WAVED THROUGH

The Yankees were able to undo the mistake of trading for
emotionally fragile reliever Armando Benitez and at the same time
end their three-year search to replace reliever Jeff Nelson by
reacquiring Nelson from the Mariners last week. The
Benitez-for-Nelson swap could not have been possible, however,
without the help of the Red Sox, who allowed the relievers to
pass through waivers.

Why didn't Boston block the deal? The waiver wire is packed each
day with up to 210 players (a maximum of seven per team). A
general manager must be judicious with putting in claims, lest he
be stuck with players and contracts he doesn't want, as happened
to San Diego in 1998 when it inherited washed-up closer Randy
Myers.

The Red Sox didn't claim Nelson in part because they did not view
him as an impact player. Boston was more concerned with not
letting a rightfielder get to New York. The Red Sox saw the trade
as a wash, though the Yankees did cartwheels down their hallways.
Boston isn't the only team cautious about blocking. "More players
are getting through now than in recent years," one AL executive
says. "There are maybe two or three players per day you might
claim. Not a single guy I put on waivers was claimed."

4 FOR 4

The Rangers are in the midst of another dismal season, but at
least they have a young, talented infield under contract through
2007: first baseman Mark Teixeira, 23; second baseman Michael
Young, 26; shortstop Alex Rodriguez, 28; and third baseman Hank
Blalock, 22. (Teixeira could move to the outfield if first base
prospect Adrian Gonzalez, 21, obtained from the Marlins for
Ugueth Urbina, fulfills his potential.) All were highly touted
prospects except Young, a career .256 hitter entering this season
whom Texas acquired from Toronto in 2000 for pitcher Esteban
Loaiza. Young has blossomed into a skillful leadoff hitter (.310,
10 HRs, 56 RBIs) who at week's end ranked fourth in the league in
hits with 148. "He's the best secret in the American League,"
manager Buck Showalter said of Young. "He's having a great
offensive year, and he is a great defensive player. There's not a
second baseman in baseball with better arm strength than
Michael."

OVERWORKED?

Despite the recent moves the Red Sox made to improve their
bullpen, manager Grady Little allowed Pedro Martinez to go out
for the ninth inning against the Angels on Aug. 6, with a 4-1
lead and a pitch count of 108. Martinez labored through a
20-pitch inning and eventually won, 4-2. Little noted that
Martinez is in good health. But Martinez was scheduled to make
his next two starts without an extra day of rest, and it was the
second time in three starts that Little permitted Martinez to
exceed 120 pitches.

Martinez has thrown 120 pitches or more only seven times in 68
starts over the past three seasons. The last time Martinez threw
two 120-pitch games so close together, in May 2001, he hurt his
shoulder and made only seven starts for the rest of the year. And
the last time he threw more than 120 pitches in August--Aug. 28
last year--he needed 12 days of rest before his next start.

SHORT HOPS

Tal's Hill, the 10-degree incline in centerfield at Houston's
Minute Maid Park, continues to haunt outfielders. Last week Mets
centerfielder Timo Perez stumbled while chasing down a Lance
Berkman triple. "They need to take that thing out because it's
real bad," Perez said. "I hope nobody breaks their neck out
there."...Devil Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford sprained his
right ankle last Saturday while trying to avoid a collision with
G.M. Chuck LaMar's 10-year-old son, Charlie, who was shagging
balls in the outfield. Crawford was scratched from that night's
lineup....At week's end A's lefthander Barry Zito (8-10) hadn't
won a game since July 3, even though his ERA for his last six
starts combined was 2.03.... Padres closer Trevor Hoffman is
determined to return from shoulder surgery by season's end. He
threw off a mound last week for the first time since last
September.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO (NELSON) Nelson COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL (YOUNG) Young COLOR PHOTO: LOU CAPOZZOLA (MARTINEZ) Martinez

Read Tom Verducci's Inside Baseball column every week at
si.com/baseball.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)