NOT HAPPY IN THE PEN
Cubs righthander Kerry Wood (left) made his first big league relief appearance last Friday night, pitching a scoreless inning in a 9--5 loss to the Mets, then responded to reporters by spitting out nonanswers with the look of a man who just had a tooth extracted. Wood will come out of the bullpen for the rest of the season and could remain a reliever long term. Chicago would rather see Wood healthy enough to start, especially because it is on the hook for $15 million next season, including a $3 million buyout if the club doesn't want his 2007 option at $13.5 million. But Wood missed more than 10 weeks with a right shoulder strain and inflammation this season, and the Cubs won't know whether he'll be fit to return to the rotation until he recovers from an expected arthroscopic procedure on the shoulder after the season.
DOOMED FROM THE START
Lee Mazzilli's tenure as Orioles manager was bound to be a short one. After hiring Mazzilli (below) largely on the recommendation of co-general manager Mike Flanagan in November 2003, Baltimore not only didn't allow Mazzilli to hire his own coaches, but the club also forced him to keep two who had been turned down for the manager's job-- Rick Dempsey and Sam Perlozzo. Owner Peter Angelos quickly soured on Mazzilli amid rumors last year that the former major league outfielder--first baseman was losing respect in the clubhouse.
Given such shaky ground, Mazzilli's fate was sealed this season when his best pitcher, Erik Bedard, went down with a knee injury in May and the club did nothing to improve its thin staff. Baltimore's 30--16 start spiraled into a 21--40 flop that led to Mazzilli's firing last Thursday. His replacement? Perlozzo.
?The Padres had hit only 37 homers in 53 games at Petco Park at week's end, including none in a recent 1--5 home stand. G.M. Kevin Towers was so exasperated that he asked the club's video coordinator to find out how many balls were even hit over an outfielder's head in those six games. The answer? Two.
?Only in the NL West: The Giants had won just one home series since May, and their batters hitting lefthanded had only six home runs at SBC Park all year--yet through Sunday they still were only 71/2 games out of first.
? Angels righthander John Lackey (above) is second in the American League in strikeouts per nine innings with 9.2--a big jump from his career high of 6.7 in 2003. Pitching coach Bud Black said Lackey's curveball, with which he can vary the speed and the break, has become "a swing-and-miss pitch."
?You won't hear Nationals righthander John Patterson complain about spacious RFK Stadium. He was 5--0 in 13 starts there, had the lowest home ERA in the majors (1.67) and had allowed one homer in 308 at bats. Patterson had yet to win a game on the road (0--3, 4.02 ERA).