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More showdowns loom for Chamberlain

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For a guy who says he's not bent on making enemies, New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain(notes) has succeeded in setting plenty of teeth on edge. He's a marked man with the Boston Red Sox, who are convinced, with some justification, that he deliberately threw at Kevin Youkilis(notes) in the past and was no innocent when he drilled Jason Bay(notes) earlier this season.

And when he takes the mound Thursday at Yankee Stadium, he is expected to face Aubrey Huff(notes), the Baltimore Orioles first baseman who mocked Chamberlain's signature fist pump after hitting a home run May 10.

Chamberlain also has drawn some unwanted attention for a DUI arrest last offseason and from the recent arrest of his mother, Jacqueline Standley, after she allegedly attempted to sell methamphetamine to an undercover police officer in Lincoln, Neb. Standley's pathetic mugshot was plastered all over front pages and websites.

"It doesn't bother me,'' Chamberlain said of the increased scrutiny he has gotten. "You go out and win. There's going to be all kinds of stuff going on, but at the end of the day, it's going to be what happened between the lines and the respect you have for the game.''

Huff said afterward he was just having fun with Chamberlain, but some of his Orioles teammates clearly enjoyed Chamberlain getting a measure of comeuppance.

"It was one of the greatest things I have ever seen in sports," Orioles closer George Sherrill(notes) said. "Nobody likes antics, especially when they are tired, so I thought it was one of the funniest things I have seen on the field."

Don't expect Chamberlain to tone down his emotions any time soon.

"Like I tell everybody, I won't ever change,'' he said. "First of all, that's who I am as a person. And second of all, I cut this team short if I don't do it, because that's not me being myself. These guys work their tail off day in and day out, and if I don't go out and give them that, that's not giving everything I got. It's no disrespect to the person, no disrespect to the game. It's what I do.''

Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, who is not one to look for controversy, was outspoken in his criticism of Chamberlain after he hit Bay on May 5, who earlier in the game had hit a three-run home run. Those things are not forgotten, Farrell said.

"We know there's a history there between the pitcher in New York and our guys here, so, not to say that he was specifically out to do that, but I think history speaks for itself,'' Farrell said in a radio interview the next day. "And we've got a number of games left with these guys.''

Chamberlain is undeterred.

"Like I said the last time I got asked about it, they're going to say what they're going to say,'' he said. "There's no disrespect at them or disrespecting baseball, which is even bigger. You know what, they can say what they want. I'm going to face them again, I hope I'm around for a long time so I'll face them a lot more times.''

As for the attention his mother's arrest received, Chamberlain was philosophical.

"First of all, I don't read the paper,'' he said, "but that's the way it is. It's a blessing to be here. We're the most covered team and people care about us. I'm not going to run from things ever or hide.

"Andy [Pettitte] has a saying he got from his pastor, 'You take care of your character, God will take care of everything else.' You know what, what else can you do? You are who you are as a person. I respect everybody and I respect the game of baseball and more importantly, I respect myself and my family. My family has raised me to be upfront. Never hide. You don't get anything out of hiding.''

Chamberlain was raised primarily by his father, Harlan, who obtained full custody of his son when he was 3 and raised him despite being afflicted with polio. But Chamberlain, while estranged from his mother for much of his life, said he reached out to her after her latest arrest, although they have yet to speak to each other.

''Yeah, we've called,'' he said. "It's never too late. You know what, we'll see what happens.''


HITTING THE CORNERS

Gonzo, going, going, gone?: Matt Holliday's(notes) name is one that frequently comes up as likely to be traded at the All-Star break, but here's another that teams looking for an impact bat are likely to put high on their list: Adrian Gonzalez(notes) of the San Diego Padres. "He's the face of that franchise, so I don't know if they would move him,'' one scout said, "but that's a team that has to be completely rebuilt, and they can get a lot for him. And what he has done [a league-leading 15 home runs] in that ballpark, without any protection, is amazing.''

Teams in the market for a closer also are likely to call Padres GM Kevin Towers about Heath Bell(notes).

Grand theft: The Tampa Bay Rays are on a stolen-base binge. The Rays stole at least one base in 19 straight games, the longest such streak in the American League since the Yankees in 1914, and they've stolen 70 bases in their first 41 games, only the sixth team since 1980 to do so. They're on pace to steal 276, the most since the Cardinals stole 314 in 1985, the year they won the National League pennant with Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee et al. The Rays' Carl Crawford(notes) leads the league in steals and hasn't been caught this season.

"Think about what we're watching, and then tell me if we should be surprised,'' one scout said. "You've got pitchers who are slow to the plate. You have pitchers who can't command the plate. And you're talking about an industry in which there are only a few catchers that can really throw. You take all that, and mix in the kind of speed a team like Tampa Bay has got, and this is what happens.''

Puny Papi update: Last week it was noted here that David Ortiz's(notes) homerless streak at the start of a season was nearly without precedent among players who had hit 50 or more home runs in a season since 1954. Greg Vaughn, who hit 50 for the Padres in 1998, four seasons later went 37 games and 132 at-bats without hitting a home run at the start of the season (going back to 2001, Vaughn's streak reached 63 games and 219 at-bats). Ortiz's streak entering play Wednesday is now 147 at-bats, and in Boston, they're running polls on whether Ortiz has permanently lost his power stroke (on Boston.com, over 70 percent of respondents voted yes).

Ortiz's former teammate, Kevin Millar(notes), said that if Ortiz's streak had come in midseason, it would hardly attract the kind of attention it's receiving now. That inspired a check of longest homerless streaks by players regarded as sluggers, and whether that meant their power production was permanently over.

Hideki Matsui(notes) hit three home runs in his first four games in 2005, then went 46 games and 180 at-bats without a home run. That streak ended May 29. In his last 112 games that season, Matsui hit 20 home runs, drove in 82 runs and batted .326.

Two of Ortiz's Boston teammates, Mike Lowell(notes) and J.D. Drew(notes), both of whom have had 30-homer seasons, have experienced long droughts. Lowell had two homerless stretches in 2005, 45 games and 156 at-bats from April 13 to June 9, and 38 games and 145 at-bats from Aug. 2 to Sept. 17. Lowell finished with eight home runs that season, but rebounded to hit 21 and 17 the next two seasons. Drew went 49 games and 165 at-bats without a home run in 2007, his first with the Red Sox, and finished the season with 11 home runs. The next season, he hit 12 in 92 at-bats just in June. Go figure.

Admittedly, Lowell, Drew and Matsui aren't sluggers in Ortiz's class, but they're all expected to hit the ball over the fence with some frequency.

Quiz time: What does Ortiz have in common with Derrek Lee(notes), Carlos Quentin(notes), Lance Berkman(notes), Jimmy Rollins(notes), Grady Sizemore(notes), Alexei Ramirez(notes), Adrian Beltre(notes), Jason Giambi(notes), Dan Uggla(notes), B.J. Upton(notes), J.J. Hardy(notes) and Brian Giles(notes)? Besides the fact you could build a pretty good lineup with these 13 players, they're all batting under .230 beginning play Wednesday, with Giambi, Uggla, Upton, and Giles all under the Mendoza line. But other than perhaps Giambi and Giles, no one is hearing talk that they're finished like Ortiz is.

Home run derby oddity: Most surprising name on the ballot for All-Star home run derby participants? Ichiro(notes) Suzuki, who has hit fewer than 10 home runs in six of his first eight big league seasons. It will be interesting to see how many Japanese fans cast online votes for Ichiro, although the derby voting is not binding, just an exercise allowing fans to state a preference.

End of the line?: Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez(notes), who has had four surgeries on his shoulder or back since 2007 and this week was placed on the 60-day disabled list when it was discovered he has a herniated disk in his back that could go at any time, is looking at a premature end to his career at age 31. Chavez, who signed a six-year, $66 million contract that began in 2005, played 160 games that season, but has played a total of 258 since. The Athletics still owe him $12 million in 2010 and hold an option for 2011 that contains a $3 million buyout. Chavez has vowed to return later this summer, but acknowledges that a sneeze would be enough to put his back out of commission. He'll eventually need spinal fusion surgery.

Circling the bases: The Red Sox are the only team in the majors without a sacrifice bunt this season, entering play Wednesday night. The average in the AL is nine. … An example of the confidence of Adam Jones(notes), the rising Orioles star: During a predraft workout in Seattle's Safeco Field before Mariners scouting director Roger Jongewaard in 2003, Jones took some swings left-handed, much to the surprise of Seattle officials. "No, never hit that way,'' Jones said. "Just wanted to try it.'' The Mariners gave up Jones in the Erik Bedard(notes) trade; now the M's are trying to get Bedard healthy enough they can move him. … Cuban import Kendry Morales(notes) has eased the loss of injured Vladimir Guerrero(notes) in the Angels' lineup. "He lost some weight, and is showing some real bat life and power,'' one scout said. … Catcher Matt Wieters'(notes) ETA in the majors with the Orioles now appears to be the first week of June.

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