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Adenhart worth wait for Angels

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Curiosity made Nick Adenhart keep track of the amateur baseball draft in June. Why else would a high school pitcher about to undergo ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow have any interest in it?

Why else would Adenhart, offered a full scholarship by the University of North Carolina, care about the selection process?

Because he's a smart kid.

The Anaheim Angels chose Adenhart, once rated the No. 1 high school prospect in the country by Baseball America, in the 14th round and signed him last week for $710,000.

The surgery was a success. And once he's healthy, Adenhart will have a chance to be the same as a professional.

The Angels gave Adenhart, who graduated this spring from Washington County's Williamsport High, second-round money because he would have gone in the first if not for the injury. They regarded him as a steal.

But it was more than the cash that swayed Adenhart, who seemed ready to spend three years in Chapel Hill before reentering the draft. The Angels arranged for him to attend Arizona State University, a short distance from the facility where he'll undergo physical therapy on his arm. He's also close to the organization's training complex in Mesa, where he'll probably be assigned next summer to the Angels' rookie-level team. He's expected to begin pitching again by July 2005.

And Adenhart will be in good hands with Dr. Lewis Yocum serving as Anaheim's team orthopedist.

"The biggest deciding factor was they had a very creative plan for what he would do this year while he was rehabbing, and how to occupy his time the 20 hours a day he wasn't rehabbing," said Adenhart's stepfather, Duane Gigeous. "They're allowing Nick to experience both worlds, to be a full-time college student for at least the next year, and to be around the club and their spring training."

Adenhart left a May 11 game at South Hagerstown because of pain in the elbow. Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery in Birmingham, Ala., after Adenhart graduated.

Scouts flocked to all of his games, and Adenhart was projected as a Top 10 pick after going 5-1 with a 0.91 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings this year.

"Obviously the Angels wouldn't have signed him if the surgery hadn't gone off without a hitch," Gigeous said.

Adenhart took his physical after the Angels flew him to Anaheim, signed his contract and attended a game last week. "They treated him like a first-round pick," Gigeous said, "which was very appreciated."

"The Angels are professionals and they do this every day," Adenhart said. "They have the best people in the country working with them. All of their rehabs have been very successful. I have a lot of confidence in the organization."

Pre-game hostilities

It's one thing to charge the mound or tackle the catcher after a tight pitch, but how many brawls start during batting practice?

We count at least one.

A scrum broke out behind the cage before Tuesday's game between the Texas Rangers and Anaheim Angels. No punches were thrown, but there was lots of pushing and shoving.

Rangers catcher Gerald Laird took exception the night before when Anaheim's Adam Kennedy leaned into a pitch with the bases loaded. Laird told him to swing the bat, and Kennedy responded with a few choice words of his own.

As the Rangers were stretching in front of their dugout the next day, Laird noticed that Kennedy was glaring at him and shouted, "What's your problem?" He soon found out.

"He tried to forearm sucker-punch me," Laird said.

"He kind of saw I was making eye contact at him," Kennedy said, "and I expected a different kind of response and a more cordial conversation than I got. It was a little misunderstanding that probably got out of control. I don't know what's on his agenda but as far as I'm concerned, it's over."

It took a while to end. The melee spread from the cage to the backstop, and without any security or umpires on the scene, the players were left to stop it themselves.

"If Adam takes issue with what's going on," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "he's going to try and correct it."

Snake-bitten

How much worse can the Arizona Diamondbacks get? The possibilities are endless, just like the defeats.

World champions three years ago, the Diamondbacks lost a team-record 14 games in a row last month. No National League team had dropped 15 straight since the 1982 New York Mets.

By beating the Houston Astros on Monday, Arizona avoided becoming the first NL club to go through a 4-31 stretch since the 1935 Boston Braves.

"It's been stressful on all of us," said outfielder Luis Gonzalez, who will undergo season-ending ligament-reconstructive surgery tomorrow. "This is the big leagues. You don't want to get embarrassed out there every day."

Arizona's 0-11 homestand was the worst in major league history. The 1969 Seattle Pilots went 0-10, including games against the Orioles.

Piling on

Former Orioles closer Armando Benitez, who was 33-for-36 in save situations before the weekend, is feeling the effects of a heavy workload with the Florida Marlins.

Benitez underwent a magnetic resonance imaging test on his inflamed right elbow last week. He experienced some tightness after pitching 1 1/3 innings in Philadelphia - the 14th time he exceeded one inning.

Asked if he's been overused, Benitez said, "I don't want to talk about that. I just want to play hard and be ready whenever they ask me to play."

Trying to deflect criticism, manager Jack McKeon pointed out that Benitez twice has phoned the dugout during games to say he was ready to pitch.

"I don't see Armando being a big concern right now," he said.

Benitez was 2-1 with a 1.25 ERA before the weekend, and opponents were batting .162 against him.

Quote of the week

Mike Lowell hit his 130th career homer Tuesday night, moving him past Derrek Lee into first place on the Marlins' all-time list.

"Being the home run leader of the Florida Marlins brings a lot of prestige," he said, "and I hope I never have to pay for another meal in a restaurant in the South Florida area ever again."

Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

Not worried about his image

THEATER OF THE ABSURD

Controversy erupts in the strangest places. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, it arrived in the team photo.

Pitcher Kip Wells skipped the annual shoot before Tuesday's start, apparently in response to general manager Dave Littlefield's criticism of the right-hander and two teammates. At least, that's what Wells told the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review until changing his story later in the week.

"If I had a problem with Dave or with someone else, I would go to them," he said. "That had nothing to do with me not being in the picture. Obviously, I knew in this day and age you can be put in a picture through computers and stuff like that."

When Wells was a no-show, the Pirates took the photo with a vacant spot and used pitcher Ryan Vogelsong as a stand-in. Wells' picture will be inserted over Vogelsong's body.

TEAM RANKINGS

1. Cardinals (2)

Have the rest of the division thinking wild card.

2. Yankees (1)

Only at Yankee Stadium could a parasite take on legendary status. Next, it'll have a plaque in Monument Park.

3. Dodgers (3)

Busy at the deadline, Dodgers look unbeatable in NL West.

4. Twins (6)

NFL's Vikings trying to sign Torii Hunter as short-yardage back.

5. Padres (5)

Could gain a pitcher without making a trade. Sterling Hitchcock is close to returning.

6. Athletics (13)

Bobby Crosby is no Miguel Tejada, but he sure looks like the AL Rookie of the Year.

7. Braves (11)

Before last night, Andruw Jones was batting .263, Chipper Jones .221. Rafael Furcal had 18 errors. And this team's in first place?

8. Rangers (4)

Think Scott Erickson is the answer. We're still trying to figure out the question.

9. Red Sox (7)

Picking up more suspensions than victories.

10. Giants (8)

For being so close to first place, why do they seem so far out of it?

11. Cubs (12)

Fans on North Side must learn how to pronounce "Nomah."

12. Marlins (16)

Recovered nicely from last weekend's disappointing effort against Expos.

13. Angels (14)

Feeling like he was brushed back, Adam Kennedy charges his own batting practice pitcher.

14. White Sox (9)

Without Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas, these Sox are beginning to smell.

15. Phillies (10)

Have lost 14 in a row in Miami. South Beach diet leaves them too weak to run away with division.

16. Indians (18)

C.C. Sabathia youngest pitcher to 50 wins since Steve Avery in 1993.

17. Astros (20)

Does Andy Pettitte still pitch for this team?

18. Reds (15)

The Cincinnati Reds walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Why the long losing streak?"

19. Mets (17)

How will Kris Benson's fragile psyche play out in New York?

20. Tigers (21)

Pudge Rodriguez bothered by hip flexor injury and upper-back spasms. Could collapse under weight of batting crown.

21. Brewers (19)

If you can't say something nice about someone ...

22. Devil Rays (22)

Trading Victor Zambrano makes you wonder if they were ever serious about third place.

23. Orioles (23)

Any trade inquiries for B.J. Ryan should be answered with a dial tone.

24. Pirates (23)

Escaped last place Tuesday for the first time in 84 days. Couple of wins threw bloodhounds off the scent.

25. Blue Jays (25)

Taking a cue from Carlos Delgado, manager Carlos Tosca refuses to waive his no-firing clause.

26. Rockies (26)

Vinny Castillo on pace for career-high 150 RBIs, matching the number of games his team trails in NL West.

27. Expos (29)

Still a long way from respectable, but it doesn't require as many bus changes.

28. Mariners (27)

We don't want to say they've quit, but the new team slogan is, "Let's try to make last call."

29. Royals (28)

Juan Gonzalez done for the year because of back problems. He's been a slightly lower pain to the Royals.

30. Diamondbacks (30)

Steve Finley consents to any trade on the West Coast. And that includes Triple-A Portland

(Last week's ranking in parentheses)

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