The Yankees were able to undo the mistake of trading for emotionally fragile reliever Armando Benitez and at the same time end their three-year search to replace reliever Jeff Nelson by reacquiring Nelson from the Mariners last week. The Benitez-for-Nelson swap could not have been possible, however, without the help of the Red Sox, who allowed the relievers to pass through waivers. Why didn't Boston block the deal? The waiver wire is packed each day with up to 210 players (a maximum of seven per team). A general manager must be judicious with putting in claims, lest he be stuck with players and contracts he doesn't want, as happened to San Diego in 1998 when it inherited washed-up closer Randy Myers.
The Red Sox didn't claim Nelson in part because they did not view him as an impact player. Boston was more concerned with not letting a rightfielder get to New York. The Red Sox saw the trade as a wash, though the Yankees did cartwheels down their hallways. Boston isn't the only team cautious about blocking. "More players are getting through now than in recent years," one AL executive says. "There are maybe two or three players per day you might claim. Not a single guy I put on waivers was claimed."
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The Rangers are in the midst of another dismal season, but at least they have a young, talented infield under contract through 2007: first baseman Mark Teixeira, 23; second baseman Michael Young, 26; shortstop Alex Rodriguez, 28; and third baseman Hank Blalock, 22. ( Teixeira could move to the outfield if first base prospect Adrian Gonzalez, 21, obtained from the Marlins for Ugueth Urbina, fulfills his potential.) All were highly touted prospects except Young, a career .256 hitter entering this season whom Texas acquired from Toronto in 2000 for pitcher Esteban Loaiza. Young has blossomed into a skillful leadoff hitter (.310, 10 HRs, 56 RBIs) who at week's end ranked fourth in the league in hits with 148. "He's the best secret in the American League," manager Buck Showalter said of Young. "He's having a great offensive year, and he is a great defensive player. There's not a second baseman in baseball with better arm strength than Michael."
Despite the recent moves the Red Sox made to improve their bullpen, manager Grady Little allowed Pedro Martinez to go out for the ninth inning against the Angels on Aug. 6, with a 4-1 lead and a pitch count of 108. Martinez labored through a 20-pitch inning and eventually won, 4-2. Little noted that Martinez is in good health. But Martinez was scheduled to make his next two starts without an extra day of rest, and it was the second time in three starts that Little permitted Martinez to exceed 120 pitches.
Martinez has thrown 120 pitches or more only seven times in 68 starts over the past three seasons. The last time Martinez threw two 120-pitch games so close together, in May 2001, he hurt his shoulder and made only seven starts for the rest of the year. And the last time he threw more than 120 pitches in August-Aug. 28 last year-he needed 12 days of rest before his next start.
Tal's Hill, the 10-degree incline in centerfield at Houston's Minute Maid Park, continues to haunt outfielders. Last week Mets centerfielder Timo Perez stumbled while chasing down a Lance Berkman triple. "They need to take that thing out because it's real bad," Perez said. "I hope nobody breaks their neck out there."
...Devil Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford sprained his right ankle last Saturday while trying to avoid a collision with G.M. Chuck LaMar's 10-year-old son, Charlie, who was shagging balls in the outfield. Crawford was scratched from that night's lineup....