Rookie gems from 2002 aren't sparkling in 2006

AL Notebook


It hasn't even been four full years, but it's probably safe to say the 2002 Rookie of the Year races won't go down as ones of any significance.

Orioles fans probably remember the American League competition well.

Starter Rodrigo Lopez and reliever Jorge Julio finished 2-3, behind Toronto's young third baseman Eric Hinske. Lopez, who was 25 points behind Hinske, was the year's biggest surprise. Julio was the Orioles' closer of the future. Hinske was a 25-year-old power hitter expected to be in the middle of the Blue Jays' lineup for a decade.

Eleven rookies received votes for the award, all seemingly promising players.

When the Blue Jays sent Hinske to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later Thursday, however, he became the third member of that rookie group to be traded this season. He might have been the fourth, but Lopez didn't pass through waivers earlier this month. Four others in that group haven't played in the majors at all this season.

Only Lopez, Los Angeles Angels pitcher John Lackey (tied for fourth place) and Oakland Athletics second baseman Mark Ellis (tied for eighth) are still with their 2002 club -- and it'd be surprising if Lopez were an Oriole in 2007. So much for a lasting impact from that rookie class.

It's actually worse in the National League, where only two of the 11 that received Rookie of the Year votes are still with their original major league club. Six haven't played in the majors at all in 2006. But the 2002 NL winner, Colorado's Jason Jennings, who won in a landslide over the Montreal Expos' Brad Wilkerson, is still a big part of the Rockies rotation.

For his part, Hinske welcomes a chance to leave Toronto and try to recapture the glory somewhere else.

"It's exciting," said Hinske, who had 12 homers in just 197 at-bats for the Blue Jays this year. "Anytime you get traded, someone wants you. It's not a negative thing."

Anywhere Pudge

Detroit catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who began his likely Hall of Fame career in 1991, experienced two firsts this week. On Tuesday, because of an injury to starter Placido Polanco, Rodriguez filled in at second base for the first time in his career. The next day, he batted leadoff for the first time and drew a 10-pitch walk.

"I've got a Hall of Famer, and whatever I want him to do, he does. That's pretty good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "There's a guy who could make your life a little tough if he wanted to. He's done nothing but make my life pleasant."

Sweeping into history

The A's are embarrassing the Seattle Mariners at a near historical rate. After a sweep last week, the A's have taken 15 straight against the Mariners, one shy of Oakland's club record of 16 (set against the New York Yankees from Sept. 9, 1989 to May 1, 1991).

Quick hits

The A's are still hoping to get Rich Harden (right elbow) back by mid-September. He likely would head to the bullpen. ... The Texas Rangers have an interesting contract decision this winter regarding outfielder Wilkerson, who will have shoulder surgery this week and is lost for the year. He has a year left in arbitration and made $3.9 million in a disappointing 2005. But the Rangers basically gave up Alfonso Soriano for him, so non-tendering Wilkerson would be tough to swallow.

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