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Tag:3 to Watch
Posted on: July 22, 2010 10:43 am
 

3 to watch: The Showdown in the West edition

The last time the Angels were this far out of first place on July 22, they were playing in Texas against the first-place Rangers.

It was 2004, and the Angels pounded the Rangers 11-1 that night . . . and went on to win the American League West.

It fits the stereotype, doesn't it? The Angels are AL West royalty, and can always come back. The Rangers can always fade in the late-summer Texas heat.

You wonder if it will happen again, and you wonder if the turnaround will begin one of the next two weekends, when the top two teams in the West will meet for seven seemingly crucial games.

But you also wonder if what we're seeing is less the makings of a turnaround than of a turnover, a takeover of the division by a young Rangers team that's finally ready to win.

There's a sense that this year is different, and that the Rangers' current five-game lead feels bigger than the six-game lead the Rangers woke up with six years ago today.

The Angels remain dangerous, but without Kendry Morales, they seem to lack the needed punch (despite 16 runs the last two days in New York). And while the Angels say they'll try to trade for help in the next week, the general sense around the club is that this isn't 2008, they're not one Mark Teixeira trade away from being a threat to win it all, and the farm system isn't going to be deep enough to allow a significant addition.

And the Rangers?

The Angels are convinced they're good. Torii Hunter called them "one of the top three teams in baseball right now," and another Angels player said the Ranger lineup is better than the Yankee lineup.

"They've been playing great baseball for the last month and a half," Hunter said. "They really play well in their own park. They hit for power. They just hit."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia insists that the standings don't matter in July, that individual series aren't crucial and that the only key is that the Angels "play our game."

But the Angels have "played their game" in the month and a half since Morales was lost for the season in that home-plate celebration. They were 24-27 when he got hurt, and they're 27-19 since.

The reason that the Rangers are five games up in the standings is that they've gone 29-14 over the same span.

"Five games is not a great lead," Hunter said. "If we were up five, Texas would be good enough to catch up. We have a good enough team to catch them."

If so, this weekend would be a good time to prove it.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Remember back this spring, when the Angels said they didn't really need a true ace? Well, it sure would help if Jered Weaver acts like one now, beginning with his series-opening matchup with Cliff Lee, in Angels at Rangers, Thursday night (8:05 EDT) at Rangers Ballpark . Weaver pitched seven shutout innings when the Angels beat the Rangers 2-1 on July 1 in Anaheim, but he gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in a May start in Texas. As for Lee, so far he's given the Rangers 18 innings in two starts -- and no wins. Despite missing the first month of the season, he's second to Roy Halladay in complete games (with six), and rival executives are already speculating that the Rangers will push him every bit as much as the Brewers pushed pennant-race rental CC Sabathia in 2008.

2. Like the Angels, the Red Sox seem to be at a crucial point in the schedule, as they're now seven games behind the Yankees in the American League East, and 4 1/2 games behind the wild-card leading Rays. Unlike the Angels, who lost Morales for the season, the Sox are getting key players back from injury. This week has already seen the return of Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie and Jeremy Hermida, and next week could see Victor Martinez rejoining the lineup. And, perhaps most crucially, Boston is getting Josh Beckett back, with his first start since May 18 scheduled for Red Sox at Mariners, Friday night (10:10 EDT) at Safeco Field . How has Boston done in Beckett's absence? A lot better than you would have thought. The Red Sox are 33-22 since he last pitched, which means they lost only 1 1/2 games to the Yankees, who are 34-20 over the same span. They gained ground on the Rays, who are 29-26.

3. Normally, there's no way I'm including a Royals-Yankees game in 3 to watch. But here goes, because there are two things that make Royals at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium potentially interesting. It's Sergio Mitre's first start since replacing Andy Pettitte in the rotation, which means that if he fails, there's sure to be an outcry in New York for general manager Brian Cashman to trade for a starting pitcher (not that Cashman worries about outcries). It is worth remembering, as Cashman has tried to remind people, that Mitre pitched well enough this spring that some people in the organization preferred him over Phil Hughes as the fifth starter. But it's the other starting pitcher that really could make this interesting, because the Royals' Kyle Davies is the same guy who gave up Alex Rodriguez's 500th home run three years ago. A-Rod, who has been at 598 since Sunday, hit both 499 and 500 against the Royals, although those two home runs were two weeks apart.
Posted on: July 18, 2010 8:28 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2010 8:45 pm
 

3 to watch: The Do we care? edition

Yankee fans cared very much about George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard. Baseball fans everywhere have cared very much about Stephen Strasburg.

Now Alex Rodriguez is approaching 600 home runs.

Do you care?

There's been amazingly little A-Rod buzz, and from what I was told, there wasn't much reaction from the Yankee Stadium fans when Rodriguez hit his 598th home run Sunday against the Rays.

You'd think it would be a meaningful milestone. Only six players have hit 600 home runs, and A-Rod (who turns 35 on July 27) will be the youngest ever to get there -- unless it takes him more than a year to hit two more home runs.

So why is there no buzz?

Is it that Rodriguez admitted using steroids earlier in his career? Is it that the steroid era has made 600 home runs seem that much less significant? Are we waiting for him to approach Willie Mays (660 home runs), Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), the numbers that earn A-Rod $6 million bonuses in his most recent contract? Do we just not like A-Rod?

Or maybe the buzz is suddenly going to appear Tuesday night, when A-Rod gets his first legitimate chance at reaching 600. He needs two more home runs, and he has hit two or more in a game 55 times in his career.

Not only that, but he has hit 67 career home runs against the Angels, by far the most he has hit against any opponent.

For the record, none of the six guys with 600 home runs hit Nos. 599 and 600 in the same game. Ruth came closest, hitting them on back-to-back days in St. Louis, in 1931.

A-Rod took nearly two weeks between 498 and 500, and also between 398 and 400.

So this countdown could take a while. But unless the buzz builds, this may be the only time it appears in 3 to watch:

1. Two years ago, when Ken Griffey Jr. reached 600 before a sparse crowd in Miami -- maybe there wasn't that much buzz then, either -- Rodriguez told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times that it's always better to reach big milestones at home. Rodriguez has six chances to get to 600 on this homestand, starting with Angels at Yankees, Tuesday night (7:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium . At least Rodriguez won't be facing Scott Kazmir, who has held him to four hits -- and no home runs -- in 29 career at-bats. Kazmir went on the disabled list Sunday, and the Angels told reporters that they plan to call up a starter from the minor leagues to pitch Tuesday. A-Rod is also homerless in 35 plate appearances against Wednesday starter Joel Pineiro. He has four homers in 19 at-bats against Jered Weaver, who won't pitch in this series.

2. The fans want to see Strasburg. The scouts, most likely, will instead head for Chicago, to watch potential trade targets Brett Myers and Ted Lilly face off, in Astros at Cubs, Wednesday afternoon (2:20 EDT) at Wrigley Field . In a pitching market that no longer includes Cliff Lee, Myers and Lilly could be two of the more attractive properties.

3. Nothing against Bronson Arroyo, who will be Strasburg's opponent in Nationals at Reds, Wednesday night (7:10 EDT) at Great American Ball Park , but wouldn't it have been more compelling if Strasburg was starting a day earlier, against fellow rookie Mike Leake, or a day later, against Edinson Volquez? Apparently ESPN didn't care, as yet another Strasburg start has been scheduled for national television. Can't say I blame them.



Posted on: July 16, 2010 10:33 am
 

3 to watch: The Boss and the Rays edition

This time, the schedule-maker got it right.

On the night the Yankees honor George Steinbrenner, baseball gives us Yankees vs. Rays. In the first game the Yankees will play since Steinbrenner's death on Tuesday morning, the Yankees will play the team that Steinbrenner always insisted they beat.

Yes, of course, he insisted they beat every team. Yes, of course, the series with the Red Sox and the series with the Mets always held special relevance to him.

But so did the series with the Rays, even back when they were the awful Devil Rays. Even when it was a solitary meaningless game in spring training.

Tampa was Steinbrenner's adopted hometown. Tampa was where he spent most of his time. He was not going to have his Yankees lose to any team from Tampa (or even St. Petersburg).

Yankees-Rays games are no longer meaningless. The teams enter the second half of the season separated by just two games in the American League East standings, with the Red Sox and the AL Central contenders close enough behind so that a wild-card berth isn't guaranteed to the team that fails to finish first.

The Yankees and Rays will meet 13 times during the second half. And the first meeting kicks off this first post-All-Star edition of 3 to watch:

1. In other places, you can argue about Steinbrenner's legacy. In the Bronx, especially in the moments leading up to Rays at Yankees, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium , you can be sure the focus will be on the championships won and the successes celebrated. The Yankees will have a double-tribute, honoring both Steinbrenner and longtime public address announcer Bob Sheppard, but they've pushed the video tribute to Sheppard to Saturday (which is also Old-Timer's Day). Friday's ceremony will concentrate on Steinbrenner -- who, if he were still here, would be concentrating intensely on Friday's game.

2. Sometime just after Stephen Strasburg's stunning debut, I vowed to include every Strasburg start in 3 to watch, until further notice. It doesn't feel right to end it just yet, not so soon after an All-Star Game that judging by the low ratings could have used Strasburg's star power. Instead, Strasburg will try to awaken a little baseball interest in South Florida, in Nationals at Marlins, Friday night (7:10 EDT) at Sun Life Stadium .

3. When Justin Morneau went on the disabled list last September, it was supposed to mean the end of the Twins. Instead, they went 17-4 in the 21 games he missed, including the memorable Game 163 win over the Tigers that sent them into the playoffs. Now Morneau is out again, on the DL while recovering from a concussion suffered on July 7 in Toronto. The Twins fell into third place the day Morneau was hurt. They're 1-4 since then, more because of poor pitching than because of the Morneau-less offense. The one win came from Carl Pavano, who starts again, in White Sox at Twins, Saturday night (7:10 EDT) at Target Field .
Posted on: July 9, 2010 12:55 am
Edited on: July 9, 2010 6:20 pm
 

3 to watch: The It takes (more than) 2 edition

So maybe the Mariners did just fine.

Maybe Justin Smoak and the prospects they got from the Rangers are better than the three players they gave the Phillies for Cliff Lee.

But let's remember, that was never the idea. The idea was that by teaming Lee with Felix Hernandez, the M's would have an unbeatable 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.

That idea didn't work.

For five weeks now, the M's started Lee and Hernandez in back-to-back games. For five weeks now, Lee and Hernandez were nearly unbeatable, with a combined 10-2 record and 1.98 ERA -- with five complete games.

And for those five weeks, the Mariners have still been well below .500.

They won most of the games that Lee and Hernandez started (11 of 16). They lost almost every game with anyone else on the mound (18 of 23).

And they went from 7 1/2 games out of first place in the American League West to 16 games out of first place.

It didn't work, which is exactly why Lee is on the way out of town. He could still win the AL West, but it would be for the Rangers, not the Mariners.

As for the Yankees, the team that thought it was winning the Lee trade sweepstakes (and remains the favorite in this winter's Lee free-agent sweepstakes), all they get is the pleasure of not facing the Lee-Hernandez duo this weekend at Safeco Field. They could face Lee in August in Texas, and maybe in September in Texas, too.

Oh, and they could face Lee in October.

On to this final pre-All-Star edition of 3 to watch:

1. If the All-Star Game is about rewarding players who have performed the best in the first half of the season, then Stephen Strasburg doesn't belong. If it's about putting on the best show for the fans, it's hard to see how Strasburg doesn't belong. Think of it this way: When I tell you that Strasburg will be the starting pitcher in Giants at Nationals, Friday night (7:05 EDT) at Nationals Park , does that make you want to tune in and watch? Thought so.

2. Instead of facing the first-place Yankees Friday night in Seattle, Lee will get last-place Baltimore, probably in Orioles at Rangers, Saturday night (8:05 EDT) at Rangers Ballpark . Lucky Orioles. They've never beaten Lee in five tries, and already lost to him once this year. Of course, Lee has beaten the Yankees five of the last six times he has faced them, including twice in the World Series and once last month in New York. Meanwhile, the Yankees get Seattle's David Pauley, who lost both his starts against them when he pitched for the Red Sox.

3. So the way we understand this, the American League isn't going to replace CC Sabathia on the American League All-Star team until he actually starts Sunday's game in Seattle. Then, according to what AL manager Joe Girardi told reporters this week, he'll pick Jered Weaver to replace Sabathia on the roster. Which is nice, except that Weaver will then himself need to be replaced on the roster, because he's scheduled to start in Angels at A's, Sunday (4:05 EDT) at the Coliseum . Oh, and Trevor Cahill, the A's representative on the All-Star team, will need to be replaced, too, because he's pitching Sunday, too. Maybe Girardi can pick Zack Greinke (no, he's pitching Sunday!) or Carl Pavano (no, he's pitching Sunday!). Or maybe he'll find someone who actually will be eligible to pitch for him on Tuesday.





Posted on: July 4, 2010 4:54 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2010 5:15 pm
 

3 to watch: The Scene of the crime edition

The last time the Giants were in Milwaukee, Prince Fielder hit a walkoff home run, his teammates fell down like bowling pins, and the Giants got so upset they still haven't forgotten it.

The last time the Yankees were in Oakland, Alex Rodriguez ran across Dallas Braden's mound, Braden got upset, and a week later Braden's grandmother told A-Rod to "stick it."

So now it's July, and the Giants are back in Milwaukee, and the Yankees are back in Oakland.

Which no doubt means that Prince and A-Rod will be back in the news this week. But for what?

With Prince, the questions will be whether the Brewers should trade him right now, and how interested the Giants should be in trying to trade for him (or, perhaps, for Brewers outfielder Corey Hart).

The teams have talked in the past, but the Giants' reluctance to part with any of their big-time pitchers was always a big sticking point. Of course, that's the same sticking point that has kept the Giants from acquiring any significant hitter these last few years, which in turn has kept them from first place in the National League West.

In any case, the Giants could sure use Fielder, so much so that they'd have no problem overlooking the celebration they hated so much last September. When Andy Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News asked Barry Zito about Fielder , Zito answered, "There's a ton of guys in the league we hate to play against, but we'd love to play with."

Remember, Zito is the guy who threw at Fielder this spring in Arizona, a payback for the bowling-pin display last September.

There's no chance of A-Rod getting traded to the A's -- his $32 million salary would cover more than half the Oakland payroll. And there's no chance he'll run across Braden's mound -- the A's lefty is on the disabled list.

So if we're talking A-Rod this week, we're more likely talking the run to 600 home runs. Rodriguez is at 595 right now, which means it's unlikely but not impossible that he'll get to 600 in Oakland.

For the record, Rodriguez has hit 19 career home runs in 86 games at the Coliseum. He hasn't hit more than one home run in a series in Oakland since 2004, and hasn't ever hit more than three in any series at the Coliseum.

On to 3 to watch:

1. If the Phillies are going to survive all their injuries, you'd think they would need to win every game that Roy Halladay starts. Instead, they've struggled to score runs for Halladay, and thus they're 3-7 in his last 10 starts. They get another chance, in Braves at Phillies, Monday night (7:05 EDT) at Citizens Bank Park .

2. No one remembers it now, but the A-Rod/Braden game back in April was a Yankee loss, and a CC Sabathia loss. And while Braden won't pitch in this week's series, Sabathia will, in Yankees at A's, Tuesday night (10:05 EDT) at the Coliseum . He pitched well in that April start, allowing just four hits in an eight-inning complete game (a 4-2 A's win), but for his career, Sabathia is 2-5 with a 5.95 ERA in 10 starts in what is basically his hometown ballpark.

3. Zito has just one win in his last nine starts (and a 5.30 ERA in that span), so he'll have more on his mind than just Fielder, in Giants at Brewers, Thursday afternoon (2:10 EDT) at Miller Park . For the record, Fielder is just 2 for 12 against Zito in his career, although one of the two hits was a home run.

Posted on: July 2, 2010 10:28 am
 

3 to watch: The What are the chances? edition

The folks at Cool Standings put the numbers in their computer and gave the Brewers a 4.1 percent chance of making the playoffs this year. The computers at Baseball Prospectus said no, that's not true; by their reckoning, it's actually a 2.4 percent chance.

Sometime soon, very soon, the computers -- and the humans -- at Miller Park will need to decide whether they believe those numbers. They'll need to decide whether the Brewers have any realistic chance to get back into the race, and what it means if they don't.

And if not, they need to decide whether this month is the time to trade Prince Fielder.

Two things seem clear about Fielder and the Brewers: First, that the team has very little chance of signing him long-term (probably less than 4.1 or 2.4 percent), which means he's headed for free agency after the 2011 season. Second, that while trading Fielder might be the best long-term decision, it's unlikely (less than 4.1 or 2.4 percent) to make the Brewers better this year.

So that brings us to the Brewers series this weekend in St. Louis, which might just have greater impact than any early-July series should. Brewers decision-makers are scheduled to meet next week in Milwaukee, and a few wins (or a few losses) in the Cardinals series could easily influence their thoughts.

Yes, it's true, the Reds are actually in first place in the National League Central. But the Cardinals remain the division powerhouse (Cool Standings and Baseball Prospectus both still give them the best chance at winning the Central, and so do we).

The Brewers are still seven games back of the Cardinals, even after Thursday's 4-1 win in the series opener. But they don't need to catch them this weekend. They do need to give their front office and ulta-competitive owner a sense that this season can still be saved.

Fielder seems to be doing his part, with nine home runs in the last 19 games (including one Thursday night).

It may be that the Brewers don't trade Fielder even if they're out of it. General manager Doug Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel last week that he believes the winter is a better time to trade a position player. The Brewers, who have drawn big crowds ever since their 2008 trip to the playoffs, can't afford to be seen by their fans as giving up too early on 2010 (and perhaps on 2011, as well).

Still, a few wins (or a few losses) now could tip the balance. Especially this weekend.

On to 3 to watch:

1. After Stephen Strasburg lost to the Braves on Monday night, winning pitcher Tim Hudson said that opposing hitters and pitchers naturally gear up for games against the phenom. "Everybody he pitches against is going to come up with their best at-bats, and every pitcher is going to try to throw a shutout," Hudson said. So what should we expect from R.A. Dickey, in Mets at Nationals, Saturday afternoon (4:10 EDT) at Nationals Park ?

2. The Mariners, like the Brewers, keep wondering whether they have any chance to get back in the race (Cool Standings says 0.2 percent for them). But Cliff Lee, unlike Fielder, is going to be a free agent at the end of this year. But where, and when? Perhaps we'll know more after Lee's next scheduled start, in Mariners at Tigers, Sunday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Comerica Park .

3. One reason the Brewers might have a chance is that their starting rotation is miles better than what it was last year. The starters have a combined 3.73 ERA since May 25, and they've been even better (3.07 ERA) over the last 16 games. And 24-year-old Yovani Gallardo (8-1, 2.04 ERA since the middle of April) is emerging as the ace they always believed he could be. Gallardo gets a big assignment, in Brewers at Cardinals, Sunday afternoon (2:15 EDT) at Busch Stadium , with Adam Wainwright starting for St. Louis.
Posted on: June 27, 2010 9:21 pm
 

3 to watch: The Non-dome-field advantage edition

So maybe it wasn't the blowers.

And maybe it wasn't the bouncy turf, or the goofy roof. Maybe it wasn't the Metrodome at all.

Check the record: Last year, at the Metrodome, the Twins started off 23-13 at home. This year, at Target Field, the Twins have started off 23-13 at home.

"I think they're just a great home team," Tigers catcher Gerald Laird suggested.

"You look at all good teams," longtime Twin Michael Cuddyer said. "They all win at home."

He's right, of course. But for years, when the Twins won so much at the Metrodome, we always wanted to give the building half the credit. Or half the blame, as opposing players did when they accused the Twins of manipulating the air blowers to create a jet stream when the Twins were hitting.

"You can't do that outdoors," Cuddyer said with a smile.

There is something they can do outdoors. They can put nearly 40,000 Minnesotans in the stands, creating what general manager Bill Smith describes as "a high-energy experience."

It'll be high-energy again this week, when the Twins return from a typical 3-6 road trip for an important series against the Tigers. The Twins hold a half-game lead over the Tigers (and a 1 1/2-game lead over the White Sox) in the American League Central.

The Tigers, who went winless in their first Target Field visit last month, know what to expect.

"Everyone wanted to say before that it was because of the Dome, or whatever," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. "You know, they just have a good ballclub. What kind of [unusual] advantage can they get now? It's a normal ballpark, a great ballpark."

Or, as Laird said, "I don't think there's any excuses anymore."

And there would be no excuse for leaving Tigers-Twins off this week's edition of 3 to watch:

1. Jason Heyward is getting his sore left thumb examined Monday afternoon, so there's a good chance that the first-ever Heyward-Stephen Strasburg matchup will wait for another day. But Strasburg's start, in Nationals at Braves, Monday night (7:10 EDT) at Turner Field , is notable anyway, and not just because we promised to highlight every Strasburg start. For one thing, it's still his first-ever start against a first-place team. For another, his opponent is Tim Hudson, who has been one of the best pitchers in the National League this year.

2. Since the start of last year, the Tigers are 2-11 in the state of Minnesota (indoors and outdoors), but five of the losses were by one run, and in five of the losses the Tigers led in the seventh inning or later. So if any Strasburg start is can't-miss, so is Tigers-Twins, at the Metrodome or Target Field. That the teams are separated by just half a game in the standings only makes Tigers at Twins, Monday night (8:10 EDT) at Target Field , that much more interesting.

3. Remember, the Rays were supposed to have had the easy interleague schedule (no games vs. 2009 playoff teams). They went 7-11, had a no-hitter thrown against them and fought among themselves. The Red Sox were supposed to have the tough interleague schedule (four series vs. 2009 playoff teams). They went 13-5, good enough to move into second place (ahead of the Rays) in the AL East. So now the Rays arrive in Boston, for a two-game series that begins with Rays at Red Sox, Tuesday night (7:10 EDT) at Fenway Park . The Red Sox already have Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett and Jacoby Ellsbury on the disabled list, and by gametime Tuesday Victor Martinez could be there, too. Is that good for the Rays? Sorry, we're done making predictions.
Posted on: June 25, 2010 10:26 am
 

3 to watch: The Wrong place, wrong time edition

If we're going to have one final weekend of interleague play, we may as well have Dodgers-Yankees.

Too bad they put it in the wrong place.

Too bad that right before, or right after, Manny in Boston we didn't get Joe in New York.

Joe Torre against the Yankees is a nice little side story. Joe Torre against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium would have been a must-watch.

"It certainly would have been something that would have been exciting," Torre said last weekend. "There's no question."

A Torre appearance in Yankee Stadium wouldn't have presented Yankee fans with the same conflicted feelings that Manny Ramirez in Fenway Park presented the people of Boston. But it sure would have been interesting to see how Yankee management reacted, given the 2007 breakup and the Yankees' reluctance ever since then to acknowledge that Torre was such of big part of their recent history.

Torre against the Yankees at Dodger Stadium doesn't have the same feel. With the exception of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankee players have professed their love for their former manager (and vice-versa). There will be hugs all around.

And as for Torre at Yankee Stadium, there's always the World Series. Torre likes to remind people that the Dodgers were two wins away from giving him that return last October.

"That would have been pretty wild," he said.

It could still happen, but given the likelihood that Torre leaves the Dodgers after this season, it would probably need to happen this October.

In any case, Dodgers-Yankees is one of a few potential World Series previews on this final-weekend interleague schedule. You've also got Twins-Mets, Rockies-Angels and Tigers-Braves, as you can see on this weekend's edition of 3 to watch:

1. The Tigers don't say that Brennan Boesch is going to have a better career than Jason Heyward. But they do like to point out that right now, Boesch has better numbers than Heyward. In any case, in a year where the rookie class has been heavily tilted towards the National League, the Tigers are the exception, with an outstanding rookie class of their own. They'll show off another one -- 22-year-old left-hander Andy Oliver -- in Tigers at Braves, Friday night (7:35 EDT) at Turner Field . One rival scout who saw Oliver recently at Double-A Erie said "his stuff is electric," and predicted that at the very least the Tigers would use him as a nasty left-on-left reliever in September. Now, with Rick Porcello getting a tune-up at Triple-A Toledo, Oliver gets his chance early.

2. Torre made his feelings about the Dodger rotation known late in spring training, when he named Vicente Padilla as his opening day starter. No one -- then or now -- would call Padilla the Dodgers ace, but in Yankees at Dodgers, Friday night (10:10 EDT) at Dodger Stadium , he opposes Yankee ace CC Sabathia. It's hard to imagine the Dodgers spending money to add a true ace this summer, but it's hard to imagine them getting to that Torre-in-New York World Series without one.

3. We don't get Torre in New York, and we also don't get Johan in Minnesota, because Johan Santana's first-ever meeting with his former team comes in Twins at Mets, Saturday afternoon (1:10 EDT) at Citi Field . Oh well. At least we get Carl in New York. That's Carl Pavano, who starts for the Twins Saturday, and presents us with this question: When he gets booed, will it be because of the Mets fans who always boo any current or former Yankee (even Phil Coke of the Tigers on Thursday night), or will it be Yankee fans, who with good reason never warmed up to the guy who basically stole money from them for four years? One other starter who will be on the minds of fans of both of these teams: Cliff Lee. If the Twins and Mets are going to meet in October, you've got to figure that means one of them has traded for the left-hander whose presence in Philadelphia prevented Dodgers-Yankees last October.
 
 
 
 
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