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Sport Sections

Tuesday, August 7
Updated: August 8, 7:34 PM ET
Scouting the prospects

We surveyed several scouts and front-office men this week and asked them to assess some of the prospects who were dealt for veterans at the trading deadline.

The two most highly rated were second baseman Jose Ortiz, obtained by Colorado from Oakland in the three-way Neifi Perez-Jermaine Dye deal, and Tony McKnight, dealt by Houston to Pittsburgh for Mike Williams.

  • Ortiz: "Great tools, but he's got to make adjustments. He's got to learn to hit the ball down in the zone. But he can really hit that ball up."

  • McKnight: "Good arm. Can be a Jason Schmidt type guy. He's got that kind of arm. Hopefully, it will be a healthy Jason Schmidt type guy."

    And now some reviews of five other notable young players involved in key deals:

  • Ryan Vogelsong (RHP from Giants to Pirates in Schmidt deal): "Probably a No. 3 or 4 starter, but that ain't bad. Strong-armed guy. Solid across the board."

  • Rich Rundles (LHP from Red Sox to Expos in Ugueth Urbina trade): "Good scouting there. Very good guy to pick up in a deal like this. My report was: 'Get this kid if you can get him.'"

  • Mario Encarnacion (OF who also went from Oakland to Colorado in Perez-Dye deal): "Really good tools. Just a matter of whether everything fits together."

  • Nick Bierbrodt (RHP from Diamondbacks to Devil Rays in Albie Lopez trade): "Used to be a top-notch prospect. Hasn't achieved his potential. . . . Had an arm injury and a funky delivery, so there's always a concern."

  • Zach Day (RHP from Indians to Expos for Milton Bradley): "Projects to be a good, solid big leaguer. Not a top-of-the-rotation guy, but a safe bet to get there. . . . He'll pitch in the big leagues. Fourth or fifth starter at best, long guy out of the pen at worst."

    Miscellaneous Rumblings
  • The Padres are sending Phil Nevin to the Instructional League to see if he can play second base, as megaprospect third baseman Sean Burroughs nears the big leagues. Padres GM Kevin Towers thinks Nevin has a Jeff Kent-like body and wants to see if he can reenact the Jeff Kent Story. In the meantime, the Padres also may have interest in Quilvio Veras if the Braves wind up releasing him.

  • Two teams that definitely would like to make a deal if the right guy clears waivers: the Twins (still searching for a bat) and the Yankees (hunting for someone to play third base until Scott Brosius returns). Despite speculation that the Twins might have interest in Greg Vaughn, GM Terry Ryan would prefer more of a contact guy. He made runs at both Dmitri Young and Jeff Conine before the deadline.

  • Scouts who have watched Sterling Hitchcock say he's throwing only 82 to 84 miles per hour when he has to pitch on normal rest -- but hit as high as 88 on the gun in that start last month on 16 days rest.

  • If the Red Sox and Indians are going to make the playoffs, the next five weeks will decide their fates.

    Starting Tuesday, the Red Sox were scheduled to play 22 of their next 31 games against the A's, Mariners, Indians, Angels and Yankees (then finish with three solid weeks of Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Detroit).

    Also beginning Tuesday, the Indians had to play 22 of their next 28 against the Twins, A's, Mariners, Angels and Red Sox (but still have to face the Twins the last two weekends of the year).

  • Kevin Towers on the significance of finally having a player (Dave Winfield) go into the Hall of Fame as a Padre: "Even back when I was drafted by the Padres in the first round (in 1982), my first thought was, 'No way I'm wearing that brown and gold uniform.' That's what you thought of when you thought of the Padres. You thought of Ray Kroc. You thought of McDonald's (which Kroc owned). You thought of hamburgers.

    "So maybe this will get the monkey off our back. For 30 years, we never had a no-hitter, we never had a cycle. Now we've finally got a guy entering the most special place in the baseball heavens, with No. 19 (Tony Gwynn) coming in five years. Maybe now we can get a no-hitter and a cycle, too."

  • Injury of the week: Only the luckless Pirates could trade Jason Schmidt for Armando Rios, then lose Rios for the year with a torn knee ligament -- and have him get injured on a ball hit by (who else?) Jason Schmidt.

  • Intentional walk of the week: No one we've talked to has ever seen an intentional walk quite like the one issued last Thursday by Mets closer Armando Benitez to Richard Hidalgo. Benitez had just given up a game-tying two-run double in the ninth inning, then threw four straight pitches clocked in the 90s, including one at 95 MPH -- on an intentional walk. Now that's intent.

    Kirby Puckett rode five 200-hit seasons into the Hall of Fame. Of the 28 active players who have gotten 200 hits in any season, can you name the five who have done it more than once? For accuracy's sake, you should know one of the five is on the disabled list for the rest of the year. (Answer at bottom.)

    Useless information dept.
    We'll be digesting that 15-14 Mariners-Indians game Sunday for a long, long time. But here are five reasons the Indians' comeback in that game was just about impossible:

    1) The Mariners blew a 12-run lead with seven outs to go. They hadn't blown more than a three-run lead at any point in any of their previous 109 games.

    2) The Mariners' bullpen had given up eight runs in the previous month, then gave up 10 just in this game.

    3) At 50 games over .500, these Mariners were a little different kind of team than the two other teams in history that blew 12-run leads. The 1925 Indians team that blew a 12-run lead to the A's on June 15, 1925, was 26-29 at the time, on the way to a 70-84 season in which they finished 22½ games out of first. And the 1911 White Sox were 25-22 on June 18, 1911, when they watched a 12-run lead disappear against the Tigers. That team finished 77-74, 24 games out of first.

    4) Through six innings in this game, the Indians had gone 64 straight innings (over eight games) without scoring three runs in an inning, 125 straight innings (since July 21) without scoring four runs in an inning and 154 innings (since July 18) without scoring five runs in an inning. Then they scored three, four and five in back-to-back-to-back innings (the seventh, eighth and ninth) to tie this game.

    5) And Cleveland's game-tying run came off Kasuhiro Sasaki, who hadn't blown a save since May 27, hadn't given up a run in six weeks (since June 20) and had allowed exactly one of the previous 30 hitters he'd faced to reach base. Wow.

  • Before his game-winning slam Monday made him the first player since 1900 to hit a grand slam and hit into a triple play in the same game, Red Sox catcher Scott Hatteberg had come to the plate 1,417 times in his career. He'd never hit into any triple plays and had hit exactly one grand slam (on Sept. 9, 1998, off El Duque Hernandez). What a sport.

  • The heck with Mike Hampton. Livan Hernandez is the sweet-swinging pitcher no one wants to face these days. In his last three games, he's had a three-hit game, a two-hit game and another three-hit game. Last pitcher to get eight hits over three games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau's Randy Robles: Rick Rhoden for the Pirates from June 21 to July 2, 1986 (also three hits, two hits, three hits).

  • When you're 50 games over .500, you tend to have some pitchers with attractive won-lost records. But the Mariners are ridiculous. Freddie Garcia, Aaron Sele and Paul Abbott were 37-8 through Monday, an .822 winning percentage.

    If they can keep that up, it would be the fifth-best combined winning percentage by three starters on one team (with five or more decisions apiece) since 1900, according to Elias -- and the best by three pitchers with this many decisions.

    Best ever: 1933 Yankees (14-2, .875) -- Don Brennan (5-0), George Uhle (5-1), Herb Pennock (4-1).

    Best trio with more than 35 decisions: 1914 Athletics (32-6, .842) -- Chief Bender (16-2, Herb Pennock (9-2), Rube Bressler (7-2).

    Best since the '30s: 1995 Mariners: Randy Johnson (18-2), Andy Benes (7-2), Bob Wolcott (3-2).

  • Are we sure it's time for Cal Ripken to retire? He's now had two hitting streaks of 15 games just since he announced he was retiring. He'd only had six previous streaks that long in his whole career, three in the last 15 years and only one in the previous eight seasons. The only other season in which Ripken had two streaks at least this long, according to Elias was 1992, when he had a 16-gamer and 17-gamer.

  • Speaking of guys who probably should rethink retirement, Tony Gwynn is merely hitting .500 (10 for 20) since announcing his own retirement. After doing almost no pinch-hitting in his career, Gwynn is 9 for 16 as a pinch-hitter this year, 5 for his last 7 and 8 for 13 since announcing this is his grand finale.

    That makes him a 23-for-65 career pinch hitter (.354) -- meaning his average is actually higher as a pinch hitter than it is overall (.339). Over his last 15 seasons, Gwynn is 20 for 50 (.400) pinch-hitting. But he'll have to go 20 for his next 20 to close in on the active leader in best career pinch-hit batting average, according to Elias. That's Minnesota's Corey Koskie (10 for 18, .566).

  • The Tigers aren't No. 1, but Elias' Randy Robles reports that they did just became the eighth team since 1900 -- and the fifth AL team -- to score exactly one run in five straight games. Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, two of the pitchers who one-runned them, might enjoy knowing they join some great names responsible for doing this to other teams over the years.

    The last team to do this five-for-one trick, the '68 Dodgers, was shut down by a group that included Ferguson Jenkins and Ken Holtzman (yet those Dodgers still won two of the five games, on shutouts by Don Sutton and Don Drysdale).

    The last AL team to do it, the '67 Twins, was actually an offensive powerhouse featuring Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva. Best pitcher to face them: Al Downing.

    The '34 Cubs were shut down by Dizzy Dean and Carl Hubbell in back-to-back games. The 1919 Cardinals had Rogers Hornsby, still finished last in runs scored, and were overmatched by a group including Hippo Vaughn and Dolf Luque.

    And the first team to pull this off, the 1902 New York Giants, was also the most hapless. The Giants scored fewer runs than any team in the league and finished 53½ games out of first.

    The only other teams to achieve this bizarre numerological trick: the '62 Athletics and '21 Senators.
  • Moises Alou led the league in hitting through Monday. His teammate, Lance Berkman, was less than a thousandth of a point out of second. Only once in the last 63 years have National League teammates finished 1-2 in the batting race -- in 1954, when Willie Mays and his Giants teammate, Don Mueller did it.

  • Baseball lives in Brooklyn. Howesportsdata's Josh Goldfine reports that the Brooklyn Cyclones, of New York Penn League fame, went 25-5 in July. Last team from Brooklyn to win 25 games in a month: the Boys of Summer Dodgers in August of 1953, when Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Preacher Roe and company also won 25 times, including a 20-4 wipeout of the Cardinals on Aug. 30.

  • Minor-leaguer of the week: Mets first-base prospect Kenji (Kent) Garcia started his season by going 0 for 44, with 23 strikeouts, before finally breaking his schneid with a double last Wednesday. Garcia is a 6-foot-4, 234 pound hulk from Venezuela who is in his fourth professional season, but he's had some slight difficulty getting his bat to locate the ball. He's now 23 for 246 lifetime (.093), with 143 strikeouts. Take away the Venezuelan Summer League, and he's 7 for 120 (.058), with 71 strikeouts. Phew.

  • How 'bout those Devil Rays? It took until Aug. 2, but they finally won a series on the road against another team in their own league (the Orioles). Last team to go that late into a season without winning a road series against a league rival, according to Elias: the '81 Cubs, who didn't win one until September but at least could blame the strike.

    Last AL team (and last team with no labor pains): Brian Kingman's '79 A's, who won their first road series Aug. 5 at Seattle.

  • Finally, since that Indians-Mariners game has us talking about the biggest comebacks in history, loyal reader Mark Simon submits the greatest comeback ever:

    As Simon recalls it, it happened in a Peanuts comic strip. Peppermint Patty's team held a 50-0 lead with two outs and nobody on in the final inning. Then Patty made the mistake of allowing Charlie Brown to get the final out so she could go sell popcorn.

    Charlie promptly heaved a wild pitch that beaned Patty and knocked her out. When she came to, she found out Charlie had just given up 51 runs and her team had lost, 51-50.

    Elias reports this is the largest deficit ever overcome -- in a comic strip.

    Trivia answer
    Tony Gwynn (5), Derek Jeter (3), and Cal Ripken Jr., Alex Rodriguez and the injured Mo Vaughn (2).

    Jayson Stark is a Senior Writer at Rumblings and Grumblings appears each week.

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