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Down The Line

September 02, 2007|Bill Shaikin

Talk about your impact player

In the last week of the regular season, Milton Bradley could have an effect on seven playoff races.

The Padres' mercurial outfielder -- and the prospects traded for him in three deals over the last three seasons -- are scheduled to play in games that could affect both wild-card races and every division except the National League East.

In San Diego, Bradley was batting .345 entering the weekend, helping to revive a dormant offense. The Padres were batting .273 and averaging 5.1 runs with Bradley in the starting lineup, batting .242 and averaging 4.3 runs without him.

In Cleveland, Franklin Gutierrez has nudged Trot Nixon out of right field. The Indians traded Bradley to the Dodgers three years ago for Gutierrez, then a double-A outfielder whom scouts compared to a young Moises Alou. Gutierrez, now 24, has nine home runs in 182 at-bats; Nixon has three homers in 293 at-bats.

In Los Angeles, Andre Ethier has hit as high as third on a veteran-leaning club. The Dodgers traded Bradley to the Athletics two years ago for Ethier, now 25, then a double-A outfielder.

In Oakland, Andrew Brown has claimed a spot in the bullpen, with his fourth organization. The Braves sent him to the Dodgers as part of a package for Gary Sheffield, the Dodgers sent him to the Indians with Gutierrez for Bradley, the Indians sent him to the Padres with Kevin Kouzmanoff for Josh Barfield and the Padres sent him to the A's in June, again for Bradley.

Brown, 26, a right-hander crowded out of the Padres' excellent bullpen, has pitched 28 innings in Oakland, walking six and striking out 32.

In addition to the races in the NL West, AL West and AL Central and for both wild cards, Bradley and his trade colleagues could have a final-week impact on the NL Central, with the Padres playing the Brewers, and on the AL East, with the A's playing the Red Sox.

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A starter for you, $7 million for me

The Dodgers were fairly giddy about Esteban Loaiza last week, pointing out their latest veteran starter can help now and later. Loaiza is signed for $7 million next season, a reasonable price for a fourth starter given a thin free-agent class featuring the likes of Bartolo Colon, Livan Hernandez and Carlos Silva.

After the Dodgers claimed Loaiza on waivers from the A's, the two teams tried to make a trade. When the Dodgers refused to surrender a top prospect, the A's had this choice: Keep Loaiza, or let him go without getting a player in return.

So, if the pitching market is thin and yet the A's can't get a prospect for him, didn't Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti scratch his head and wonder why a frugal franchise like the A's would let him go anyway? No, Colletti said, telling us to call Oakland General Manager Billy Beane and ask him.

"We're trying to get a little younger," Beane said. "To us, $7 million is a lot of money. It doesn't mean you apply it in a linear sense and go buy another $7-million pitcher. I'm always looking for an excuse to get younger and cheaper to give us more flexibility."

The A's might open 2008 with a rotation of Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Chad Gaudin and two vacancies, holding a prayer for oft-injured Rich Harden.

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Hi, I'll be your skipper next year

The Orioles lost nine consecutive games -- by a combined score of 98-38 -- after they removed the "interim" label from Manager Dave Trembley. That shouldn't stop the other three interim managers from keeping their jobs beyond this season.

In Cincinnati, the Reds have the best record in the NL since Pete Mackanin replaced Jerry Narron on July 1. In Seattle, John McLaren had been groomed by Lou Piniella and Mike Hargrove for the Mariners' managerial job. And in Houston, Cecil Cooper has the public endorsement -- heartfelt yet inappropriate -- of Commissioner Bud Selig.

-- Bill Shaikin

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