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The big lineup news today is the presence of Reed Johnson in the leadoff spot. Against a righty, Frank Catalanotto usually plays LF, but perhaps Carlos Tosca has run out of patience with his slump, and the skipper obviously has confidence in the Sparkplug against any kind of pitching. Mike Bordick, who is more dangerous against southpaws, remains in the 2-hole -- Eric Hinske is hitting seventh. Bordick's on an 11-game hit streak, batting well over .400 for that stretch, so while he's hot, it's not a bad idea.

Kelvim Escobar, no longer distracted by trade rumours but still pitching for his next contract, should have a good afternoon in Anaheim. He's 4-3, 2.73 with five saves in his career against the Angels. His opposite number, RH Scot Shields, makes just his third start of the season but has been brilliant in most of his 30 relief appearances. Stamina will be the big question as he takes over the rotation spot of the costliest release in baseball history, Kevin Appier.
While going back and forth on the Syracuse shuttle this season, Corey Thurman's had a pretty good year. He came up a couple of times without seeing any action, then finally pitched three innings of shutout relief against the Red Sox July 10. Three days later, he gave up a couple of walks, a hit and a run against the Yankees, followed by two perfect frames at Fenway on the 20th. That's a 1.42 ERA in 6.1 IP in the AL, and in his 14 AAA starts, he was 5-3, 4.46, with a couple of valid excuses.
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Here, in one large indigestible lump, is my summary of the Jays' month of July, which was about as much fun as watching the Dental Procedures Channel. I hope you find it enjoyable, or at least tolerable.
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So the Jays didn't manage to pull off that much-anticipated Escobar-Cash for Foppert-Willams trade that was all but a certainty in the minds of many insane people. Big deal -- there were some excellent pitching performances in the minor leagues last night.
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There's a lot of Theo "Luke Skywalker" Epstein and George "Darth Vader" Steinbrenner talk in the Big Apple press this morning. On, Adrian Wojnarowski (whose day job is with The Record in New Jersey) has penned a glowing tribute to the Red Sox GM:

With the Red Sox back just 2 games now and leading for the AL Wild Card, the message is unmistakable in Boston now: They're going for it. They're going for everything. What's more, Epstein hasn't had to sell out the Red Sox tomorrow for today, protecting most of his top prospects in trades for arms. His confidence is growing with every move, every bold stroke. As it turned out, Epstein isn't before his time at 29 now. His body of work insists he's right on cue.

Has the wunderkind done enough? Can the young Jedi defeat the Evil Empire?
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It's not easy to win sixteen consecutive decisions. It takes tremendous talent, dedication, preparation, stamina, resilience and luck, in the form of good health and run support. Roy Halladay can set a club record and equal an AL record tonight, but you can be certain he'll approach it as just another start.

A 16-0 run by Roger Clemens happened just two years ago, but it's hardly commonplace -- if Doc can defeat the Angels, he'll be only the second man in 60 years to accomplish the feat. He'll be backed by the latest "regular" lineup, which features Mike Bordick at SS, Frank Catalanotto leading off in LF, Josh Phelps at DH and Carlos Delgado back at first. Phelps has been freed; the manager says he'll get three AB every night, and play six days a week. It's too bad for Reed Johnson, but the Sparkplug knows he's a role player, and he'd be the last to whine about playing time. He'll be out there tomorrow against the lefty, when we might even see Dave Berg in action.

I like what Carlos Tosca is telling his troops, and the media. His team had a rotten April, then two great months. They had a rotten July, so tonight is the beginning of two more great months. The distraction of the trade deadline is over; it's time to relax and have fun, for the players and the fans. Go, Doc!
Well, my pre-season pick to repeat isn't looking so hot. Every Angel not named Garret is suffering from a severe slugging slump, and the team's been reeling since the All-Star Break (when contention was still very much a possibility). The team's vaunted chemistry has broken down lately as well, although most Halos were happy not to see either a fire sale or a panic session of trading good prospects for last-ditch help.

With Kevin Appier gone, the Angels are finally rid of their financial sinkhole created by the Mo Vaughn signing that seemed like a much better idea at the time. New owner Arte Moreno has apparently given the Angels' head office the go-ahead to spend this offseason, boosted by the team's championship-fueled attendance that has blown prior team records for fan support out of the water.

(Note to Wayne Huizenga: You see? The '98 Marlins didn't even have to be good. They just had to have the possibility of being good and you would have made money.)

On to the Advance Scout!
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Mark Hendrickson last pitched against Tampa Bay on April 23; on that day, he took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth and lost 4-3. Hendrickson's expressions of frustration after that game have been cited as the point at which the Jays turned it all around. Will lightning strike twice?
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I can't find anything particularly interesting to post today -- we already have a place for trade news, and the Jays-Rays game at 12:30 will have its own thread -- so I'm going to take a page from our friends at Baseball Primer and throw open the discussion to the first topic that gets posted. Counting down: 3...2....1.....
Transplanted from the Open-Mike thread, here's Jonny German's thoughts on Roy Halladay, because we here at Batter's Box are all about value. And beer. And making sure a good post gets its due.


Well, Mick emphatically insisted he wouldn't, and was met with token resistance (a nod to Spicol), but you'd have to say at this point that our man Roy stands a good chance of winning the Cy Young. He could meet one of Mick's criteria, "Won a ridiculous (23+) number of games", but as cautioned he may not be the only one to do so. The key is his big winning streak, which got him into the (inter)national spotlight and took away the familiarity advantage of guys like Pedro, Mussina, Mulder, Zito, Hudson.
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In King Kaufman's Sports Daily for Salon yesterday, he took a stab at a standard of sports columnists: best sports movies, or what he called "sports movies will provide hours of schmaltz-free entertainment." Please, please let's not get into that discussion again. Talk about your case of terminal tired-head. However ...

Kaufman writes, "It's funny how the same people keep showing up. [Paul Newman] ... Jackie Gleason ... James Caan, Jeff Bridges. Is there a sports movie All-Star team?

Now THAT'S a great question. Can we build an all-time, all-movie, baseball all-star team? No cheating -- not "Jackie" from The Jackie Robinson Story. Not "George" from The Babe. We're looking for Nuke LaLoosh and Crash Davis from Bull Durham, Willie Mays Hayes and Ricky Vaughn from Major League even King Kelly from It Happens Every Spring.

And feel free to reach ... people who appeared as fictional baseball players in non-sports movies, even. Under the right circumstances, we might even accept a TV character. Can we fill out a roster? Sure. But what about a manager, owner, announcer, mascot? And how creative can we be?
No trade news from Skydome yet, though I'm sure JP & Co. are burning the phone lines in these last hours before the trading deadline. July 31 may not be the drop-dead date it has been in the past; teams have usually tried to complete deals before now because in order to trade someone after July 31, the player has to pass through waivers. But with teams increasingly worried about payroll, it's becoming less likely they'll take a chance on claiming a player on waivers. Randy Myers and Jose Canseco are Exhibits A & B.

Anyway, the week's not over yet, and in the meantime there's been plenty of action already. Here's the latest; feel free to add more trade news here as the deadline approaches.
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It took a full year for the Yankees to accept what J.P. Ricciardi knew almost immediately. What's surprising is, they found another sucker. Raul Mondesi was banished to the desert yesterday. According to Anthony McCarron in the NY Daily News, it wasn't just that he publicly ripped his manager last week, or bolted on his team during a game:

The Yanks were concerned about the influence Mondesi was having on their other Latin players, particularly Alfonso Soriano, who has struggled recently.

Gee, what a surprise. He taught Felipe Lopez so much in Toronto. This isn't as obvious or significant an improvement as adding Scott Williamson was for the Red Sox, but the Yankees are much better off without Mondesi. Raul, as he always does, will try to make a good first impression, but his behaviour will infect the Arizona clubhouse before long.
If, as a matter of policy, you always read the minor league updates -- or, conversely, you never read them -- then read ahead or don't, as the case may be. If, however, you only read them when it seems that something interesting happened in the minor leagues, then this is a good one to skip, 'cause there just wasn't a whole lot going down last night. I have tried to compensate for the relative absence of news with a surfeit of bad puns, which may only compound the problem.
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Of all the teams to have your number. The D-Rays would be playoff bound if they only played the Jays. As Robert said in last night's game thread:

It occured to me that the D-Rays are well-suited to turf. Fast guys who put the ball in play (and seem to get hits on grounders with maddening regularity), speedy outfield and good basestealers.

Yeah, and they have stolen a couple of wins this year with bloops and bleeders off hard-luck starters. Tonight, Lou sticks with RH Victor Zambrano, who was awful in April, better in May, 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA and .165 opponent's average in June, and has been mediocre in July. He was the winner in that horrible April game when a brilliant Hendrickson had a 2-0 lead through seven; the roof didn't cave in, it kinda crumbled. Vic's given up 17 earned runs in his last three starts, which prompted me to thank him for June and release him in the BBFL when Cliff Politte came off the DL.
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