last year. The defending World Series champions, just one game out of first before play last Saturday, are six behind the Cubs, their largest division deficit since Aug. 11.


Prince Fielder tied a Brewers record by hitting his NL-leading 45th home run in the fourth inning of a 6-5 loss to Cincinnati on Friday night. Fielder matched the mark held by Richie Sexson (2001, '03) and Gorman Thomas (1979).


Sammy Sosa hit his 608th home run and had five RBIs in Texas' 11-9 loss to Oakland on Friday night. Sosa reached 20 homers for the first time since 2004 and the 13th time in his big league career.


C.C. Sabathia struck out a career-high 13 but couldn't get the big one when Kansas City rallied for four runs with two outs in the fifth and beat Cleveland 5-4 Friday night. Sabathia had gone 10 consecutive starts without allowing more than two earned runs, the longest such stretch for an Indians pitcher since Gaylord Perry in 1974. His 198 strikeouts are the most by an Indians left-hander since Sam McDowell's 304 in 1970.


Phillies reliever Antonio Alfonseca was suspended four games Friday, a day after he was ejected for hitting Colorado's Todd Helton with a pitch. Alfonseca appealed the suspension and was available for the opener of Philadelphia's weekend series against the NL East-leading New York Mets.


''We lucked out. That eighth inning was incredible. The only thing predictable in this ballpark is the unpredictable.'' - Yankees manager Joe Torre, after New York's 8-7 come-from-behind win over Boston on Friday night.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 15

Injured Manny Ramirez likely to miss entire series against Yankees

BOSTON -- Manny Ramirez is getting closer to returning from a strained muscle in his left side but the Boston outfielder appears to be a long shot to play in the three-game series with New York that began Friday night.

''He's not ready to play,'' Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before the opener of the series between the top two teams in the AL East. ''Maybe by the beginning of the week is somewhat realistic, but, again, you just don't know. He is making a lot of progress and doing a good job.''

The left fielder was out of the lineup for the 16th consecutive game Friday after being injured on Aug. 28, in a 5-3 loss in New York in the opener of the Yankees' three-game sweep.

Ramirez ''did well'' swinging the bat Thursday, Francona said.

''He came out on his off day and took a ton of swings,'' Francona said. ''I don't know how realistic it is for him to play in the next couple of days.

''I don't think it's ever been the case but I do think he's getting a lot closer. I don't think it's fair to put an exact day on it.''

The Red Sox lost their first three games without Ramirez but were 9-3 in the next 12. The cleanup hitter is batting .292 with 20 homers and 86 RBIs in 125 games.

''He hits the ball off the wall (in batting practice) and everybody thinks he should be playing,'' Francona said. ''There's a difference between taking swings in a controlled environment and then moving to BP and then going to a game.''

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 15

Cardinals activate Spiezio following treatment for substance abuse

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Cardinals infielder Scott Spiezio was activated from the restricted list on Friday, about five weeks after leaving the team to undergo treatment for substance abuse.

Spiezio said he received daily treatment on an outpatient basis. The rehabilitation process began on Aug. 10, the day after the Cardinals removed him from the active roster.

''I was out of control for a while,'' Spiezio said. ''I learned a lot and I'm ready to start contributing in a good way now.''

Spiezio, who turns 35 next week, was plugged into the lineup at third base and batted sixth against Chicago. David Eckstein was dealing with back soreness, so manager Tony La Russa pulled him from the lineup and moved Brendan Ryan from third to shortstop.

Spiezio missed the Cardinals' climb into contention during his 33-game absence and their subsequent fall. St. Louis was only one game back in the NL Central a week ago before an 0-7 trip, the franchise's worst since 1972. The Cardinals began Friday five games behind the division-leading Cubs.

He returned subdued in both mood and look, having shaved off his distinctive red goatee. Spiezio was a fan favorite during the team's World Series run in 2006, with fans mimicking the look with press-on beards.

Spiezio said he'd been struggling with substance abuse for six or seven months, although he wouldn't disclose the drug, saying ''I'll save that for the book.''

''It's a fresh start, a new beginning,'' Spiezio said.

Spiezio said he considered disclosing the nature of his dependency but decided against it after consultation. He said other physical ailments that have sidelined him at times this year had nothing to do with his problem.

''I think the best thing to do is keep that private and just talk about the positives that come out of it,'' he said.

Spiezio, who was hitting .272 with three homers and 27 RBIs in 184 at-bats, came forward to the team and admitted a potential substance-abuse problem.

''I realized with the help of some of my friends around me that sometimes you're in the middle of it and you can't see straight,'' Spiezio said. ''I had people coming to me, but when you're in that situation you don't really believe anything. You think they're overreacting until you step back and get that clear view, which is not easy to do.''

As much as any teammate, Spiezio was affected by the death of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, who was legally intoxicated when he crashed into the back of a flatbed truck in April and was killed. Spiezio was too distraught to play for a few days after the accident and said the situation might have pushed him deeper into dependency.

''I dealt with it probably in the wrong way,'' Spiezio said. ''I wasn't thinking correctly back then. It was bad times.''

Spiezio started at five positions last year for the Cardinals. The treatment, he said, was much more taxing.

''It was very long, intensive days, and I was way more mentally and physically drained after those sessions than I was playing baseball,'' he said. ''My wife would laugh because I'd be ready to go to bed at 9:30 or 10 o'clock.''

Spiezio had physical woes before being derailed by substance abuse, in particular an infected finger. From June 26 to Aug. 9, when he went on the restricted list and the Cardinals filled his roster spot by recalling Rick Ankiel, Spiezio had appeared in only 11 games.

Spiezio, who plays in the heavy metal band SandFrog, has cultivated a hard-rocking image through 12 major league seasons. He said lifestyle changes are in order, although he found time to briefly appear on stage with REO Speedwagon last weekend in St. Louis.

''I was backstage talking to them and they said, 'Come up and sing a song,''' Spiezio said. ''I was nervous, but it was fun.''

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