Happy birthday, Julio


Ken Griffey Jr. The Cincinnati Reds center fielder batted .500 (14-for-28) over the past week with three homers and five RBIs. (Where are you Kenny Williams?)

A.J. Burnett, Dontrelle Willis and Josh Beckett. The Florida Marlins' trio combined to go 3-0 last week while allowing no earned runs over 24 innings and striking out 18 batters.

Yahoo! Sports' MLB analyst Ryne Sandberg gives four answers to four pressing questions in the major leagues.

More Sandberg: Ryne's rankings

1. How amazing is Julio Franco?

First of all, I want to wish Julio a happy birthday. He turns 47 today.

He's a great hitter that just loves the game, and he is a hard worker who keeps his body in shape throughout the year. The baseball season is a grind, and for him to be still doing it at the age of 47 for the Atlanta Braves tells you something about his desire for baseball.

I'm only 45, and I don't think my body could take the trauma of an entire season. Nowadays, it seems like I play 18 holes of golf and my back hurts the next morning.

2. Are the Boston Red Sox better off with Curt Schilling in the bullpen or starting rotation?

He is the only one who knows the strength of his body right now and if his ankle will allow him to throw 100-plus pitches in a game. But I think the Red Sox have a better chance of winning with Schilling as their closer.

He has broken down as a starter this year and the Red Sox bullpen has faltered on many occasions. Going into the playoffs, I would give Schilling the closer role. It would turn every playoff game into an eight-inning affair.

3. Is Roger Clemens finally coming back down to earth?

Clemens got roughed up in his last outing, allowing five runs in 6 1/3 innings, and some would think that his old age (43) would force him to falter down the stretch. Well, let me dispel that theory.

Clemens trains harder than anybody and keeps his body in top physical condition. Sure, he gave up five runs against Milwaukee last Thursday, but in the five starts before that, he gave up a total of three earned runs. There's no way he's slowing down.

I believe the NL Cy Young Award is his to lose. He has a 1.53 ERA and only 11 wins, but the Houston Astros are only averaging 3.9 runs when he pitches.

I think Clemens has a few more great seasons left in him. I'm sure he'll make it a family decision, though. I know at the end of my career I started to make baseball decisions that were centered on my family.

4. Has Randy Johnson simply lost it at 41?

In no way do I think R.J. has lost it. When he gets hit around, it's usually when he doesn't throw his slider for strikes. His fastball is still very effective, but his "out" pitch has always been the slider.

There are times when he'll hang his slider, giving hitters a chance to drive it a long way. Batters will sit on his fastball, too. But when he is throwing the slider for strikes, hitters are forced to swing at it in odd counts – if they can make any contact at all.

New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and general manager Brian Cashman believe Johnson is still adjusting to New York, and I agree. That's why I wouldn't count him out yet.

Johnson is a strong veteran who knows how to pitch through a little pain, and nobody wants to win more. Remember in the 2001 World Series for Arizona, he started Game 6 and threw seven strong innings, then returned in Game 7 to close it out and pick up the win. However, if R.J. isn't healthy, the Yankees' chances for the playoffs will be decreased greatly.