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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chi Cubs 6, Cincinnati 0

By JOE KAY, AP Sports Writer
September 29, 2007

CINCINNATI (AP) -- They lost on the field, fought in the dugout, fell out of contention before the season's midpoint. Then, the Chicago Cubs did something that defied their long history of failure and disappointment.

Somehow, they pulled together and won the division.

Chicago's two biggest offseason investments took them the final step toward the playoffs on Friday night. Alfonso Soriano hit another leadoff homer, Carlos Zambrano kept his cool, and the Cubs clinched the NL Central with a 6-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

"Hopefully we can have a few more little parties like this," said Lou Piniella, who enjoyed a champagne shower in his first season as the Cubs manager. "They're fun."

This celebration was so unexpected.
The Cubs invested $300 million in their roster in the offseason, a big-budget solution to their last-place finish in 2006. By June, it looked like a lousy business decision. Chicago was 8 1/2 games out on June 23, with long-suffering fans ready to write them off.

On Friday night, that $300 million paid a return: 30 cases of fine California champagne, sprayed giddily on everyone and everything in the visitors' clubhouse at Great American Ball Park.

"I'm glad to be cold," said reliever Scott Eyre, soaked through with champagne. "I don't think anybody remembers last year."

Instead, the reference point is 2003, the last time the Cubs made the playoffs. They reached the NL championship series under first-year manager Dusty Baker, only to collapse when a fan interfered with a foul ball in Game 6 against Florida.

Now, they get another chance to make a run at their first World Series title since 1908.

"We're as good as anybody going into the playoffs," closer Ryan Dempster said. "We've played as good as anybody. Since the All-Star break, we've been playing great."

Lately, no one has been better than Soriano.

The outfielder was the centerpiece of the offseason splurge, getting an eight-year, $136 million deal that was the fifth-largest in baseball history. Since returning from a strained thigh that sidelined him for most of August, Soriano has gone on a tear unsurpassed in Cubs history -- 13 homers in September, matching Ernie Banks' record of 50 years ago.

"I'm very proud of myself," Soriano said. "I've never had a good September. This time, my team needed it."

The Cubs stumbled into town after getting swept in Florida, stalling their quest. Soriano got them back in high spirits by hitting the third pitch from Bronson Arroyo (9-15) into the seats in center field for his 32nd homer.

His six leadoff homers in September are the most by any major leaguer in any month -- and that's wasn't the end of it. The left fielder also threw Joey Votto out at the plate in the fourth inning, matching Hank Sauer's team record of 19 assists for the season.

From Soriano's emphatic opening homer, this one had a playoff atmosphere with tens of thousands of blue-shirted Cubs fans giving the visitors a home-field advantage.

"I'm not real happy about that," interim Reds manager Pete Mackanin said. "Nobody likes letting the opposition fans raise the roof in your own ballpark. It's a little unsettling. You'd like to quiet them down and make them a little nervous."

Nothing made Zambrano sweat. Keeping his emotions in check, the right-hander allowed six hits in seven innings and strengthened his case to start the first game of the playoffs.

In June, Zambrano was the epitome of Chicago's tumultuous start. He got into a fight with former Cubs catcher Michael Barrett in the dugout and again in the clubhouse, the low point of Chicago's early slide.

Zambrano completed the turnaround by winning on the same field where he had an emotional meltdown on opening day.

"This one was very important to me," said Zambrano (18-13). "We started the season here. Before the game, I was thinking: Here we started, and here we finish."
When Milwaukee lost to San Diego 6-3 later Friday, the Cubs got to pop some corks in the city where their volcanic manager is still revered for blowing his cork and leading the Reds to a World Series championship in 1990.

Piniella had a new look on Friday -- the customary two-day stubble was gone from his face, shaved clean after that stomach-churning visit to Florida. Piniella kept his eyes on the bigger picture: That four-month comeback to win the majors' weakest division.

"We've got some nice talent here," Piniella said. "At the same time, we got into a situation where the team in front of us gave us a chance to get back in the race. We said, 'All right,' and we got after it."

Piniella's top starter had a new way about him, too.

The Cubs gave Zambrano a five-year, $91.5 million contract extension on Aug. 17 despite one glaring flaw. The 26-year-old pitcher has tended to let the big games get to him, imploding in his last three opening day starts.

Could he handle the pressure this time?

He stayed as serene as those 30 cases of Korbel champagne stored in a room off the visitors' clubhouse, waiting to be shook up.

No team had clinched a playoff spot in Cincinnati since 1999, when the Mets beat the Reds at Cinergy Field to win the NL wild card. ... The Reds are missing all three starting outfielders to injury. Ken Griffey Jr. (groin), Adam Dunn (knee) and Josh Hamilton (hamstring) combined for 89 homers and 246 RBIs. Their replacements on Friday -- Norris Hopper, Buck Coats and Jason Ellison -- had a combined one homer and 18 RBIs. ... Griffey, who played for Piniella in Seattle, poked his head into the manager's pregame session with reporters in the dugout. "You still doing this stuff?" Griffey asked incredulously.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cecil Cooper To Remain Houston Astros Manager

By David

Despite going 13-15 in his first 28 games, Cecil Cooper will be named the permanent manager of the Houston Astros. Gone is the interim tag and in is the insurmountable task of rebuilding a ball club that has posted a .447 winning percentage in a below average division.

Cooper replaced Phil Garner, who was fired late last month after guiding the Astros to their only World Series appearance in 2005. Cooper's tenure with the organization began that very year as a bench coach and he held that post until being promoted to interim manager.

His hiring is significant for a plethora of reasons, but most notably because he becomes the first African-American manager in the team's 46-year history. Cooper is now the second full-time black manager in Major League Baseball.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pirates hire Huntington as new GM

Exec spent past 10 years within the Indians' organization
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Looking for a general manager with a keen eye for evaluating talent and a scouting background, the Pirates announced early Tuesday that Indians advance scout Neal Huntington had been named to the team's vacant general manager post.

The search for Dave Littlefield's successor, which was led by new Pirates president Frank Coonelly, lasted less than two weeks. And for Coonelly, the check list of attributes was simple.

The Pirates president desired a GM with a vision of success and the tenacity to accomplish it.
The new GM was to be a baseball-minded executive, with strong leadership skills. And finally, Coonelly wanted someone with an unwavering passion for baseball and for the city of Pittsburgh.

In Coonelly's eyes, no one fit that bill better than Huntington.

"With Neal, I found all those attributes," Coonelly said alongside Huntington on Tuesday. "I felt that he was the ideal candidate, as he has had a lot of different experiences. He has been in the field, seen the players, evaluated the players and has also been in the office where the evaluation takes place and the data is analyzed."

Tuesday's announcement ended a GM search to replace Littlefield, who was dismissed from the position on Sept. 7.

Coonelly would not elaborate on other candidates considered for the position, but it is believed that Jack Reid Zduriencik, the Brewers' director of amateur scouting, and Tony LaCava, the Blue Jays' director of player development were also front-runners for the position.

Coonelly did, however, add that though the search was exhaustive, he took a narrowly tailored approach.

"I reviewed the entire baseball landscape, but really had a targeted vision for who I was looking for, and therefore didn't interview as many candidates as perhaps the media wanted me to interview," said Coonelly, who had a working relationship with Huntington in Coonelly's former position in the MLB front offices. "The individuals that I did interview were outstanding candidates, all of them, but Neal brought the most to what I was looking for to move the Pirates forward."

With Coonelly's vision of primarily building the Pirates from the farm system up, Huntington's scouting background is vital to ensuring that this type of system can be successful in Pittsburgh.

Huntington, 38, has spent the last 10 years in Cleveland in a variety of different capacities within the Indians front office. During that tenure, Huntington first served as an assistant director of Minor League operations in 1998, before being promoted to the position of director of player development.

In 2002, Huntington became an assistant to Indians GM Mark Shapiro. He then moved to the position of special assistant to Shapiro following the 2004 season.

Huntington described his most recent position within the Indians organization as one that required the native of Amherst, N.H., to wear a multitude of different hats. As a result, his credentials are broad.

As an adviser to Shapiro and vice president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, Huntington was involved in nearly all personnel and staffing decisions, as well as trade acquisition discussions. He also spent the majority of his time evaluating talent on both the Minor and Major League level.

When asked about Huntington, Shapiro responded: "[Huntington is] one of our chief evaluators and one of our strongest voices on every level," Shapiro said.

Coonelly echoed Shapiro's praise.

"Neal comes from an extremely successful organization in Cleveland." Coonelly said. "Neal has been part of a system that is very similar to the Pittsburgh market, and they utilized all these different avenues of player acquisition, I think extraordinarily well, and Neal is to receive credit for that."

Huntington, who becomes the organization's 12th general manager, also spent six years with the Montreal Expos prior to joining the Indians' front office staff.

"I think there is a tremendous opportunity here with the Pittsburgh Pirates," Huntington said.
"We're going to change the culture. We're going to change how we do things. Every one of our decisions will be a progressive process in bringing a winner back to Pittsburgh."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Championship Sunday: Angels win West

Halos head back to postseason behind Lackey, homers
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- Amid a sea of red on a perfect autumn afternoon, the Angels took the first necessary step in the path toward their version of the Promised Land.

Behind John Lackey, a man with a history of responding to the big moment, the Angels put away the Mariners, 7-4, and claimed the American League West title in front of 44,234 Angel Stadium fans on Sunday.

"I take a little pride in that sort of thing," Lackey said in a clubhouse erupting with the sounds of joy and champagne corks unleashed. "I enjoy the opportunity in big games and try to make the most of it.

"I played everything growing up, and I'm pretty competitive. I like to compete in big games. This being Fan Appreciation Day makes it pretty cool. Our fans have been great to us."

Lackey, the long, tall Texan who won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series for the Halos, was up to the task after the Mariners stubbornly stalled the clincher for two days, keeping the fans on hold until the final home game of the regular season.

Going seven innings and holding the Mariners to two runs before turning it over to the bullpen, Lackey delivered a performance that could not have hurt his bid for the Cy Young Award. He has a career-high 18 wins against nine losses, and his 3.11 ERA is second in the AL to Cleveland's Faust Carmona at 3.03.

Francisco Rodriguez, Lackey's fellow rookie with the 2002 champions, closed it out with a flourish, setting Seattle down in order in the ninth for his 38th save to touch off the celebration.

This is the Angels' sixth division title and third in the past four seasons. It's the first time since 1986 that a playoff berth was wrapped up at home. Their lone Wild Card appearance was in 2002 when they went on to win the franchise's first World Series crown.

"This is what you play for," Mike Scioscia said, having claimed his 701st regular-season win as Angels manager. "All you can do is grind it out and try to keep your focus on a day-to-day basis. Last year we fell short of our goal. We're back this year, and it's only the first round."

The Angels likely won't know their AL Division Series opponent until the final day or two of the season, given how close the four clubs likely to be involved are in the chase for best overall record and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

"We have three more of these after this one," general manager Bill Stoneman said, standing on the periphery of the celebration. "That's the objective here.

"This was an entire team effort, from Mike and the coaches through the entire roster. I don't know how many [players] we had over the course of the season up here, but it seems like they all contributed."

A total of 42 players wore the Angels uniform and appeared in a box score this season.

Scioscia lauded the play of an array of young performers who delivered handsomely, with poise and maturity, as one injury after another claimed everyday players over the course of the season -- starting with the brilliant Chone Figgins and starting pitchers Bartolo Colon and Jered Weaver out of the gate.

"The young kids really came through for them," Scioscia said, "and for us to keep this going and get to our ultimate goal, they'll have to keep doing it."

Added Stoneman: "We've got a lot of guys who are experiencing this for the first time. Hopefully, it whets their appetite."

Facing former teammate Jeff Weaver, older brother of Jered Weaver, the Angels struck early with a pair of those developing talents who excelled all summer.

Casey Kotchman launched a homer leading off the second inning, his 10th of the season, and Maicer Izturis followed with a two-run blast, his sixth, after a walk by Gary Matthews Jr.

"It was a breaking ball down and in, and I got it in the air," Kotchman said of his first homer since July 1. "I've been spoiled. I've been here since Mr. [Arte] Moreno took over, and I've been to the postseason in '04, '05 and now '07.

"To get in [the playoffs] gives you a chance. Now you want to take it as far as you can."

It was especially satisfying for center fielder Matthews and reliever Justin Speier, veteran free-agent acquisitions reaching the postseason for the first time after years of watching October baseball.

"It's everything I thought it would be," said Glove Glove candidate Matthews, who embraced Moreno in the raucous clubhouse celebration.

While Kotchman and Izturis got the Angels jump-started on Sunday, contributions came from everywhere -- notably from the irrepressible shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who delivered with his glove and bat.

Lackey, using his big-breaking curveball as the main weapon in striking out seven hitters, yielded a pair of first-inning singles, but an acrobatic double play turned by Cabrera on a throw from the pitcher helped him out of the inning.

Lackey took a shutout into the fifth, when Ben Broussard doubled and scored on Jose Lopez's single. Lackey left two runners stranded when Ichiro Suzuki went down swinging on a big curve.
"He's a guy who takes pride in getting his hits," Lackey said of hit machine Ichiro. "You kinda know he's going to swing, and you try to take advantage of it."

The Mariners made it a one-run game in the sixth when Raul Ibanez doubled and scored on Broussard's double.

Weaver departed with an injury in the sixth after Izturis singled and Howie Kendrick was hit by a pitch for the second time. After a walk to Jeff Mathis, Figgins' sacrifice fly plated Izturis, and Cabrera's single delivered Kendrick.

Loading the bases with one out against Scot Shields in the eighth, the Mariners scored when Speier recorded a strikeout of Broussard that got past catcher Mathis for a wild pitch.

The next pitch also eluded Mathis for another wild pitch, allowing a second run to score, before Speier retired Jose Vidro on a roller to Kotchman at first to quell the threat.

K-Rod came in and finished off the Angels' 54th home victory of the season, matching the club record set in 2002.

The regular season will end with three games apiece in Texas and Oakland. The Angels will be jockeying for favorable postseason position with the Indians, Red Sox and Yankees, giving importance to all of those games.

"We all know where we've been," said Moreno, the man who signs the checks. "We're pretty excited about where we're going."

Indians claim AL Central crown

Finish matches month-long span that put Tribe in position
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- They clinched it the way they claimed it.

The Indians came into Sunday's game with a supreme focus on locking up the American League Central Division championship in the regular-season home finale, in front of a bustling sellout crowd of 40,250 fans.

"That's what we wanted to do," starter Jake Westbrook said. "We got some help yesterday with Kansas City beating Detroit [dropping the magic number down to one], and we just wanted to get it done today for Cleveland and the fans here."

They got it done, officially, when Rafael Betancourt struck out Mark Ellis in the top of the ninth to cap a 6-2 victory over the A's.

But the Indians' first division title since 2001 and their seventh in 13 seasons became theirs, for all intents and purposes, over the course of a month-long span in which they've beared down and played their best baseball of the season.

The division race between the Tribe and the Tigers was knotted up Aug. 15. Then the Indians turned on the jets and went 27-9 over their last 36 games.

So if they seemed a little more intense and a little more determined Sunday, don't let it fool you.

"We're always intense," center fielder Grady Sizemore said. "I don't think we ever lose that.
This is a team that never gives up."

Still, Sizemore had to admit, "We had a sense of urgency to get it done today."

They certainly showed it.

Westbrook, coming off a rough outing in a big game against Detroit, struck out a career-high nine batters over seven strong innings of work.

Sizemore, batting in the leadoff spot, turned in a four-hit performance for the fourth time this season. All the hits came off lefties.

Betancourt, sent in to relieve Rafael Perez of a two-out, two-on jam in the eighth, pitched 1 1/3 perfect innings, striking out three.

It was a game that served as representation of how the Indians got themselves into this enviable position in the first place.

"We've had a great focus for an extended period of time," manager Eric Wedge said. "You saw it again today."

Wedge always harps on how a team's performance starts with the starting pitching. And from the beginning of this game, it was clear Westbrook had his best sinker working. The crowd began to roar as he prepared to throw the game's first pitch to Shannon Stewart, and he fed off that energy to force key double-play balls in the first and second innings.

"I was throwing the ball hard and locating a lot of my pitches," Westbrook said. "It was fun to pitch today."

This season hasn't always been fun for Westbrook. He struggled in April and strained an abdominal muscle in early May, forcing him to sit for six weeks. When he came back, he looked rusty, right up until he put together an outstanding August that was instrumental in the Tribe's standings surge.

"My season had not gone the way I wanted it to, personally," Westbrook said. "But to be a part of this team and pitching in big ballgames in the second half has been great."

The Indians' offense rose to the occasion of this big ballgame, with Sizemore leading the way. His RBI single off Dallas Braden in the second inning gave the Tribe a 2-0 lead. And in the fourth, his RBI triple to the right-field corner was part of a four-run outburst begun by Casey Blake's two-run double and capped by Asdrubal Cabrera's run-scoring single to left.

Did Sizemore, who was batting just .148 over his previous eight games, feel a particular need to spark the offense on this day?

"It's not that I had to, it's that I wanted to set the tone early," he said. "I wanted to get on base and just create. We knew if we could get ahead early, with the way our bullpen's going, [the A's] wouldn't be able to get back in the game."

Sizemore was right. Westbrook worked through the seventh, with his only blemish coming when he served up a two-run homer to Daric Barton in the sixth.

In the eighth, Perez found trouble by giving up a two-out single to Stewart and a double to Barton. But Betancourt came in to fan Nick Swisher.

All that was left was to finish the job in the ninth. Betancourt, who has emerged as one of the premier setup men in all of baseball this season, kept pounding the outside edge with his trusty fastball to get Jack Cust looking at strike three. Mike Piazza then popped out weakly to second, and Ellis quickly found himself in an 0-2 count with two outs.

"I can't describe how it felt to be in that moment," Betancourt said. "Especially when I had Ellis at two strikes. I kept telling myself, 'I need just one strike.' I just threw the ball where [catcher] Victor [Martinez] wanted it. I was going with my best pitch in that situation."

His best pitch was a fastball that Ellis couldn't catch. And when Ellis swung and missed, Betancourt leapt off the mound and into Martinez's outstretched arms.

Despite all the distractions that came with injuries, April snowouts, lost off-days, reshuffled lineups and rotation adjustments, the Indians were finally champs.

After watching stadium workers raise the championship flag on a pole at the top of the scoreboard, the Indians retreated to a champagne-soaked clubhouse. It was there where Wedge reflected on a club that persevered through some unique situations to get to the promised land.

"It's about these guys," Wedge said. "You know what kind of journey it is. That's why you play so many games. Ultimately, to be a champion, you've got to overcome a lot, and our guys have."

Red Sox Clinch Playoff Berth

The first step towards solidifying a playoff berth was captured last night in Tampa as the Red Sox defeated the last place Devil Rays 8-6.

Tension and uneasiness stills reigns in Boston as the Yankees are making a late season surge at the division title for the ninth consecutive year. Boston has gone from a comfortable 14.5 game lead earlier in the season to a mere 2.5 game lead with just weeks remaining in the season. Still, they are the first team to clinch a postseason birth and they'll be playing in October for the first time since 2005.

With timely hitting and outstanding pitching it will be difficult for the Red Sox to be upended. A first-round matchup with the Indians looks to be imminent and that plays out well for the Sox.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Public to decide fate of Bonds' record-breaking ball

By MARCUS WOHLSEN, Associated Press Writer
September 17, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The fate of Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run ball is now in the public's hands after its buyer announced Monday he was taking votes on whether to give the ball to the Hall of Fame, brand it with an asterisk or blast it into space.

Fashion designer Marc Ecko revealed himself as Saturday's winning bidder in the online auction for the ball that Bonds hit last month to break Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs. The final selling price for No. 756 was $752,467, well above most predictions.

Ecko had not even taken possession of the ball before setting up a Web site that lets visitors vote on which of the three outcomes they think the ball most deserves. He plans to announce the final tally after voting ends Sept. 25.

"I bought this baseball to democratize the debate over what to do with it," Ecko wrote on the Web site. "The idea that some of the best athletes in the country are forced to decide between being competitive and staying natural is troubling."

The 35-year-old Ecko is known for his pop culture pranks, including an infamous Internet video that showed him apparently infiltrating an airport tarmac and spray-painting graffiti on Air Force One. The incident turned out to be a hoax.

But the auction house that handled the sale confirmed that Ecko is indeed the ball's buyer.

"This transaction is happening and is going to be done by the end of the day," David Kohler, president of SCP Auctions, said Monday.

Kohler called Ecko's decision "brilliant" and said he had already visited the Web site and voted to send the ball to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Matt Murphy, a 21-year-old student and construction supervisor from New York, emerged from a scrum with the ball on Aug. 7. He decided to sell it, he said, because he couldn't afford the tax bill that would result from holding onto the ball.

Some tax experts said Murphy would have owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes based on a reasonable estimate of the ball's value even if he had never sold it. He may also have faced capital gains taxes as the ball gained value.

"This either makes him a lunatic or a genius, one of those two," Murphy said when told of Ecko's actions. "I'm leaning toward genius."

Murphy said he planned to vote to send the ball to Cooperstown.

Ecko himself said he voted to brand the ball with an asterisk, a reference to the belief of some Bonds detractors that the Giants slugger's record is tainted by his alleged use of performance-enhancing substances. Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs.

Ecko said what really interests him is seeing what happens when an "American Idol" approach comes together with a serious public debate over drugs in sports.

"My vote really doesn't matter," said Ecko, who identifies himself as a New York Yankees fan. "The American public will tell us what to do with it."

On the Web:

Vote 756: http://www.vote756.com

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Jam Packed AL Wild Card Race Heat Up

By David

With just over twenty games remaining in the regular season, three teams in the AL are separated by 4.5 games or less for the wild card lead.

The roller coaster ride that has been the New York Yankees season has cemented them a top the AL wild card standings with a three game lead over the surging Tigers and a 4.5 game lead over the reeling Mariners. Detroit has two more games against Seattle this weekend and only faces a winning team once more this year. Their three game set September 17-19 at Cleveland will be the only difficult matchup for the defending AL champions.

Conversely, Seattle has lost twelve out of thirteen and have fallen 4.5 games off the wild card pace. With two remaining games at Comerica park, a three game set on the road against the AL West leading Angels and three games at home against the AL Central leading Indians it appears highly unlikely that the Mariners will overtake both the Yankees and Tigers.

Currently, Seattle is on a stretch where they play seventeen straight games and twenty three out of twenty-four to end the season.

Capturing the AL East crown for a tenth straight season might be out of the realm of possibilities for the Yankees, but entering the playoffs as the wild card representative is certainly in reach for the Bronx Bombers. Powered by the most productive and exciting offense in baseball, the Yankees should encounter no problems during their next 21 games, with all of their remaining series against divisional opponents.

Report: Glaus received steroids

September 7, 2007

NEW YORK (Ticker) - Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus received multiple shipments of performance-enhancing steroids through an allegedly illegal distribution network, Sports Illustrated reported on its web site Friday.

Citing a source in Florida familiar with the client list of the the Signature Pharmacy, SI.com reported that Glaus - a former World Series MVP and four-time All-Star - received multiple shipments of nandrolone and testosterone between September 2003 and May 2004 when he was with the Anaheim Angels. Both substances were on Major League Baseball's banned list at that time.

The story comes on the same day that the New York Daily News reported that St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Rick Ankiel received multiple shipments of human growth hormone from a separate source.

SI.com's source claims to have seen prescriptions in Glaus' named that were obtained through the New Hope Health Center, a California-based anti-aging clinic which advertises the sale of anabolic steroids and human growth hormones on its web site.

Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was a coach with Anaheim when Glaus played there from 1998-2004, defended the player.

"I support Troy and have no idea what's going on in regards to this," Maddon said. "We'd go out and have a little dinner once in a while. I have a lot of respect for him, I just don't know enough about what's been put out there today.

"He's good people and he's a really good friend of mine."

That prescription is said to have been processed by Signature. The prescribing physician is identified by SI.com as Ramon Scruggs, who the Medical Board of California names as being on probation and as prohibited from prescribing via the internet.

Glaus was named World Series MVP in 2002, but has been regarded as injury prone in recent seasons. This season, Glaus is hitting .263 with 20 home runs and 62 RBI, but he has been hampered by foot problems.

When told by reporters that the allegations of the steroid use came when both Glaus and Maddon were with the Angels, Tampa Bay's manager maintained his support.

"I never suspected anything when we were in California," Maddon said. "I did not suspect anything. There was no suspicion, he's a good friend and a good man."

Earlier on Friday, the New York Daily News reported that Ankiel received a 12-month supply of human growth hormone in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that was part of a national illegal prescription drug-distribution operation.

That story came just hours after Ankiel belted a pair of home runs and drove in seven runs in the Cardinals' 16-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

According to records obtained by The Daily News, which cited sources close to the controversy surrounding anti-aging clinics that dispense illegal prescription drugs, Ankiel received eight shipments of HGH from Signature Pharmacy in Orlando from January to December 2004.

Signature is the pharmacy at the center of a two-year investigation of illegal Internet prescription drug sales by Albany District Attorney David Soares.

That same probe ensnared New England Patriots strong safety Rodney Harrison, who last week admitted to using human growth hormones and was suspended four games by the NFL.

The Boston Globe reported that Harrison bought the HGH from the Palm Beach Rejuvenation Center.

According to The Daily News, Ankiel's prescriptions were signed by a Florida physician who provided them through a Palm Beach Gardens clinic called "The Health and Rejuvenation Center," or "THARC."

Ankiel lives in nearby Jupiter, Florida.

THARC also provided a shipment of steroids and growth hormone to former major league pitcher Steve Woodard, who was a teammate of Ankiel at Class AAA Memphis in 2004.

Heather Orth, director of communications for Soares' office, told PA SportsTicker on Friday that the investigation is looking at a number of clinics linked to Signature, but that THARC is not among them.

The 28-year-old Ankiel, who also hit a two-run homer Wednesday, is batting .358 (29-for-81) with nine home runs and 29 RBI in 23 games since returning to the majors on August 9.

It has been a remarkable turnaround for a player who gained notoriety for throwing nine wild pitches in four innings during the 2000 playoffs - an outing that essentially led to the demise of his pitching career.

The startling rebirth of Ankiel's career has drawn comparisons to Babe Ruth and Roy Hobbs, but the feel-good story of the year may be coming to a crashing halt.

An elbow sprain forced Ankiel to miss the 2002 season, and he underwent "Tommy John" surgery in July 2003. The lefthander returned to the Cardinals as a reliever in 2004, but pitched in only five games.

He ended his pitching career and switched to the outfield in 2005, but he injured his knee before the 2006 season, underwent knee surgery and missed the entire year.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Red Sox rookie RHP Buchholz throws no-hitter against Orioles

September 2, 2007

BOSTON (TICKER) -- In the heat of a pennant race and his team mired in a four-game losing streak, rookie righthander Clay Buchholz gave the Boston Red Sox a huge lift.

In just his second major league start, Buchholz threw a no-hitter to lead the Red Sox to a 10-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Not only did Buchholz's gem stop a slide, it helped Boston maintain a five-game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East.

Buchholz, who turned 23 on August 14, threw the third no-hitter this year - all in the American League - and first since the Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander accomplished the feat on June 12 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"I don't even have a word for it, I was so excited and ecstatic about everything and the way everything boiled down to that moment and being out there," Buchholz said. "It was, you'd think we won a World Series or something, but it was an incredible moment in my life and one that I will never forget."

"I think that was about as nervous and excited as a lot of us have been in a long time," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "That was something to see."

Buchholz (2-0) only was pitching due to a back injury to Tim Wakefield, who was scratched from his start Friday night. Saturday's scheduled starter, Julian Tavarez, was moved up a day to take Wakefield's spot, opening the door for Buchholz to make history.

''It was probably the third inning of our game (Friday) night in Pawtucket," said Buchholz of when he learned he would be starting. "I had to gather all my stuff up and get up here last night, couldn't really sleep well, got up early, had some breakfast and tried to get ready for the game."

Wilson Alvarez of the Chicago White Sox was the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his second major league start - also against the Orioles on August 11, 1991. It also was the first no-hitter by a Boston pitcher since Derek Lowe against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on April 27, 2002, and the 17th in franchise history.

"It's been fun to watch," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said. "Very proud of the organization, from the scouts who recommended him and player development staff who worked with him up to the major league staff."

The last pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the National League was Anibal Sanchez of the Florida Marlins on September 6, 2006.

Sanchez, ironically, went to the Marlins from the Red Sox in a trade for Josh Beckett. He was 22 at the time of his no-hitter.

Rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia preserved the no-hitter with a spectacular defensive play in the seventh inning.

Miguel Tejada bounced a pitch over Buchholz's head that appeared headed into center field, but Pedroia made a diving stop as he sprawled onto the outfield grass, got up and just got beat Tejada's headfirst slide into the first base bag.

"Whenever I jumped up and missed that ball, I was thinking it is over and then (Pedroia) comes out of nowhere and probably one of the best plays I've seen in 10 years," Buchholz said. "Whenever he made that play I knew something was meant to happen tonight."

Center fielder Coco Crisp probably had the best view of Pedroia's magnificent play and almost could not believe was he saw.

"I thought he had no chance at it and in that situation you just have to dive for it," Crisp said. "He dove and he shocked me. I thought he was going to flip it to (shortstop Julio) Lugo since his back was to first base, but he came around and fired it over there."

In the eighth inning, Buchholz stabbed a comeback by Jay Payton for the final out, putting him at 102 pitches.

''Well the adrenaline was running and I don't think I had many emotions," Buchholz said. "I sort of tried to zone everything out but it's sort of hard with 40,000 people screaming everytime you throw."

With the Fenway Park crowd on its feet and the count 1-2, Buchholz got Markakis on a slow breaking ball for a called strike three, setting off a delirious celebration among his teammates.

"Whenever I couldn't throw a fastball for a strike, I was able to come back with changeups and other breaking pitches for strikes and keep the hitters off-balance," Buchholz said.

"He was staying in the strike zone with his breaking ball where he got some strikes," Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "There were a lot of pitches that we swung at that weren't strikes, but you can do that when you throw strike one; when you throw strike one it opens up that plate and that's what he did."

Buchholz finished with nine strikeouts and three walks. He threw 115 pitches - 73 for strikes - to help the Red Sox snap a four-game losing streak and remain five games ahead of the New York Yankees for the American League East lead.

"He established his fastball enough and his off-speed was devastating," Francona said.

Buchholz started the ninth by striking out Brian Roberts - his eighth of the game - and retired Corey Patterson on a line drive to Crisp, bringing Nick Markakis to the plate.

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