MLB News and Notes September 20

MLB News and Notes September 20

Notes from Wednesday's games
September 19, 2007

DETROIT: With their hopes of catching Cleveland in the AL Central virtually gone and their wild-card chances almost as slim, the Tigers returned home to open a three-game series Friday against Kansas City. Manager Jim Leyland has no special message for his team. ``I don't tell them anything,'' he said. ``We go home. Tomorrow is a day off, and we get ready to play.'' ... LHP Nate Robertson had no regrets about the solo homer he gave up to 3B Casey Blake in the third inning. ``I was coming in with a fastball,'' he said. ``He got going early, and turned on it. He hit a good pitch.'' Blake hit two homers in the series, the first in the 11th inning of Monday's opener on a hanging curveball from RHP Zach Miner. ``When we tried to throw him slow stuff, he hit that too,'' said Robertson, who has given up six career big league homers to Blake, his college teammate at Wichita State. ``Whatever he's doing, he's doing it right.'' ... Since joining the Tigers in 2004, Carlos Guillen is hitting .346 (73-for-211) in 54 games against the Indians. ... Placido Polanco, third in the AL with a .343 batting average, has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games. ... Ramon Santiago went 6-for-10 with four RBIs in the series against Cleveland.

CLEVELAND: C.C. Sabathia doesn't regret what he said. In early August, when the Indians were doing all they could to give away their division lead, Sabathia proclaimed he and his teammates would prevail. ``We're going to win the division,'' Sabathia said on Aug. 6 in Minnesota. ``There's no doubt in my mind.'' Others may have wondered, but Sabathia had confidence that the AL Central crown would be Cleveland's again. With a magic number down to three, it looks as if he'll be right. ``I knew we would (win the division), and I know we are,'' Sabathia said following Wednesday's win. ``I knew we were capable of this, and I had no regrets about saying that at all.'' ... RHP Edward Mujica's season is over after he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Wednesday. Mujica, who appeared in 10 games, tore cartilage in his knee last week during pre-game activities on the field. ... Cleveland's bullpen hasn't allowed a run in its last 15 1-3 innings over six games.


SEATTLE: Closer J.J. Putz's availability was a game-time decision. The RHP pitched the ninth in a non-save situation after being held out Tuesday with tightness in his triceps. ``He's a gamer but I don't want to put him in harm's way just because he thinks he needs to be out there,'' manager John McLaren said. ``He and the trainers have to tell us he's right.'' ... LHP Ryan Feierabend was announced as a starter along with LHP Jarrod Washburn for next Wednesday's doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians. Feierabend is scheduled to start this Thursday in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels. ... C Jamie Burke has been a reliable backup for the Mariners this year, and he drove in two runs Wednesday. ``He's a real professional,'' McLaren said. ``He's a guy who accepts his role and does a good job - that's the ultimate.''

OAKLAND:
The A's were swept by Seattle at home for the first time since April 10-12, 2001. Oakland dropped its last six to Seattle at home and went 1-8 against the Mariners overall in the Coliseum. The Mariners won the season series 14-5 after a 2-17 showing against the A's in 2006. ... OF Nick Swisher sat out the second game of his three-game suspension for an altercation Sunday with Rangers pitcher Vicente Padilla, who was tackled by Swisher after Swisher got hit by a pitch for the third straight game. Manager Bob Geren said Swisher would be back in the starting lineup when eligible Saturday at Cleveland. Swisher was on crutches Tuesday after fouling a ball off his right foot, but it had improved by Wednesday. ... Jack Hannahan went 11-for-27 (.407) during the homestand.


TAMPA BAY: The Devil Rays selected OF Justin Ruggiano from Triple-A Durham and designated INF Wes Bankston for assignment. ... They were swept in a series for the seventh time this season. ... Tampa Bay scratched original starter James Shields and replaced him with J.P. Howell. Shields has been shut down for the season after pitching a career-high 215 innings. ``I'm way more excited to start than come out of the 'pen, so it's definitely a positive to get more starts,'' Howell said.

LOS ANGELES: RHP Francisco Rodriguez earned saves in consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 5 against Oakland and Aug. 6 against Boston. ... The Angels are a season-high 28 games over .500. ... RHP Ervin Santana improved to 25-9 at Angel Stadium in his career. ... Manager Mike Scioscia said his goal is to get DH Vladimir Guerrero back into right field for the playoffs. ``His productivity has not been quite the same at DH as it would be if he was playing right field this year. It's the only way he can contribute right now,'' Scioscia said. Guerrero returned to the lineup Sept. 11 after missing four games with an inflamed right triceps. ... OF Gary Matthews Jr. missed his eighth game since spraining his right ankle Sept. 11. X-rays were negative, but there's no timetable for his return. ``Matthews is probably approaching day-to-day status,'' Scioscia said. ``I don't think it's going to happen here in the next day or two, but he's certainly moved far enough along this week where you see some light at the end of the tunnel.''


BALTIMORE: INF Scott Moore, who rolled his ankle during Sunday's game in Toronto, ran the bases during batting practice and pinch hit in the ninth, striking out. ... Baltimore had a 7.37 ERA in September before Wednesday's game against the Yankees. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it's the highest ERA for a calendar month with a minimum of 15 games since the Philadelphia A's had a 7.50 ERA in July 1939.

NEW YORK:
An MRI exam of 1B Jason Giambi's bruised right foot came back negative. He is day to day. ... Manager Joe Torre said the club may consider using rookie RHPs Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy out of the bullpen if they don't make the postseason rotation. ``First off, they'd have to be comfortable doing it,'' Torre said. ``It is something we'd have to look at. But obviously if you go with four starters there's one other starter that's going to have to work as a long man out of the bullpen.'' ... Torre said he hasn't talked to pitching coach Ron Guidry about the rotation next week. ``We're just trying to keep Andy (Pettitte) and (Chien-Ming) Wang pretty much as close to their day as possible,'' Torre said. The Yankees are employing a six-man rotation. ... Torre said he hadn't talked to Mets manager Willie Randolph, his former bench coach, lately. The Mets had lost five straight before Wednesday and were in danger of slipping out of first in the NL East, but Torre said he thought they would turn it around. He also expressed confidence in Randolph. ``He's a good communicator,'' Torre said. ``He knows his baseball and he's been on championship clubs. He's been a winner in New York. All these things, to me, it's a great foundation for what he does and he's had success.''


BOSTON:
LHP Hideki Okajima will not pitch for the next few days because of a tired arm. Okajima has not worked since allowing a career-high four runs, including two homers - in one-third of an inning in an 8-7 loss to the New York Yankees on Friday. ... INF Kevin Youkilis (sore right wrist) swung a bat Wednesday for the first time since he was hit by a pitch from New York's Chien-Ming Wang on Saturday, but was held out of the starting lineup for the fourth straight game. ... OF Coco Crisp (stiff back) missed his second straight game Wednesday. Bobby Kielty started in left and Jacoby Ellsbury took over in center.

TORONTO: SS John McDonald was held out of the starting lineup for the second straight game because of a sore groin, the result of hip flexor injury. Ray Olmedo started at shortstop. ... The Blue Jays decided against giving RHP Shaun Marcum two extra days of rest before his next start, Saturday at New York. Marcum (12-6) is winless in three starts and has worked past the fifth inning just once in his past six outings.


TEXAS: SS Michael Young was the DH on Wednesday for the Rangers, but not because of his three errors the night before. Manager Ron Washington said he planned to make that move all along to save Young from another game on the artificial turf. ... RHP Vicente Padilla's pending appeal of his seven-game suspension for throwing at Oakland's Nick Swisher last Sunday has put the rotation for next week temporarily up in the air. Washington is certain, at least, that he wants to start RHP Luis Mendoza once or twice before the season ends. ... On Washington's wish list for the offseason is a CF, 1B and RF, in that order. He's also clear he'd like Sammy Sosa back. Sosa signed a one-year deal and led the team with 90 RBIs entering Wednesday. ``He may not be the same guy hitting three bills, but he still knows how to pick up runs,'' Washington said.

MINNESOTA:
CF Torii Hunter and others could be playing their final home series at the Metrodome starting Friday, when the Twins begin a three-game set with the White Sox. Hunter will be a free agent after the season. Manager Ron Gardenhire said he's trying not to think about issues like that, though. ``If I let myself get into those things, I'll use all the handkerchiefs in my office,'' he said. ... Reliever Pat Neshek is being given a break to rest a tired arm. Neshek said he believes his second-half struggles have stemmed from shoulder and elbow soreness. Gardenhire said he thinks Neshek's problems were more due to an over-reliance on his slider. ... Twins batters went without a strikeout on Tuesday for the second time this season and just the 15th overall in the majors this season.


CHICAGO: White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is excited about rookie 2B Danny Richar. Batting .202 recently, Richar raised it to .242 with a seven-game hitting streak. ``I liked him even when he struggled,'' Guillen said. ``He always gives you good at_bats, good enthusiasm, a little speed, pretty good defense. I think this kid has a good recipe about being a good hitter. He has taken a little time to adapt to the big league pitchers. Now, I think he is starting to feel a little bit comfortable and make a couple of adjustments in his swing. Right now things are working for him.'' Richar was acquired in a June 16 trade with the Diamondbacks and was promoted to the majors on July 28. ... The White Sox are 10-5 on Thursdays, their best record for any day. ... Rookie LHP John Danks, who is 6-13 with a 5.50 ERA, has not pitched since Sept. 11.

KANSAS CITY: DH Mike Sweeney was not in the Royals' lineup for the fifth straight game with tightness in his right groin. Manager Buddy Bell said Sweeney might return Thursday. Sweeney, who is in the final season of a five-year $55 million contract, had knee surgery in July and has limited to 67 games this year, hitting .264 with seven home runs and 36 RBIs. Injuries restricted Sweeney to 60 games last year. ... C John Buck, who is hitless in his past 11 at_bats to drop his average to .226, was not in the lineup Wednesday. ... 3B Alex Gordon was back in the lineup after missing Tuesday's game because of a bruised right knee.


NEW YORK: After straining his left quadriceps muscle Tuesday, LF Moises Alou started Wednesday - but he said he would not have played if the Mets were not in a close playoff race. ``I just hope I don't have to leg out an infield hit,'' Alou said. He lined a single to center in the second inning Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to 23 games, the longest in the NL this season and the longest of his career. ... OF Shawn Green said he has not decided whether he will play in games Friday and Saturday during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. ... 1B Carlos Delgado (straight right hip flexor) took batting practice Wednesday and will hit in a simulated game session Thursday.

WASHINGTON:
SS Cristian Guzman took batting practice for the second day in a row on Wednesday. Manager Manny Acta said Guzman will play in a simulated game Thursday, facing LHP Ross Detwiler, the Nationals' first-round draft pick this year. Guzman has been on the DL since June with a thumb injury. ... 1B Dmitri Young missed a fourth consecutive start Wednesday after taking a one-hopper off his neck while in the field last weekend. ``His neck is very stiff and not back to normal,'' Acta said. ... Acta on taking the first two games of the series against the Mets: ``I can't say enough about our guys. And we are playing for something. This team has finished last the last three years. I don't want to finish last this year.''


FLORIDA: The Marlins have seven games left against the Mets, including three in a home series that begins Thursday night, and three against the Cubs - teams that are in close division races. Manager Fredi Gonzalez says he'll keep his regulars in the lineup, rather than giving more time to prospects who joined the roster this month. ``I'm going to keep it as competitive as it can be,'' Gonzalez said. ``That's the way you've got to play the game. I think it's going to be fun, these next 10 games. You've got to play it like you're in it.''

ATLANTA:
RHP Jeff Bennett's contract was purchased from Triple-A Richmond. He will start Thursday against the Brewers in his first major league game since 2004, when he pitched for Milwaukee. Bennett was 3-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 36 games, including six starts, for Richmond. The Braves also recalled OF Brandon Jones and RHP Joey Devine from Richmond. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Bennett, RHP Kevin Barry was designated for assignment. Barry gave up six hits and five runs in his only two innings with Atlanta this season.


CINCINNATI: SS Alex Gonzalez (bone bruise left knee) was out of the starting lineup for the seventh consecutive game but interim manager Pete Mackanin believes Gonzalez is almost ready to play. ``He's close to 100 percent,'' Mackanin said. ``He very well might be today. He's definitely usable but I don't want to push him.'' ... 1B Scott Hatteberg missed his 14th straight game because of a sore right oblique muscle but might be available during the four-game series starting Thursday in San Francisco. ... With upcoming series against the Giants and the Astros, some of the younger reserve players will get a chance to play. Mackanin said OF Ken Griffey Jr. and OF Adam Dunn might sit Thursday. ... 2B Brandon Phillips could be getting a day off in the near future. However, Phillips might have to wait because he's only one home run away from being the second second baseman in major league history to have 30 homers and 30 stolen bases. Alfonso Soriano is the other. ``I'd like to give him (a chance) to get that 30th home run, just so he quits trying to hit it,'' Mackanin said. ``He's been good getting base hits but I know it's on his mind.''

CHICAGO:
Manager Lou Piniella said the second guessing doesn't bother him after some questioned his decision to start Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly on three days rest this week. The reasoning: it will allow both of his top two pitchers to have two more starts over the final nine games. ``Everybody's got opinions. They're entitled to them. Unfortunately there is only one manager per team and he's got to make those decisions and live by them. My job is to try to give this club the best opportunity to win,'' Piniella said. ... If there is a 163rd game or a playoff with Milwaukee, Jason Marquis would start for the Cubs, according to the rotation mapped out for the remainder of the season. Marquis will start this Friday against the Pirates in the final homestand of the season followed by Rich Hill and Zambrano. Then the Cubs go on the road for six games at Florida and Cincinnati to finish the season. They have an off day next Monday. Lilly and Marquis will pitch the first two games against the Marlins but the Cubs haven't decided who will pitch the third game. It could be Steve Trachsel or Sean Marshall. Hill is slated to start against the Reds on Friday with Zambrano and Lilly scheduled for the final two games of the regular season.


MILWAUKEE: RHP Ben Sheets flew back to Milwaukee on Wednesday night to have his left hamstring evaluated. Sheets left Tuesday's game after one inning because of tightness in the hamstring and he was still in pain after the game. ``We'll just try to get a handle on what it is and go from there,'' said manager Ned Yost. Sheets (12-5, 3.82 ERA) is scheduled to start again on Sunday in Atlanta. RHP Claudio Vargas pitched four scoreless innings in relief of Sheets on Tuesday and Yost said he'd consider starting Vargas or Chris Capuano (5-12, 5.21 ERA) on Sunday if Sheets can't go. ... Craig Counsell started in place of regular SS J.J. Hardy on Wednesday. Hardy strained his groin running the bases in Tuesday's game, but Yost said it wasn't serious. ``He could've played today,'' Yost said. ``It was a good day to get Counsell in there and have J.J. ready for the next four.''

HOUSTON: 2B Craig Biggio, approaching the last games of his 19-year career, will play in St. Louis on Thursday and Sunday, manager Cecil Cooper said. The Cardinals planned to honor Biggio in a ceremony before Saturday's game. Chris Burke will play second between Biggio's starts. ... SS Adam Everett says he's ready to play and Cooper said he'll let him during the Astros' final road trip, next week in Cincinnati. Everett broke his right leg in an outfield collision with LF Carlos Lee on June 14. He came off the disabled list on Sept. 17. ``He's feeling much better, he's starting to turn the corner,'' Cooper said. ``It's going to be important, not just for us, but for Adam. Mentally, you have to know how things are before you go into the winter.'' ... The Astros will give RHP Woody Williams the $250,000 bonus he would've earned for pitching 200 innings this season. Williams (8-15, 5.04 ERA), relegated to the bullpen the rest of the season, had 187 2-3 innings heading into Wednesday's game.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 20

PHILADELPHIA: LHP Cole Hamels came out of Tuesday's three-inning start, his first since Aug. 16, with no physical issues stemming from the elbow strain that landed him on the DL. He's on track to start again on Sunday at Washington with a 70-pitch limit. He had been on a 60-pitch limit on Tuesday, ending with 54. ``He looked rusty,'' manager Charlie Manuel said. ``He was definitely rusty, and that's to be expected.'' ... The Phillies open a four-game series at Washington on Thursday, mindful that they dropped two of three there to end last season, falling out of contention for the NL wild card. ``We know they can step up and get us,'' Manuel said. ... Manuel was confident entering the final 11 games, with the Phillies 1 1/2 games back in the NL Central and the NL wild card. ``Do I like our chances? Damn right. Things have to fall for us, but we can do it.''

ST. LOUIS: Manager Tony La Russa had Brendan Ryan playing SS in his initial lineup a day after he yanked him from the lineup in the first inning for swinging at a 3-0 pitch, but Ryan ended up on the bench after David Eckstein (back) was cleared to play after being limited to one pinch-hit at-bat the previous six games. ``He just made a mistake, and you turn the page the next day,'' La Russa said. ``It was 3-0, and a take sign. I wouldn't magnify what happened.'' Ryan said it wasn't an extreme reaction. ``He was probably making a point,'' Ryan said. ``It was an opportunity to learn from a mistake. The way things were going, it was probably a good time to do something like that.'' ... Albert Pujols, a late scratch with a strained left calf muscle on Tuesday, may be out of the lineup for a while. ``He's kind of doubtful for the weekend, I was told,'' La Russa said. ``He can't run.''


LOS ANGELES: SS Rafael Furcal sat out a second straight game because of soreness in his lower back. ``The back is still too sore,'' manager Grady Little said. ``We'll see how it reacts to ice treatment before making a decision about tomorrow.'' ... LHP David Wells remains Little's choice to start Saturday's game at division-leading Arizona. ... RHP Esteban Loaiza will be on a short leash in his start Friday against the Diamondbacks. Loaiza has walked 12 in 15 innings over his last three starts. ``Everyone is on a short leash at this time of the year,'' Little said. ... When asked which three third basemen would be in the running to be the regular starter in 2008, Little said: ``Where did you get three? I'm thinking 12.''

COLORADO: Manager Clint Hurdle said 1B Todd Helton's game-winning homer Tuesday night in the ninth off RHP Takashi Saito ranks high on his list of memorable moments. ``I know it's at the top,'' he said. ... 2B Kaz Matsui is close to returning and may be available for duty as soon as Wednesday night. Matsui has been out because of a strained right hamstring. He took batting practice and fielded grounders Wednesday. ``He'll be knocking on the door to start probably soon,'' Hurdle said. ... RHP Elmer Dessens pitched to batters Wednesday for the first time in 18 days. He's been out because of a left hamstring injury. ``I feel good,'' Dessens said. ... The Rockies haven't named a starter yet for the game Saturday night at San Diego. ``We'll have it soon,'' Hurdle said.


SAN FRANCISCO: LF Barry Bonds missed his fourth straight game because of a sprained right big toe on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy said Bonds will likely play ``a game or two'' in a four-game home series against Cincinnati that opens Thursday. ... LHP Jonathan Sanchez will miss the rest of the season because of a left oblique injury. Sanchez reported the injury on Tuesday night after he retired only one of the eight men he faced in a 5-0 loss to Arizona. ... Bochy has tried to use his normal lineup against contending clubs, but he said he would play more youngsters in the Cincinnati series - including OF Dan Ortmeier, OF Nate Schierholtz, 2B Kevin Frandsen and CF Rajai Davis. ... When RHP Dan Giese gave up a home run to Arizona's Mark Reynolds on Tuesday night, it was the third homer Giese had allowed in a span of seven hitters over three appearances.

ARIZONA: RHP Micah Owings is being dropped from Arizona's rotation despite throwing a two-hit shutout on Tuesday night. Owings, who had struggled before his career-best start against the Giants, will be replaced by RHP Edgar Gonzalez on Sunday against Los Angeles. Owings could make one more start because the Diamondbacks finish the season with six straight games. ... Manager Bob Melvin said he hasn't set up his postseason rotation. ``We've got to get there first,'' Melvin said. Ace Brandon Webb would be able to pitch the first game of the divisional series without juggling. Webb starts against Los Angeles on Saturday, then would face Pittsburgh on Sept. 27. ... SS Stephen Drew was back in the lineup on Wednesday night after taking a day off to rest a sore back.


PITTSBURGH: RHP Salomon Torres was en route from Pittsburgh to San Diego on Wednesday night after he was with his wife when she gave birth to a son, Jordan, on Tuesday. ... On another maternity front, SS Jack Wilson will stay in California on Thursday when the Pirates leave at the conclusion of the four-game series. Wilson is staying to be with his wife, who is scheduled to have induced labor on Friday. Wilson is scheduled to fly to Chicago in time for the Pirates' game Sunday against the Cubs. ... Wilson was not in the starting lineup after leaving Tuesday night's loss at San Diego because of a tight right hamstring.

SAN DIEGO: LF Milton Bradley (oblique injury) took early batting practice from manager Bud Black and came out of it feeling good. The switch-hitting Bradley, out of the lineup since Sept. 7, is feeling better swinging right-handed. Black said Bradley's return is ``imminent.'' Black hinted that Bradley might start Friday against Colorado LHP Franklin Morales. The Rockies are also scheduled to throw left-hander Jeff Francis on Sunday. ... Rookie 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff has batted in the Nos. 6-8 spots in the lineup in 106 of his 116 starts. In two of the last three games Kouzmanoff batted third with some success. Kouzmanoff, who had never batted third before, went a combined 6-for-8 with one RBI in the No. 3 spot on Sunday against San Francisco and on Tuesday against Pittsburgh.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 20

Yanks slugger Jason Giambi day-to-day
September 19, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -Yankees slugger Jason Giambi was out of the starting lineup Wednesday night and an MRI exam of his bruised right foot came back negative.

Giambi was hit by a pitch from Baltimore's Daniel Cabrera in the second inning of New York's 8-5 win Monday night. The designated hitter stayed in but was lifted for a pinch runner in the eighth after his third walk of the game.

Manager Joe Torre said he was going to start Giambi at first base Tuesday but the foot was still bothering him.

The 2000 AL MVP with Oakland, Giambi missed more than two months this season because of torn tissue in his left foot. He began the day batting .243 with 14 homers and 35 RBIs in 74 games.

``I know it's sore,'' Torre said before the Yankees faced the Orioles on Wednesday night. ``He got hit pretty good. He got hit pretty square. He was feeling good since he came back but unfortunately this is curbing him right now.''

Doug Mientkiewicz started at first base and Shelley Duncan was the designated hitter for the finale of the three-game series against Baltimore.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 20

Okajima sidelined by tired arm
September 19, 2007

TORONTO (AP) -Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima won't pitch for several days because of a tired arm.
   
Okajima has not appeared in a game since Friday, when he allowed a career-high four runs, including two homers - in one-third of an inning in an 8-7 loss to the New York Yankees.

Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona was evasive Wednesday about the exact nature of Okajima's health, but said the left-hander was given time off to ``refresh'' his arm.

``I don't want to go into everything,'' Francona said before Boston played Toronto. ``We monitor everything on these guys. We have baselines from the beginning of spring training until now. There's things that we just want to keep going in the right direction. Sometimes the best way to do that is to have a guy not pitch.''

Okajima, in his first season in the major leagues, allowed nine runs in his past seven outings, raising his ERA from 1.17 to 2.28. He is 3-2 with four saves in 64 games.

Okajima took three days off after Friday's meltdown, then began a throwing program Tuesday designed to strengthen his arm.

``You probably won't see him for a few more days,'' Francona said. ``It's not an easy thing to do, but it's the right thing to do.''

Boston also was without outfielders Manny Ramirez (strained left oblique) and Coco Crisp (sore back), and infielder Kevin Youkilis (sore right wrist) for Wednesday's series finale.

Ramirez, who has not played since Aug. 28, resumed hitting last Sept. 12 but is still sore.

``When he ran, it started grabbing at him a little bit. We're stuck there,'' Francona said. ``His work ethic has been very, very good,'' Francona said. ``I understand, over the course of years, there's been some hiccups. This isn't one of them. We miss his bat. He's a Hall of Fame bat that's not out there. (Rookie Jacoby) Ellsbury has done a great job of lessening the blow, but it is Manny Ramirez. He's trying his best to be out there. He's just not ready.''

Youkilis, hit by a pitch from New York's Chien-Ming Wang on Saturday, took some swings Wednesday but remains sore. Crisp could return for Friday's game at Tampa Bay.

Without Okajima to set up closer Jonathan Papelbon, Boston will continue to turn to Eric Gagne, has allowed 14 runs and 23 hits in 14 innings since the Red Sox acquired him from Texas on July 31. He wasted an eighth-inning lead in Tuesday's 4-3 loss.

``It's pretty simple,'' Gagne said. ``I'm beating myself up right now. Yesterday. I walked guys and you can't do that. This game is pretty simple. I'm making it a lot harder than it is right now.''

Francona isn't worried about Gagne's confidence.

``He's tough enough to handle what's been thrown at him or we wouldn't do it,'' Francona said. ``I think we need him and I think he'll do it.''

Gagne isn't questioning himself either, and said his Boston teammates have remained supportive.

``You go out there and stay positive and think positive,'' Gagne said. ``I've been lucky that I've never had a stretch like that. It makes it a lot easier when you have guys coming up, patting you on the back and saying, `Keep it up.' Everybody goes through that. The timing is not very good.''

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 20

Baseball Today - September 20
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Thursday, Sept. 20

Seattle at L.A. Angels (10:05 p.m. EDT).  The Angels magic number to clinch the AL West title is three.

STARS Wednesday

- Scott Hairston, Padres, hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning and San Diego rallied past Pittsburgh 5-3 to increase its NL wild-card lead.

- Ervin Santana, Angels, struck out 10 and Los Angeles beat Tampa Bay 2-1.

- Jim Thome and Jose Contreras, White Sox. Thome homered twice and Contreras threw a five-hitter, leading the White Sox past Kansas City 7-0.

- Edgar Renteria, Braves, had three hits, including a homer and Atlanta beat Florida 5-1.

- David Wright, Mets, drove in three runs, helping New York beat Washington 8-4.

- Alfonso Soriano, Cubs, homered and threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the eighth to lift Chicago past Cincinnati 3-2.

- Brad Hawpe, Rockies, hit a two-run homer in the eighth as Colorado rallied for the second straight night in a 6-5 win over Los Angeles.

COLLAPSE

The Boston Red Sox saw their AL East lead cut to 1 1/2 games - their smallest edge since late April - when the Toronto Blue Jays broke through against Clay Buchholz and Jonathan Papelbon for a 6-1 victory Wednesday night. The Red Sox have lost four in a row and five of six, allowing the New York Yankees to close in. The Yankees beat Baltimore 2-1.

STOPPED

New York beat Washington 8-4 on Wednesday to stop a five-game losing streak. ... Philadelphia's six-game win streak ended with a 2-1, 10-inning loss to St. Louis. ... Milwaukee lost 5-4 in 10 to Houston, ending the Brewers' four-game winning streak and dropping them out of first place in the NL Central.

SWEEP

Cleveland finished off a three-game sweep of Detroit with a 4-2 win on Wednesday that reduced the Indians' magic number for clinching the AL Central to three. The Indians improved to 20-5 since Aug. 25 and moved into a temporary tie with the Boston Red Sox for the majors' best record.

STREAKING

Seattle's Felix Hernandez won his third straight decision in the Mariners' 9-5 win over the Athletics on Wednesday. Seattle won its sixth straight in Oakland to finish 8-1 this season, and completed a sweep in the Bay Area for the first time since 2001. They won the season series 14-5 after a 2-17 showing against the A's in 2006. ... Chicago's Jose Contreras won his fourth straight decision, 7-0 over Kansas City.

FINALLY

Minnesota's Matt Garza won at home for the first time in his career, 4-2 over Texas on Wednesday. Garza's record at the Metrodome is 1-10 with a 5.91 ERA in 12 career starts.

SIDELINED

Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder, who struggled in three September starts coming back from rotator cuff surgery, will undergo another operation that will end his already abbreviated season. Results of an MRI exam on Tuesday revealed only partial healing of the rotator cuff, while the labrum was completely healed, the team said in a release late Wednesday night. ... Ken Griffey Jr. had a lower abdominal strain in a 3-2 loss at Chicago.

SPEAKING

''We were joking about it before the game: Maybe we should wear our road uniforms.'' - Minnesota's Matt Garza after winning his first career game at home, 4-2 over Texas on Wednesday. Garza's record at the Metrodome is 1-10 with a 5.91 ERA in 12 career starts.

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Sheets heads back to Milwaukee for MRI exam on left hamstring
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HOUSTON -- Brewers ace Ben Sheets traveled back to Milwaukee on Wednesday for an MRI exam on his injured left hamstring.

Sheets left Tuesday night's game in Houston after one inning because of tightness in the hamstring. He was still in pain after the game.

''We'll just try to get a handle on what it is and go from there,'' manager Ned Yost said Wednesday.

The Brewers began the day in a virtual tie with Chicago for the NL Central lead.

Sheets started on three days' rest on Tuesday, but Yost dismissed that as a reason the right-hander might have hurt himself.

''He felt as good as he's felt all year in the first inning,'' Yost said.

The hamstring is the latest in an injury-plagued season for Sheets. He strained his groin in April and missed more than a month with a sprained finger on his throwing hand, coming off the disabled list on Aug. 29.

Sheets (12-5, 3.82 ERA) is scheduled to start again on Sunday in Atlanta. Yost said he'd consider starting Claudio Vargas (11-4, 4.89 ERA) or Chris Capuano (5-12, 5.21 ERA) if Sheets can't pitch.

Vargas relieved Sheets on Tuesday night and pitched four scoreless innings in Milwaukee's 9-1 win.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 20

Mulder needs additional surgery
September 19th, 2007

St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) - St. Louis pitcher Mark Mulder requires additional surgery on his left shoulder, the team revealed on Wednesday.

Mulder had successful arthroscopic surgery that repaired a left shoulder injury earlier this season, but was 0-3 with a 12.27 ERA in three starts in September and lasted three innings last Sunday against the Cubs, allowing four runs and seven hits.

An MRI taken Wednesday revealed total healing of his labrum, but just partial healing of the rotator cuff. After consulting with Dr. David Altchek of the New York Mets who originally treated the injury, both he and Cardinals team physician Dr. George Paletta reached a consensus that further surgery was necessary.

The procedure is slated to take place September 24, and will be performed by Dr. Paletta.

The 30-year-old lefty also had a tough season in 2006 as he battled through shoulder problems all year. On the season he had a 6-7 mark with a 7.14 earned run average in only 17 starts.

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Re: MLB News and Notes September 20

Vernon Wells to have season-ending surgery
September 20, 2007

TORONTO (AP) -Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells will have season-ending surgery Tuesday for a cyst and torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Dr. James Andrews will operate in Birmingham, Ala. Toronto expects Wells to be ready for the start of spring training. Wells originally was to have the operation after the season, but the surgery was moved up to accommodate Andrews' schedule, the Blue Jays said Thursday.

Wells hit .245 with 16 homers and 80 RBIs this year after signing a $126 million, seven-year contract extension through 2014.

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