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MLB likely to turn old pickoff play into a balk

NEW YORK — Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano stepped toward third base and bluffed a pickoff throw, then twirled and made a soft toss to first. No dice; the Rays' runners didn't fall for the trick. They'd seen it too often.

Starting next year, no one might see that play again.

Major League Baseball is poised to pick off the much-maligned fake-to-third, throw-to-first ploy that often succeeds only in getting fans to shout "Balk!"

"I think they should get rid of it," Yankees reliever Boone Logan said. "Us lefties can't do that. If we do, they call a balk."

"Besides, how often does it work? Maybe once in never," he said.

The playing rules committee approved a proposal to make it a balk, too, with MLB executives and umpires in agreement. The players union vetoed the plan for this season to discuss it further. MLB is allowed to implement the change after a one-year wait.

Under the new wording, a pitcher could not fake to third unless he first stepped off the rubber. If he stayed on the rubber, as Soriano did Wednesday night, it would be a balk.

Clemens trial: Yankees GM Brian Cashman, testifying in the perjury trial of Rogers Clemens, said he never suspected the pitcher of taking performance-enhancing drugs, calling him "off the charts in work ethic and desire." Cashman also said Clemens asked for personal trainer Brian McNamee to be hired by the team after a poor playoff performance in 1999. Clemens is charged with lying to Congress in 2008 when he denied using steroids or human growth hormone.

Cashman met with Clemens after he lasted two innings against Boston in Game 3 of the AL playoffs. Said Cashman: "He talked about how he clicked with Brian McNamee. Brian knew how to train him, push the right buttons on him."

The Yankees hired McNamee the next season. McNamee has said he injected Clemens multiple times with steroids and human growth hormone. He is expected to testify next week.

Jays sign Vlad: Vladimir Guerrero, 37, agreed to a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, but GM Alex Anthopoulos cautioned there's no guarantee the 16-year major-league veteran with 449 career homers will join the big club. Toronto will send him to extended spring training in Dunedin to assess him.

Valentine backs Beckett: Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine downplayed the fan uproar over pitcher Josh Beckett's golf outing after he was taken out of the rotation because of stiffness. Beckett, who had a sore upper back muscle last week, was scratched from a start and played golf on an off day.

"I've never seen a pitcher get hurt playing golf," Valentine said before Beckett was hammered for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Indians on Thursday.

Valentine had said he didn't think the back would be made worse by golfing. Had Beckett been sidelined be a serious problem, Valentine may have felt differently. "I didn't think he was injured when he was skipped," Valentine said.

Red Sox P.A. tribute: The Red Sox went without a public address announcer for their game against Cleveland as part of a tribute to Carl Beane, "the Voice of Fenway Park," who died Wednesday after having a heart attack while driving.

Angels: C Chris Iannetta will miss six to eight weeks because of an injury to his right wrist that requires surgery. No specifics on the injury were revealed.

Cardinals: The team will retire the No. 10 jersey of former manager Tony La Russa today, and representatives of the A's and White Sox will be on hand.

Yankees: LHP Andy Pettitte, 40 years old and returning from a one-year retirement, pronounced himself physically and mentally ready to rejoin the rotation. He is scheduled to start Sunday at home against the Mariners. "You want to get that first out behind you," Pettitte said.

MLB likely to turn old pickoff play into a balk 05/10/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 10, 2012 11:01pm]
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