Wary of being able to sign Florida State infielder Stephen Drew (left), potentially their third baseman of the future, the Padres opened the first-year player draft on Monday by taking Matt Bush, a 5'10" shortstop out of Mission Bay High in Pacific Beach, Calif. Drew is represented by Scott Boras, the agent for Drew's brother, J.D., now with the Braves, who refused to sign with Philadelphia as the No. 2 pick in 1997. Drew was selected 15th, by the Diamondbacks. San Diego has Sean Burroughs at third base, but according to one National League source, Burroughs may be the key in the Padres' bid to acquire centerfielder Carlos Beltran from Kansas City. The source said San Diego is considering trading Burroughs and outfielder Xavier Nady for Beltran and third baseman Joe Randa, both of whom are eligible for free agency at season's end. The Royals have yet to show an urgency about moving Beltran.
Here's how rare it is for a rookie starting pitcher to make an immediate impact in the big leagues: At week's end no first-year starter had thrown enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, and only four had made more than seven starts. The Diamondbacks' Casey Daigle, the Devil Rays' Doug Waechter, the Cubs' Sergio Mitre and the Orioles' Erik Bedard were a combined 8-14. Last week Daigle and Mitre were sent to the minors. But keep an eye on Royals righthander Zack Greinke (above), who was promoted on May 22 and has been sharp (2.37 ERA) in his first three starts.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
Few players capable of altering a pennant race figure to be available for trade before the July 31 deadline, but several teams will get help off the disabled list. Here are the top players coming off seasonlong injuries, ranked in order of their influence on the stretch run.
1. Mark Prior, RHP, Cubs. On the DL since March with injuries to his right Achilles tendon and right elbow, he threw six scoreless innings in his first start last Friday. He's a prototypical ace who should be strong for the second half.
2. Nomar Garciaparra, SS, Red Sox. He's expected to be back in the lineup this week after injuring his right Achilles in spring training. His presence was missed, but Boston tied with the Yankees for the most runs in the majors without him.
3. A.J. Burnett (above), RHP, Marlins. Labored last Thursday in his first start since having Tommy John surgery in April 2003. Burnett has a great arm, but Florida needs another bat.
4. Larry Walker, RF, Rockies. A career .314 hitter, he'll give Colorado a boost if he can return from a groin injury later this month.
IN NEED OF COUNSELL
The Yankees have let other teams know they'd like a defensive upgrade at second base over Enrique Wilson. The Brewers' Craig Counsell (right) would be a perfect fit—the Red Sox tried to get him in spring training after Nomar Garciaparra went down—but Counsell has been so valuable to Milwaukee that the team is unlikely to trade him before late July. Counsell, a potential free agent after the season, had made only one error at shortstop through Sunday.