Chen, Guardado have All-Star stuff

AL notebook

Baseball Week

June 19, 2005

With about three weeks until the All-Star Game, two Orioles are locks to make the American League roster: shortstop Miguel Tejada and second baseman Brian Roberts.

Two others, closer B.J. Ryan and third baseman Melvin Mora, deserve spots as well. The Orioles haven't had four representatives since Cal Ripken, Harold Baines, Mike Mussina and B.J. Surhoff in 1999. They haven't had more than one since 2000.

A fifth selection seems unlikely, but a case can be made for Orioles left-hander Bruce Chen, who didn't officially make the roster until the last weekend in spring training and has emerged as the most consistent pitcher on a first-place club.

Heading into Friday night, only five starters in the American League had more wins and a lower ERA than Chen.

Not bad for a guy who had been dumped by eight other organizations.

Yet the AL's best story in Detroit next month should come from the West.

Seattle Mariners reliever Eddie Guardado missed the final two months of last season with a shoulder injury. While on the disabled list he had surgery on his left knee. He missed a few weeks this spring because of a hamstring problem.

Yet "Everyday Eddie" was ready for the season and is fighting for the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award. The 34-year-old had converted 17 straight saves through Friday and at one point retired 21 consecutive batters. He has been tremendous.

And he's doing it all with a rotator-cuff tear in his pitching shoulder.

"It's not partially torn; it's fully torn," Seattle trainer Rick Griffin said. "If you ask any physician or therapist who's got anything to do with baseball from a medical aspect, the fact he's even pitching in games is phenomenal."

Unless he implodes, "One-shoulder Eddie" should make his third All-Star team in a 13-year career.

Stand-up Lou

Call Lou Piniella a hothead and a loose cannon. But he has always been gutsy. And his calculated comments last week about team ownership were refreshing in a game in which managers are usually afraid to criticize anyone on the record, especially their bosses.

Piniella is sick of losing. But he's also sick of being lied to. He was told he would have a $40 million-$45 million payroll in Tampa Bay this season. Instead, it is $29 million - basically the equivalent of three role players on the New York Yankees.

For the fourth straight year the Devil Rays have the lowest payroll in baseball. And Piniella finally called out old management (Vince Naimoli) and new management (Stuart Sternberg) for shirking responsibility.

Go get 'em, Lou.

Quick hits

The Indians won nine of 10 after Hall of Famer Eddie Murray was fired as hitting coach. ... Jay Payton wants out of Boston so he can play every day. Good luck. He's 32 and his numbers have been unimpressive since he left Colorado. ... Kelvim Escobar's risky decision not to have surgery on a bone spur on his elbow means he could be back with the Los Angeles Angels by July, or be lost for the season. Time will tell.

League notebooks are compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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