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Scutaro hits a milestone in Toronto win

Scutaro hits a milestone in Toronto win Baseball REPORTER

Marco Scutaro's right heel has been bugging him for some time and last weekend in Boston, playing against the Red Sox, he was hit in the head by a pitch from Josh Beckett.

It has been a long season to say the least for the Toronto Blue Jays shortstop and leadoff hitter, an overachiever if there ever was one, who is enjoying his finest campaign of an eight-year major-league career.

But whether it's all going to be enough to land Scutaro - who is batting .282 with 57 runs batted in and a career-high 11 home runs - another contract that will keep him with the Blue Jays remains to be seen.

"I know they're trying to save some money," Scutaro said yesterday before the Blue Jays hammered the error-prone New York Yankees 14-8 at the Rogers Centre. "On the other hand, after they moved Alex Rios they've got some more money to spend.

"I know the main thing is to try to keep control of it [spending]. But who knows, man. I wish I knew."

Scutaro continues to enjoy one of the best seasons on record by a Toronto shortstop, scoring two runs during yesterday's onslaught to give him 93 on the year.

That represents a franchise record for most runs scored by a shortstop in a season, eclipsing the mark of 91 set by Tony Fernandez in 1986.

The Venezuelan's future is just one of several contract issues Blue Jays' general manager J.P. Ricciardi will have to deal with in the coming off-season.

Catchers Rod Barajas and Raul Chavez are also slated to become free agents as is first baseman Kevin Millar.

Then there's the issue surrounding Roy Halladay, the team's star pitching asset, who has signalled his intention to declare free agency after his deal runs out following the 2010 season.

So Ricciardi's got some work to do - assuming he's even around to conclude the final year of his deal.

The besieged GM is taking heat for another sub-par season as the Blue Jays will fail to make the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year that Ricciardi has been calling the shots.

The fact that the Blue Jays got off to such a rousing start this season - they were in first place in the American League East as late as May 23 - before falling back to reality has not helped Ricciardi's position.

The GM will candidly take the blame for the state of the team.

But he thinks many of his critics lost some of their perspective because of the team's hot start, that 2009 was always viewed by the team as a rebuilding year after losing the likes of pitchers A.J. Burnett and Shaun Marcum.

"I think what the reality is, I don't think anybody in the off-season sat there and told everybody that we were going to be a playoff team," Ricciardi said. "We came in saying we're going to be young, we're going to pitch a lot of our young kids.

"We got off to a good start - six weeks. But the Washington Nationals played six weeks of good Baseball. It's just that we never got caught up in it. I think the fans did, I think a lot of people did."

As for Scutaro, Ricciardi said he'd welcome him back, but only at the right price.

If Scutaro does decide to sign with another team as a free agent, the Blue Jays are in line to receive two high draft picks as compensation.

"I think from our end we're going to try to bring him back," Ricciardi said.

Yesterday was a wild and crazy conclusion to the four-game series, in which the Blue Jays rode an eight-run fifth inning to victory.

It was hardly a virtuoso performance by the Yankees, who at times looked like the Keystone Kops with outfielders colliding into one another and players losing pop flies in the sun.

"It was a strange game," conceded Toronto manager Cito Gaston.

Three of the Toronto runs in the fifth came after New York pitchers issued bases-loaded walks.

A fourth came across after Josh Towers, the former Toronto hand who was just called up from Triple A on Saturday, struck Randy Ruiz flush in the face with a pitch with the bases loaded.

Remarkably, Ruiz reported he was all right after the game and expects to be in the lineup today.


NOTES Alex Rodriguez was not in the starting lineup for New York. With the Yankees slated to play a split doubleheader today in New York against the Tampa Bay Rays, Yankees manager Joe Girardi wanted to make sure his slugger was well rested.. ... The Blue Jays welcome the Minnesota Twins to town for a four-game homestand, beginning this afternoon. ... A Roy Halladay jersey was the giveaway at yesterday's game. "Next year we get the jersey and the player," said one of the New York writers. ... A single to centre field by Toronto's Joe Inglett in the second inning gave him a career-high 11-game hit streak. ... John McDonald made his first career start in left field for Toronto during Saturday's 6-4 loss.

Next Up Today at Rogers Centre, 1:07 p.m. EDT against the Minnesota Twins.

Probable Pitchers Jays RHP Scott Richmond (6-8, 4.53) v. Twins RHP Jeff Manship (0-0, 3.75).

TV Rogers Sportsnet.

Robert MacLeod

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Added: September 7, 2009

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