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7th-inning stretch

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Alfredo Aceves delivers

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Alfredo Aceves delivers to the Chicago White Sox in the first inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park. (May 31, 2011) Credit: AP

Ace's new place

Determining the health of pitchers can be so challenging, and the Yankees are living through that now. While they committed $35 million to Rafael Soriano and $8 million to Pedro Feliciano, both of whom are on the disabled list, they non-tendered Alfredo Aceves, who is now excelling for the rival Red Sox and pulling in a salary of $650,000 plus incentives.

Aceves, as Joe Girardi mentioned this past week, suffered from back problems that caused him to miss most of 2010, then he fractured his collarbone in a bicycle accident early last offseason. That prompted the Yankees to non-tender him, making him a free agent.

After a good visit to Boston in early February, Aceves -- represented by Long Island native Tom O'Connell -- pitched for representatives of the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and Nationals at the University of Miami. The Yankees offered the righthander a minor-league deal, and the Red Sox and Mets were willing to guarantee his salary and roster spot.

"I am where I want to be," Aceves said Thursday. He has spent about three weeks with Triple-A Pawtucket but figures to be up for good, as he entered Saturday's action with a 3.29 ERA in 16 games, three of them starts.

Oh, one more thing: Newsday asked Aceves why he chose Boston's offer over the Mets'.

"What do you think?" he asked, laughing.


Wasted time

The Mets kicked off September knowing that they were done for the season -- and that Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel would depart as general manager and manager, too -- so the only remaining objective was to develop some of their young players.

Justin Turner, who we see now has something to offer, never drew a promotion to the big leagues despite putting up a very solid campaign for Triple-A franchises Buffalo and Norfolk. Why not? Because the Mets had acquired infielder Joaquin Arias from Texas in the Jeff Francoeur trade.

The presence of Arias, currently at the Royals' Triple-A Omaha affiliate, kept Turner away. The absence of Turner gave the Mets' new regime less data, and Sandy Alderson proceeded to use his Rule 5 draft pick on Brad Emaus, who flopped.

Would an impressive September from Turner have convinced the Mets to select a pitcher with that Rule 5 pick? It's theoretical. But it would've been nice to find out.


Diamond in the rough?

On Friday, the Phillies notified the other 29 teams that Brian Gordon, a 32-year-old righthander, would have the right to opt out of his contract this coming Wednesday -- on the condition that the acquiring club immediately add Gordon to its major-league roster.

Gordon, who spent a couple of weeks with the Rangers in 2008, entered his start Saturday night with a 5-0 record, 0.74 ERA, 47 strikeouts and seven walks in 11 appearances (eight starts) for Philadelphia's Triple-A Lehigh Valley affiliate.

A protege of Rangers president Nolan Ryan, Gordon converted from outfielder to pitcher in 2007 and has shined with a regular spot in the rotation.

He can pitch in relief, too. Could he really be any worse than some of the Yankees' middle relievers? Given the state of pitching, surely someone should give Gordon a chance.


Around the leagues

Kudos to the Red Sox for allowing outfielder Williams Jerez, their second-round pick in this past week's amateur draft, to play his farewell game with Hank's Yanks on Wednesday night at Baseball Heaven. And to Hank Steinbrenner for possessing the perspective to congratulate Jerez, even though he'll be joining the Yankees' rivals.

Players representing 49 of the 50 states were chosen in the draft, according to Major League Baseball's public-relations department. The one outcast? Maine. Perhaps former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, a Maine native, can investigate.


Pop quiz

Name the (at that point) future Met who appeared in a 1966 episode of "Bewitched" as himself.


Three Athletics players who could be traded

Grant Balfour, RHP. The Aussie righthander could help out many teams' bullpens, although he's signed through next year.

Josh Willingham, OF. His transition to the American League has not impressed, yet he has a good track record.

Michael Wuertz, RHP. Like Balfour, he a) is signed through next year, and b) is pitching well.


Three teams that passed on new A's manager Bob Melvin

Mets. They preferred Terry Collins' fire to Melvin's steadiness.

Brewers. They gave a shot to first-time major-league skipper Ron Roenicke.

Cubs. They rewarded interim skipper Mike Quade with the full-time gig.


Quote of the week:

"It's not my first time. It's not going to be my last one. I'm a home run hitter. That's all I can tell you. It's not like I do it all the time. It's part of my thing."

David Ortiz, responding to Joe Girardi's criticism of his bat flip following a home run.


Pop quiz answer

Willie Mays. Thanks to Bob Buscavage of Moriches for the suggestion.

New York Sports