Can Arizona close the West?

The Diamondbacks sold high on Jose Valverde last winter, betting they could trade their All-Star closer and replace him from within while replenishing their depth.

They lost, putting themselves at risk of losing the NL West. They have lost 15 games in which they led after six innings, the most of any major league team except the Cardinals.

Brandon Lyon, who had a 2.69 earned-run average as a setup man last season, has a 4.96 ERA as the closer this season, including a 12.75 ERA since the All-Star break. Jon Rauch, who had a 2.98 ERA as the Nationals’ closer, has a 6.19 ERA since the Diamondbacks acquired him in July.


Valverde has 35 saves for the Astros, who got him for setup man Chad Qualls, second baseman Chris Burke and pitching prospect Juan Gutierrez. Arizona did not install Burke at second base even after the injury to Orlando Hudson, and Gutierrez is 5-10 with a 6.07 ERA in triple A.

Shortstop wanted: O.C. in L.A.?

Orlando Cabrera could make the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, with his third team. He played in October for the World Series champion Red Sox in 2004 and for the Angels in 2005 and 2007, and his White Sox are battling the Twins for the lead in the AL Central.

He’ll be a free agent this fall, and the Sox are not expected to bring him back to Chicago. He’d be happy if the Dodgers brought him back to Southern California.


“The Dodgers are an organization I’ve respected for many years,” he said.

He’s 33, with a modest bat (hitting .272 going into the weekend), a good glove and the smarts to know teams will not be lining up to throw money at him.

“I’m not a superstar, or any other star,” he said.

Cy Young, Cy Old


The Dodgers’ Greg Maddux last week became the first player in 81 years to pitch in Washington, D.C., with at least 350 victories.

Walter Johnson last did it, in 1927. The only other player to do so: Cy Young, who won his 350th game in 1902 and retired as the all-time leader in 1911, with 511 victories.

Guillen turns politically correct

Ozzie Guillen, the outspoken White Sox manager, said he loved that Barack Obama said the Sox were his team. But Guillen would not say publicly whether he would vote for Obama, because his team holds spring training in Arizona, the home state of John McCain.


“We’ve got to be nice to him too,” Guillen said.

Doughnut holes and hunger pains

The Rays won 66 games last year. They’re on pace to win 100 this year, inducing quite the sugar rush at Dunkin’ Donuts, the chain that promised fans a free doughnut every time every time the Rays won. When an outlet near Tropicana Field failed to honor the promotion, the St. Petersburg Times demanded an explanation.

This was it: Oops, and we had no idea we would have to give away so many doughnuts.


“The success of the Rays has exceeded everybody’s expectations,” a corporate spokesman said.

Doughnuts apparently were not the featured food in Beijing, where Rick Eckstein -- brother of former Angels shortstop David Eckstein -- traveled as a coach for the U.S. Olympic team.

“You can order any type of dog you want,” Rick Eckstein told the Washington Post. “I didn’t want to try any of that.”

-- Bill Shaikin