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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Only one NL West rival shrugging off big-money bust
By Eduardo A. Encina
Published June 24, 2007
"A couple of the Twins batters told me they voted for me between innings."
Mets C Paul Lo Duca after a game vs. Minnesota when his team launched a Vote Lo Duca campaign. He trails Russell Martin in NL balloting.
When they were handed lucrative long-term contracts in the offseason, Dodgers RHP Jason Schmidt and Giants LHP Barry Zito were expected to be candidates for the NL All-Star team.
Now, nearly halfway into the season, the two supposed aces have been major busts in their first years with their NL West teams.
The difference has been how their teams have played despite their struggles.
Zito, who signed a seven-year, $126-million contract, couldn't halt the Giants' losing streak Wednesday, allowing four first-inning runs and dropping his record to 6-8. The Giants, in the NL West cellar, had lost eight straight and 20 of 25 through Friday, and not even Barry Bonds' bat can help a pitching staff that had a 6.43 ERA in the past week.
The Dodgers have gotten less out of Schmidt, who signed a three-year, $47-million deal. He made just six starts before season-ending shoulder surgery last week. Despite that, the Dodgers still have the second-best staff ERA in the NL (3.75) and starters Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Randy Wolf were 11-3 over the past month through Friday.
"With all due respect, he wasn't throwing well, " Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said of Schmidt. "It's not as if he were on the way to a Cy Young season and suddenly you lose him."
WEIGHT MATTERS: Miguel Cabrera's recent weight gain hasn't escaped the notice of his Venezuelan countryman and mentor, Ozzie Guillen. The subject came up again during their late dinner Sunday evening after the Marlins flew into Chicago for a three-game interleague series with Guillen's White Sox.
Guillen challenged Cabrera, 24, to get in better shape last winter in Venezuela, and Cabrera reported to spring training slimmer. But the combination of a strained oblique in April and some slippage in his commitment to conditioning has led to some added pounds.
"He knows he's got a problem. We talked about it, " Guillen said. "Miggy is not going to be a small kid; he never will. I just told him, 'You have to take care of yourself because you have a chance to be one of the best players ever from our country.' Miggy is going to be a Hall of Famer. There's no doubt."
GOOD ARM, GOOD BAT: During his major-league debut Monday, Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo showed why the 21-year-old is the top pitching prospect Milwaukee has, but he drew just as much attention for his hitting.
Gallardo, who batted .250 with three doubles and a homer in 24 at-bats at Triple-A Nashville, hit a run-scoring double in his first major-league at-bat. On his high school team in Texas, Gallardo batted third and usually played shortstop on days he didn't pitch to keep his bat in the lineup. He was ecstatic when he was drafted by an NL team in 2004.
"I've always loved hitting, " said Gallardo, who won his debut with 6 1/3 strong innings in a 5-4 win over San Francisco. "Ever since I was little, I liked swinging a bat. ... I look at hitting as a bonus."
WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE: Fired Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo had some interesting words about the job he did in two seasons as skipper.
"If you don't have enough good players, you are not going to be a good team, " he said. "You can make a bad team better, but you can't make a bad team a good one. I felt like I got every ounce out of some people. And I am not saying I was perfect, don't get me wrong, but the record is simply not an indication of what I am capable of."
SLUMPING SS: Former Ray and current Red Sox SS Julio Lugo has struggled in Boston. He has already been bumped from the leadoff spot to eighth. Manager Terry Francona has sat Lugo twice in Boston's past five games. And an 0-for-4 night Friday dropped his average below the Mendoza line to .198. Despite being tied for third in the AL with 19 stolen bases, Lugo had two hits in his past 26 at-bats heading into Saturday's game.
AROUND THE HORN: The Rockies own baseball's best record since May 22 at 20-8 and are three games above .500 for the first time since July 6. ... Yankees CF Johnny Damon, who has had calf, back and hamstring problems and is nursing a sore right rib cage, has started in centerfield more than three days in a row only twice all season. ... After intentionally walking Barry Bonds last weekend, his first intentional walk in nearly four years, Boston RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka was ripped on Japanese message boards for being a coward and not facing Bonds.