Tom Verducci's View

June 19, 2005

PHILLY TRADITION

For the fifth straight year Phillies general manager Ed Wade swung a midseason trade for a veteran setup reliever. This time he obtained righthander Ugueth Urbina (right) from the Tigers along with infielder Ramon Martinez for infielder Placido Polanco. After Wade's other acquisitions had little impact, and after seven seasons in which his teams never won more than 86 games and were a combined 23 games under .500, he had better be right this time.

Fact is, Wade had to do something about a thin bullpen that before the trade ranked 24th in ERA and was tied for last in wins, even if it meant acquiring a player who had infuriated teammates with an alcohol-related incident on a flight earlier last week.

The good news for Philly: Urbina was throwing well for Detroit (31 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings), and he is close friends with rightfielder Bobby Abreu. What's more, a beneficiary of the deal is sweet-swinging second baseman Chase Utley, who finally gets his deserved chance to play every day now that Polanco's gone.

A BETTER FIT

Alas, the Blue Jays did not retire the number 2 that I wore during my five-day career with the team in spring training (SI, March 14, 2005). They assigned it to rookie infielder Aaron Hill (left), who was called up from Triple A Syracuse after third baseman Corey Koskie broke his right thumb on May 19. Looks as if it will be many years before someone else wears it. Hill, 23, the team's first-round pick out of LSU in 2003, batted .338 and drove in 17 runs in his first 22 games. He could stick even after Koskie returns in July.

"I don't want to say I'm surprised," says Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi. "He has an unbelievable demeanor about him. After I saw him play five minutes, I said, 'That's our guy.' Nothing fazes him. He's got that Tom Brady thing. He looks like he's played in the [majors] for years."

ABOUT FACE

Tough times for the Moneyball boys of Oakland. Not only did the 25-37 A's rank eighth in the American League in the almighty on-base percentage (.323), but they dumped their college-player bias by taking five high school pitchers among their first nine picks in last week's draft. At least give them credit for relaxing what was a rigid philosophy.

THREE STRIKES

1. Former Reds closer Danny Graves, signed as a free agent by the Mets, needs more than a change of scenery. Some velocity and sink on his pitches would help. From last year's All-Star break through Sunday he was 1-4 with a 7.30 ERA.

2. The draft offered evidence that first base is not a position for elite amateur players. Of the first 120 picks, only three were first basemen (64 were pitchers).

3. The competitive Pirates (22-15 after May 2) should hang on to Mark Redman, who has yielded the lowest slugging percentage (.324) among all NL lefties.

COLOR PHOTOJEFF ZELEVANSKY (URBINA) COLOR PHOTOBRAD MANGIN/MLB PHOTOS (HILL)

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)