NEW YORK: Mike Mussina is scheduled to start the series finale Monday at Detroit, and manager Joe Torre insisted it's not a make-or-break outing for the righty. Mussina (8-9) lost his last two starts, combining to give up 13 earned runs. ``If it doesn't get better, than we have to see if there is something we can do,'' Torre said. ``But I'm certainly not preparing for it.'' ... 3B Alex Rodriguez looked like a kid getting a present when he saw an authentic Detroit Pistons jersey - with Rodriguez and No. 3 on the back - and shorts hanging in his locker. The gear was a gift from Pistons front-office executives Joe Dumars and George David. ``Alex said it's tough to make other major league players jealous of anything because they have everything, but he said the guys were jealous,'' David said.
orth $7.28 million. ``I'm going to (Single-A) Oneonta, New York, on Sunday and I'm going to start a stretching and throwing program and hopefully get in shape for the fall,'' he said. ... Leyland tried to downplay the Yankees matchup, but acknowledged each series is important. ``It's crunch time,'' he said. ``You've got to start winning ballgames. It's that simple. There's a lot of teams in the same boat, the Yankees included. We're one of them. They're one of them. Cleveland. Boston. Seattle. Minnesota. A lot of teams.''
MINNESOTA: RHP Scott Baker left the team Friday and will miss his scheduled start Sunday to be with his wife, who is expected to deliver their second child this weekend. No replacement has been announced for Baker, who is 6-6 with a 4.50 ERA over 17 starts this season. ... Entering the weekend, the Twins' 131 runs scored since the All-Star break were the fewest in the majors. With Minnesota 6 1/2 games out of first and trailing Seattle by nine games for the wild-card spot, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire knows his offense must improve. ``All that matters is scoring runs and winning ballgames, right now,'' he said before Friday night's game at Baltimore.
BALTIMORE: RHP Radhames Liz will make his major league debut Saturday, starting against the Minnesota Twins. It will be the first time in his three-year professional career that Liz will pitch above the Double-A level. ... RHP Jaret Wright (shoulder) hopes to come off the disabled list when rosters expand on Sept. 1. ``I still want to play. It's been two years of my career when I sat on the couch and watched the boys battle on TV,'' he said Friday. ``It drives you crazy.'' ... Top draft pick Matt Wieters joined short-season Aberdeen in Massachusetts on Friday and will work out with the team before being activated next week.
Athletics-Devil Rays
OAKLAND: RHP Rich Harden (shoulder) made throws of up to 200 feet, and manager Bob Geren said Harden could throw off the mound either Sunday or Monday. ... LF Shannon Stewart received a routine day off Friday. Geren said he wants to give Stewart at least two games off during the series at Tampa Bay, with the second coming Sunday. ... SS Marco Scutaro was back in the lineup after being scratched Saturday with what Geren called ``a non-baseball condition.''
TAMPA BAY: The Devil Rays have shut down CF Rocco Baldelli's rehabilitation after he sat out Wednesday for Class-A Vero Beach. Manager Joe Maddon said Baldelli has experienced all-around soreness since his rehab started. ... OF Carl Crawford came into Friday night's game hitting .404 in August, fourth best in the majors. ... With their loss on Thursday night, the Devil Rays fell to 31 games below .500, matching the furthest they've been below .500 this season.
CLEVELAND: The Indians reportedly have interest in bringing back RHP Bob Wickman, who was designated for assignment on Friday by the Braves. Wickman was 1-4 with 15 saves and a 4.18 ERA in 29 relief appearances in 2006 with the Indians before he was traded on July 20 to the Braves for minor league catcher Max Ramirez. ... Manager Eric Wedge put LF Kenny Lofton back in the leadoff spot and continues to tinker with the batting order. ``It's tough for me to be 100 percent sold on anything until we start stringing some days together, which we've yet to do,'' Wedge said before the game Friday. ``Once we do that, maybe we'll see some more structure. We're going to be open minded about how we put it altogether. Until we see some consistency, it is tough to settle in.'' The Indians are hitting .252 the second half after a .272 average in the first half.
ader at Minnesota. ... RHP Billy Buckner, who had his contract purchased Friday from Triple-A Omaha, is 10-10 with a 3.92 ERA in 31 games, including 18 starts, with Omaha and Double-A Wichita this year. He had a 1.21 ERA in four August games. Buckner will be used in middle and long relief. ... RF Mark Teahen, who leads the club with 52 RBIs, was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive with Aug. 19, with a hyper extended left elbow and forearm strain. Bell said Teahen is not expected to be out longer than 15 days.
Red Sox-White Sox
hat reduces the opportunity for long balls.
CHICAGO: White Sox owner Jerry Reindorf said in a radio interview that struggling RHP Jose Contreras is not giving the White Sox the return they expected on their investment. Contreras has a major-league high 16 losses this season. He also has two years left on a three-year, $29 million contract extension he signed in the spring of 2006. He was the star of the White Sox's march to the World Series two years ago when he went 11-2 in the second half and 3-1 in the postseason. But after going 9-0 before the All-Star break last season, he's struggled mightily. ``He certainly isn't living up to his money. I've said how many times over the years, when you go more than one year with a pitcher, you are sticking your neck out. If you go more than three years, it's probably suicide,'' Reinsdorf said on WSCR radio. ``We decided to take a chance. It didn't work.'' ... For the first time since 2003, the White Sox have three pitchers with double figure losses - Jon Garland, John Danks and Contreras.
Blue Jays-Angels:
offseason acquisitions of veterans Tomo Ohka, John Thomson and Victor Zambrano, and a shoulder injury that sidelined setup man Brandon League for the first 3 1/2 months of the season. ``There was talk at one point that if one of those guys we picked up faltered, we'd put Casey back in the rotation. But he pitched so well out of the pen, it solidified us down there,'' manager John Gibbons said. Janssen is 2-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 56 appearances.
ertainly a possibility.''
SEATTLE: Manager John McLaren said he would give DH Jose Vidro a day off this weekend. Ben Broussard could take Vidro's place, or LF Raul Ibanez could move to DH with Adam Jones playing in the outfield. ... McLaren credited hitting coach Jeff Pentland for the team's major league-leading batting average during August. ``The hitters have respect for him. He's there for them. He knows the buttons to push, and he knows when to tweak it and when not to.'' ... SS Yuniesky Betancourt has been one of Seattle's hottest hitters, but McLaren said he had no plan to move Betancourt up from ninth in the batting order. ``The lineup's been working the way we've had it.''
SAN DIEGO: RHP Chris Young has a chance to make his start on Aug. 31, although he won't pitch Sunday because of stiffness in his lower back. ``He's feeling much better, but the problem is the intensity (of the pain) increases when he pitches,'' manager Bud Black said. ... OF Scott Hairston (strained oblique) probably won't be ready by the time he's eligible to come off the disabled list next week. ``It leaves us a little bit light right-handed off the bench,'' Black said. ... C Michael Barrett has had four straight days of not feeling any ill effects from a concussion he sustained Aug. 10. Team doctors are looking for seven days without negative symptoms before sending Barrett out for a rehab assignment.
PHILADELPHIA: LHP Mike Zagurski will have season-ending surgery on his right hamstring on Monday. Zagurski was injured last Saturday at Pittsburgh. ... RHP Freddy Garcia, out since June with a strained shoulder, pitched three shutout innings for Class-A Clearwater on Thursday night. Garcia is 1-5 with a 5.90 ERA in 11 starts in his first season with the Phillies. ... 2B Tadahito Iguchi likely is heading to the bench instead of moving to third base when All-Star Chase Utley returns from the disabled list. Iguchi has never played third in his career.
FLORIDA: Marlins decision-makers are discussing which players will join the team when active rosters can be expanded on Sept. 1. One factor will be whether Triple-A Albuquerque makes the Pacific Coast League playoffs, manager Fredi Gonzalez said. Through Thursday, the Isotopes led their division by a game. ``We'd like to see some of those guys, but you don't want to take away three or four of their guys if they're going to make the playoffs,'' Gonzalez said. ... Friday's game was Gonzalez's first as a manager at cozy Great American Ball Park, but the former Atlanta third base coach knows the park's homer-happy reputation. ``I've been here enough to get that feeling in my stomach,'' he joked. ... Entering Friday's start, LHP Dontrelle Willis had a better record on the road (5-4) than at home (3-8).
riday night off.
PITTSBURGH: The Pirates have scored more runs in August (151) than any team in the majors and are second in home runs (35) and slugging percentage (.516) in that span. ``I'm proud of them,'' manager Jim Tracy said. ``We've made great strides since February of last year. I know the path we're on is the right one. I'm sorry that it can't be a lot faster than it is.'' Pirates starting pitchers have worked six or more innings in 16 of the first 22 games this month and the team is 11-5 when they do. The 13 wins Pittsburgh has this month are tied with Arizona for the most in the National League.
HOUSTON: RHP Roy Oswalt, who missed his start Thursday (left oblique muscle strain), threw a bullpen session Friday and reported no pain. He is scheduled to throw another Sunday and if all goes well, he will start on Wednesday. ... LHP Troy Patton has been called up from Triple-A Round Rock to make a spot start Saturday. He was en route from Omaha after Thursday's game and did not arrive at Minute Maid Park on Friday. The 21-year-old was 4-2 at Round Rock with a 4.59 ERA. ``I like his ability to compete,'' manager Phil Garner said.
ATLANTA: Mark Teixeira led the majors with 10 homers and 28 RBIs in August, after being acquired from Texas at the trade deadline. He's had at least one RBI in 15 of 21 games. ... Jeff Francoeur led the majors with 18 outfield assists and had a major league-high 44 assists since making his debut on July 7, 2005. Andruw Jones holds the franchise single-season record with 20 in 1998. ... Chipper Jones' .363 average on the road was the best in the NL.
ST. LOUIS: INF Aaron Miles returned after missing two games while attending to the birth of a son in California. Manager Tony La Russa said Miles, who returned ``with a big smile on his face,'' would start on Saturday. ``I had a flight canceled so I got there late and missed the baby being born, but I was there to check him out and get a little bonding time,'' Miles said. ... La Russa blamed RF Rick Ankiel's dropped fly ball on Thursday on CF Jim Edmonds getting too close and distracting him. ``Jimmy ran over trying to take charge and at the last minute he couldn't get there,'' La Russa said. ... Albert Pujols, nursing a right hamstring injury, was taken out after six innings and the Cardinals trailing 8-1 on Thursday but was back in the No. 3 spot on Friday. La Russa said Pujols would have finished the game if the score had been closer.
Nationals Rockies
rting lineup. ``Felipe is a little beaten up,'' manager Manny Acta said. ``He needs a day off.'' ... When asked about September callups, Acta wouldn't offer numbers or names. ``It will be a few because I don't want to fill up the dugout,'' Acta said. ``We'll want to look at a few players.'' ... RHP Jason Simontacchi (right elbow tendinitis) will see Dr. James Andrews after experiencing some soreness in his right elbow.
COLORADO: Manager Clint Hurdle was troubled by the team's lack of clutch hitting during the Pittsburgh series, 5-for-37 with runners in scoring position. ``We have to be more consistent in that area,'' Hurdle said. ... OF Jeff Baker will DH two of the next three days at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Baker was hit in the face by the Chicago Cubs' RHP Jason Marquis on Aug. 10. ... RHP Aaron Cook (strained left oblique) will throw a bullpen session on Sunday. ... OF Willy Taveras (strained right quad) ran in the outfield before Friday's game.
Wood has not pitched in back-to-back games since he rejoined the team Aug. 5. The Cubs are trying to be careful with the oft-injured Wood, who allowed opponents to score in only one of his first seven relief outings.
ARIZONA - 3B Chad Tracy's right knee injury is not improving, and there's a chance he won't play again the rest of the season. Tracy, who went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 15, was to see Dr. Lewis Yocum on Friday, manager Bob Melvin said. With Tracy's immediate future uncertain, the Diamondbacks are glad they claimed IF Jeff Cirillo off waivers from Minnesota on Aug. 3. ... An off day Thursday allowed Melvin to give RHP Livan Hernandez and RHP Brandon Webb an extra day before their next starts. The move allows Hernandez to pitch the opener of a four-game series at second-place San Diego on Monday night. Hernandez is 10-3 with a 3.87 ERA in 20 starts against the Padres.
LOS ANGELES: CF Juan Pierre extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a bunt single in the first inning. ... RHP Brad Penny, who was trying for his 15th win of the season, entered 5-10 with a 5.72 ERA against the Mets in his career. He was 1-8 with a 6.75 ERA in 10 starts at Shea Stadium. ... Struggling RHP Brett Tomko was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for LHP David Wells.
NEW YORK: 2B Luis Castillo didn't start after tweaking his tender right knee Thursday night against San Diego. Mets manager Willie Randolph said he didn't think it was serious, and expected Castillo to be able to play Saturday. ... Slumping 1B Carlos Delgado was dropped to sixth in the batting order for the third time this season. ... RF Lastings Milledge struck out for the seventh straight time in the second inning before drawing a walk in the fourth and grounding out in the sixth. ... Backup OF Endy Chavez (hamstring) rejoined the team from his minor league rehab assignment and will probably be activated from the disabled list in the next day or two, general manager Omar Minaya said. ... C Paul Lo Duca (hamstring) began his rehab assignment with Class-A Brooklyn, catching five innings in the opener of a doubleheader and going 0-for-2 with a walk. Lo Duca was slated to be the DH in the second game.

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