Tom Verducci's View

June 13, 2004

PADRES BALK

Wary of being able to sign Florida State infielder Stephen Drew
(left), potentially their third baseman of the future, the Padres
opened the first-year player draft on Monday by taking Matt Bush,
a 5'10" shortstop out of Mission Bay High in Pacific Beach,
Calif. Drew is represented by Scott Boras, the agent for Drew's
brother, J.D., now with the Braves, who refused to sign with
Philadelphia as the No. 2 pick in 1997. Drew was selected 15th,
by the Diamondbacks.

San Diego has Sean Burroughs at third base, but according to one
National League source, Burroughs may be the key in the Padres'
bid to acquire centerfielder Carlos Beltran from Kansas City. The
source said San Diego is considering trading Burroughs and
outfielder Xavier Nady for Beltran and third baseman Joe Randa,
both of whom are eligible for free agency at season's end. The
Royals have yet to show an urgency about moving Beltran.

LEARNING CURVE

Here's how rare it is for a rookie starting pitcher to make an
immediate impact in the big leagues: At week's end no first-year
starter had thrown enough innings to qualify for the ERA title,
and only four had made more than seven starts. The Diamondbacks'
Casey Daigle, the Devil Rays' Doug Waechter, the Cubs' Sergio
Mitre and the Orioles' Erik Bedard were a combined 8-14. Last
week Daigle and Mitre were sent to the minors. But keep an eye on
Royals righthander Zack Greinke (above), who was promoted on May
22 and has been sharp (2.37 ERA) in his first three starts.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS

Few players capable of altering a pennant race figure to be
available for trade before the July 31 deadline, but several
teams will get help off the disabled list. Here are the top
players coming off seasonlong injuries, ranked in order of their
influence on the stretch run.

1. Mark Prior, RHP, Cubs. On the DL since March with injuries to
his right Achilles tendon and right elbow, he threw six scoreless
innings in his first start last Friday. He's a prototypical ace
who should be strong for the second half.

2. Nomar Garciaparra, SS, Red Sox. He's expected to be back in
the lineup this week after injuring his right Achilles in spring
training. His presence was missed, but Boston tied with the
Yankees for the most runs in the majors without him.

3. A.J. Burnett (above), RHP, Marlins. Labored last Thursday in
his first start since having Tommy John surgery in April 2003.
Burnett has a great arm, but Florida needs another bat.

4. Larry Walker, RF, Rockies. A career .314 hitter, he'll give
Colorado a boost if he can return from a groin injury later this
month.

IN NEED OF COUNSELL

The Yankees have let other teams know they'd like a defensive
upgrade at second base over Enrique Wilson. The Brewers' Craig
Counsell (right) would be a perfect fit--the Red Sox tried to get
him in spring training after Nomar Garciaparra went down--but
Counsell has been so valuable to Milwaukee that the team is
unlikely to trade him before late July. Counsell, a potential
free agent after the season, had made only one error at shortstop
through Sunday.

THREE STRIKES

1. Before losing to Texas 8-1 last Saturday, the Yankees had
scored 93 runs in a 10-1 run. Only six other Yankees teams scored
more runs while winning at least 10 times in an 11-game stretch.

2. It's a weak year for AL first basemen, the perennial spot for
sluggers. Only one, the White Sox' Paul Konerko, hit more than
nine homers in the first third of the season.

3. At week's end the Royals were the only team in baseball not to
throw a shutout. No team in AL history has played an entire
season without one.

COLOR PHOTO: PHIL COALE/AP (DREW) COLOR PHOTO: BRAD MANGIN (GREINKE) COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON (BURNETT) COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS BERNACCHI/SPORTPICS (COUNSELL)

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)