Tom Verducci's View

September 14, 2003

CAUSING A HUFF

Very quietly--is there any other way when you play for the Devil
Rays?--Aubrey Huff has become one of the best young hitting
outfielders in baseball. Though overshadowed in college by Miami
teammate Pat Burrell and left off the All-Star team this year in
favor of teammate Lance Carter, an unremarkable reliever, Huff at
week's end had more total bases (305) than Sammy Sosa and Magglio
Ordonez, and every other rightfielder except Gary Sheffield.

While the career path of the more heralded Burrell, 26, has
stalled with the Phillies, Huff, also 26, has improved his home
run and RBI totals in each of his four years (to 28 and 93,
respectively, this season). A lefty, Huff has become an
all-fields hitter who doesn't strike out often and hits
lefthanders as well as righthanders.

"Give Lee Elia credit," one American League scout says, referring
to the Tampa Bay hitting coach. "He's one of the best coaches in
the business, and Huff has learned how to hit the inside pitch
and when to go the other way. He keeps his hands inside the ball,
not around the ball, and Elia is great at teaching that
approach."

JOLTIN' JEFF

With his 882nd extra-base hit, Houston first baseman Jeff Bagwell
recently passed Joe DiMaggio to move into 47th place on the
alltime list. He did so in his 13th season, as many as DiMaggio
played. The similarities don't stop there between the Astros'
number 5 and the Yankees' number 5.

AB R H EBH RBI OPS

Bagwell 7,046 1,389 2,114 891 1,404 .959
DiMaggio 6,821 1,390 2,214 881 1,537 .977

ACES WILD

Roy Halladay, Esteban Loaiza and Steve Trachsel all pitched for
the 2000 Blue Jays, though not very well--they combined to go
11-19. Fast-forward three years, and they were a combined 52-20
at week's end, with Halladay (Blue Jays) and Loaiza (White Sox)
in the running for the American League Cy Young Award and
Trachsel (Mets) one win short of his career-high (15, in 1998).
Between 2000 and '03 Halladay, 26, and Trachsel, 32, spent time
in the minors, and Loaiza, 31, had to sign a minor league
contract this spring before making the big club. Trachsel, 19-12
since his rehab assignment last year in Triple A, is an example
of why teams continue to give middle-level pitchers a chance.

"A lot of pitchers find it later," Trachsel says. "Some guys get
to the big leagues on pure stuff, get hurt and learn later how to
pitch. For others, like me, you're constantly learning and
adjusting. Going to the minors was the big thing for me. It
wasn't mechanical. It was mental--just learning to pitch one
pitch at a time."

SHORT HOPS

The Orioles are expected to be a big player in the free-agent
market, with Expos rightfielder Vladimir Guerrero and A's
shortstop Miguel Tejada on their wish list. But manager Mike
Hargrove might not be around to see any improvements.... Expos
players don't want another home schedule split between Montreal
and San Juan, but Major League Baseball is leaning toward that
scenario again next year while promising a more favorable
itinerary. (No more San Juan to Seattle trips.) Commissioner Bud
Selig expects to make an announcement on Montreal's fate before
the end of this season.... The Twins' MVP? "Shannon Stewart,
easy," says one AL scout, referring to the outfielder obtained
from Toronto on July 16. "He's energized their offense. The
problem is, with his arm, he can only play leftfield, and Jacque
Jones is moaning about having to play right. They've had some ego
problems with some guys who are arbitration eligible."

COLOR PHOTO: PAUL BATTAGLIA/AP (HUFF) Huff COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON (BAGWELL) Bagwell COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER (LOAIZA) Loaiza

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)