TRACHSEL– WOW. Welcome back to the Mets. Your pitching presence was praised as iconic. Your absence was bemoaned. Your minor league rehab starts were celebrated. Hard to believe, right, after the abuse you garnered as an active player? Fear not. After a win backed by 12 runs, Zambrano — who was rumored to be fighting for his starting life — may have your slot. So, pitch your heart out, Steve! And if things don’t work out, the Yankees have been eying you for years. Toss a baseball-in-a-bottle into the East River, and the message will get to Uncle George. (Right, Mr. Steinbrenner? Right?!)
LOAIZA– Will Nationals’ fielding and run-support FINALLY allow him to reach .500? Tonight the Nationals host the newly-crowned best-in-baseball Cardinals, sans their star Scott Rolen, and led by Suppan (RHP- 12-8, 3.94). Home-Field Advantage? Loaiza (RHP- 8-9, 3.66) could use any advantage the his own team can spare. Remember, except for that one pitch to first-day-in-the-majors Jacobs, he shut out the Mets in New York last week.
PLAYING FAVORITES? Randy Johnson (LHP- 11-8, 4.34) starts at the Stadium tonight (against Kansas City’s Mike Woods: RHP- 4-4, 4.09). We — I speak loosely — laid into Randy Johnson for giving up 6 runs in the 4th on Sunday in Chicago, and chose not to emphasize the multiple shutout innings he pitched on either side of the anomaly. The same “we” took in stride Mussina’s 8-run 5th inning a few days later against Toronto, noting with regret that Moose has been known to “throw” a single inning in an otherwise well-pitched game. With outrage, the same “we” flogged and sent away Kevin Brown for losing his first rehab start following weeks on the DL — rather than admitting that we may have destroyed the closing of a great pitcher’s career by denying him even one real rehab start, which is a low-pressure, innings-limited outing in a minor league game. We have descended to misrepresenting an epiphany he made the mistake of announcing — that he is pitching the last games of his career — to mean that he is unsure about continuing to pitch. I suppose I could continue this list by contrasting the huge leash Clemens was given to lose games as he adjusted to New York with the few games Loaiza was allowed before being sent to the bullpen in a move that may have lost the Yankees the 2004 ALCS.
SABATHIA– In Chicago, where I spent last week, commentators spoke with respect of the strength of Cleveland’s CC Sabathia (LHP- 10-9, 4.76). I don’t hear much good about the inconsistent lefty here in NYC, though I have been curious about him for some time. Of course, fans here were spared seeing him beat us as the Indians — featuring slugger Aaron Boone — laid us flat at the Stadium. And, the White Sox have to watch their backs in their own division, and the Indians are nipping at their heels from closer than they have been for some time this season. He faces a weaker link in the Blue Jays’ rotation, Dustin McGowan (RHP- 1-1, 8.63), who is filling-in for Yankee-Killer Roy Halladay, who is on the DL. Go, CC. (By the way, watch out for Vernon Wells.)
A RAMIRO MENDOZA SIGHTING! After months of invisibility on Yankee minor league webpages, Mendoza (RHP, middle reliever) has made an appearance. He is now with the AAA Columbus Clippers, after a short stint with the Gulf Coast Yankees. Can the Bronx be far off? No rush. He needs to take care of that shoulder. Maybe he really can “die a Yankee,” as he confessed was his dream just before he was handed off to the Red Sox for the 2003 season. Mr. Steinbrenner, are you listening? Please? (As evidence that I was am only a recently-converted Red Sox scorner, I produce the support and pride I sent out to the mound from my Saturday Tier Reserved season-seat, as Mendoza not only started for Boston but WON!) (Continuing your rescues from the Red Sox, Mr. Steinbrenner, might you consider scraping-up #16, who sold-off his #3 to Renteria right before beating us at home? A faded, fabled, #33 tattoo may be visible under his jersey.)