DOWN THE LINE
For L.A. or San Diego, a bat to Dye for?
Stat of the week: The White Sox bullpen has a 5.85 earned-run average, the worst in baseball.
The Dodgers and Padres, fighting in the tightly contested National League West, could use a slugger. The Dodgers have asked the White Sox about outfielder Jermaine Dye, according to a source familiar with the talks. The Padres are intrigued by Dye as well, particularly because he would bring a right-handed bat to a stadium with a 357-foot alley in left-center.
The Sox say they’re not trading Dye now, certainly not for prospects, but a quality reliever might change their minds. From the Dodgers, that’s Jonathan Broxton or Chad Billingsley. From the Padres, that’s Scott Linebrink, the human trade rumor.
The Padres would love to get a hitter before opponents start giving Adrian Gonzalez the Barry Bonds treatment. Padres General Manager Kevin Towers declined to discuss potential trade targets, Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said he would not comment on trade rumors and White Sox GM Ken Williams did not return a call.
Another Cub cursed? Fight on -- in the ‘pen
It was a wee bit of mischief, the kind that makes minor league games so much fun. As Cubs prospect and former Notre Dame star receiver Jeff Samardzija warmed up for his season debut in April, the Brevard County (Fla.) Manatees blasted the USC fight song over the sound system. The Manatees’ game program that night featured a full-page picture of USC Coach Pete Carroll, broadly smiling as he held aloft the crystal football symbolic of the Trojans’ 2004 national championship.
A Carroll curse that extends to baseball? Samardzija went 0-4 against the Trojans, and he’s 0-5 this season.
The Cubs bought him out of a possible NFL career in January, guaranteeing him $10 million. He has started 11 games this season, winning none, with a 5.75 ERA, a .349 opponents’ batting average and only 20 strikeouts in 52 innings. The Cubs moved him to the bullpen last week.
Equal time for the Bruins
Jerry Owens punted a promising football career. He played two years as a wide receiver for UCLA, then transferred to the Master’s College and took up baseball for the first time since high school. He hit .451, and he could run and play defense, so the Expos drafted him in the second round and hoped he would develop beyond tools.
That was four years ago. The Expos don’t exist anymore. But Owens made his major league debut this month, for the White Sox. In his first 30 at-bats, he hit .200 with no home runs, no walks and three stolen bases.
The Sox aren’t sure whether he can deliver enough offense to keep a big league job, and he sat out Saturday with a sore hamstring, but he’s regularly playing center field. In honor of Owens’ Bruins days, we’ll say he’s in center as an injury replacement for gutty little Darin Erstad.
Hart alumni club, game over in Texas?
The Angels’ Scot Shields might not even be the best American League pitcher named Shields this season. James Shields has started 13 games this season and lost none -- and he pitches for the Devil Rays. He’s 6-0 with a 3.04 ERA and four strikeouts for every walk. Shields was a teammate of Owens at Hart High in Newhall. ... The Twins pray they can climb back into the AL Central race now that they have activated catcher Joe Mauer, last season’s batting champion, and replaced retreads Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson in the rotation with youngsters Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey. ... If the Rangers trade closer Eric Gagne -- the Tigers would love to get him as a setup man -- the most interesting negotiation could be the one with Gagne’s agent, Scott Boras. Gagne has the leverage of a no-trade clause and could demand to restructure a contract that features $5 million in incentive bonuses -- all based on the number of games finished.
-- Bill Shaikin