Heard around the batting cage

  • Even though most baseball fans are familiar with Michael Lewis' bestseller "Moneyball," which is now in paperback, a sampling of the A's clubhouse this week revealed the majority of the players haven't read the book. Then again as Jim Bouton noted so well in his boom "Ball Four," it'd be noteworthy to see a ballplayer read any book.

    Even most of the A's staff, including manager Ken Macha, hasn't read the book. A's bullpen coach Bob Geren and bullpen catcher Brandon Buckley admitted they have read the book. Buckley got a mention late in the book for taking a batting practice liner by Ray Durham off his foot. A flavorful story about Buckley had him bouncing around the mound making sure "nothing was broken." But Buckley says the incident never happened.

  • Word around the Bronx was that Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was coming to town for the just-completed A's-Yankees series. It was especially frightening considering the Yanks were in danger of suffering their first losing April in 13 years (after sweeping the A's, the Yankees' record stands at 11-11 through Thursday). Steinbrenner never showed up at Yankee Stadium during the series, and according to special assistant Reggie Jackson, "(Steinbrenner) never travels anymore." But when pressed on how often his Boss comes to Yankee Stadium these days, Jackson said, "more than 10 (times)."

  • In the three-game series, the Yankees faced Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. It was the 21st time the three had pitched in the same series, and only the second time the A's lost a series in which all three pitched.

  • A's bench coach Chris Speier, the father of Blue Jays relief pitcher Justin Speier, said he speaks several times a week with his son, and left a message for him after he blew a save on Tuesday night against the Twins. Chris says Justin has a perfect closer mentality because he doesn't hold on to anything negative, a trait Chris says Justin definitely got from his mother.

  • There are even more family ties, and they are on the Yankees' side as both batting coach Don Mattingly and bench coach Willie Randolph had sons drafted in the very late rounds by the Yankees last June. Fittingly, Tyler Mattingly is a first baseman, and Andre Randolph is a second baseman. And like their fathers, the two are teammates at the Yankees' extended spring training in Tampa, Fla. They also hope to be reunited across town from Yankee Stadium next month on the Yanks' short-season Class A team in Staten Island.

  • How does Gary Sheffield go from torn ligaments in his right thumb in the first week of spring training and likely surgery and half a season lost, to not missing a game? Twice a day and an hour before he gets to the park, Sheffield attaches electronic magnets to his injured thumb to ward off his chronic tendency to arthritis, which has permanently swollen his other surgically repaired thumb. He also repeats the process when he gets back home from games. So far, so good, although Sheffield's power numbers are lacking.

  • Reggie Jackson repeatedly ranted "underrated defensive outfielder" while Sheffield was in the batting cage.

  • Before separating his shoulder on a check swing two nights later, Richie Sexson hit the longest home run in Bank One Ballpark history on Monday, a titanic projectile off his own teeth in the jumbotron, knocking out the lights. The ball was returned to Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo, who marvelled at the notches the broken bulbs had cut into the ball. Imagine a ball still on its way up, 503 feet from home plate, 150-feet up and rising, and still traveling hard enough to cut 1/8th inch grooves in it?

  • Luis Gonzalez will have Tommy John surgery on his injured elbow the day after his last at-bat this season. If the D-Backs are well out of the playoff race by Labor Day, expect Luis to call it a season early to be reay for the start of 2005. His elbow is so painful when he throws, he has to throw sidearm/underhand, and is often removed for defense late in the game. Manager Bob Brenly thought he was safe with a five-run, seventh-inning lead against Milwaukee, but the Brewers came back to tie the game and won it in 15 innings, costing Gonzalez at least three more at-bats.

    On Tuesday against the Cubs, Gonzalez played all nine innings in a 10-1 blowout victory.

  • Two of the few hardy souls who shun batting gloves were in the building in Phoenix this week. Mark Grace, who now is a broadcaster for the D-Backs, and the Cubs' Moises Alou.

    Alou says the secret to hitting without batting gloves is to harden your hands and prevent calluses. One of his methods might win someone the prize money on the TV show, "Fear Factor." He urinates on his hands. That's the honest truth. Alou said he isn't sure where he learned this distasteful folk medicine, but it wasn't from his famous father. And it works for Moises.

  • Speaking of strange treatments for injuries, the Cubs' medical staff says they get more ointments, creams, herbal recipes and various tonics and dozens of e-mails every day with suggested cures for Mark Prior's elbow and Achilles' problems than they know what to do with. Prior used to peruse through some of them, but Cubs trainers Sandy Krum and Dave Groeschner have stopped showing them to the pitcher because they're afraid he'll use one of them.

    Prior's bullpen sessions have been going well, and he'll stay behind in Arizona and move on to simulated games by the end of next week.

  • Johnny Damon's mangy hair and thick beard have earned him nicknames ranging from Jesus, to Chubaka, to the "caddie in Happy Gilmore." But the best talk in the Red Sox locker room is for the oft-interviewed Curt Schilling, who even contributes regularly to the fans' favorite website, Legends of Sam Horn. Schilling also stars in a local Dunkin' Donuts advertisement where he learns to speak Boston, ("pahk the cahr, Sawks"), which is shown as often as the Green Monster on Red Sox broadcasts.

    Schill the shill's monicker: "Red Light," for the bulb on top of all television cameras.

    Gary Miller is a reporter for ESPN.