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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Short Hops: Mariners' Lee will be courted like LeBron this summer


Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:

 The Minnesota Twins could package one of their top young prospects, catcher Wilson Ramos, in a deal for Cliff Lee -- and probably will have to in order to get a deal done, according to one industry source with knowledge of the Mariners' demands.

With Joe Mauer in the lineup, there's nowhere for a young backstop to go in the Twins' organization but Somewhere Else. The Mariners -- like many clubs -- need catching help, which is why the Twins are viewed as a serious contender as the Lee Derby moves into the July stretch run. Ramos, is just 22, possesses above-average power and is a plus-defender -- one of the more attractive prospects in the game.

Twins catching prospect Wilson Ramos could be the key to getting Cliff Lee to new Target Field. (Getty Images)  
Twins catching prospect Wilson Ramos could be the key to getting Cliff Lee to new Target Field. (Getty Images)  
The Angels have the financial wherewithal to acquire Lee now and then sign him to a multi-year extension, much like the Phillies did with Roy Halladay over the winter. And Jered Weaver's strong season notwithstanding, the Angels still lack an intimidator atop their rotation as they attempt to chase down Texas.

Cincinnati knows it has a real chance to win the NL Central, and Lee could put the Reds over the top. And, don't underestimate the Reds' motivation: General manager Walt Jocketty was fired by St. Louis less than three years ago, and you bet the twin prospects of bringing the Reds back to prominence while toppling St. Louis to get there would become a highlight in Jocketty's personal scrapbook.

The Mets, the Yankees, the Rangers, the Phillies, the Tigers ... the list of potential choices for the Mariners is long and will continue to grow. GM Jack Zduriencik is not offering any clues regarding where or when.

One person from a club pursuing Lee says his impression is that the Mariners will hold onto the ace lefty until closer to the July 31 deadline because the Mariners won six in a row within the past two weeks and are "trying to win some games" to keep the turnstiles twirling for as long as possible before sending the official signal to Seattle sports fans that they'd better turn their attention to the Seahawks.

On the other hand, Milwaukee's early strike (July 7) to acquire CC Sabathia two summers ago landed Cleveland four prospects and gave the Brewers a terrific jump on everybody else in what turned into the most memorable summer of baseball in Milwaukee in three decades.

The quicker, say, the Twins could grab Lee, the more mileage they'd get while wounding the rival Tigers and White Sox. (Fill in the blanks, by the way, on the team names and division rivals -- if the Mets get him quick, it'll help them and hurt the Braves and Phillies).

And from Seattle's perspective, Lee did miss several weeks early with an abdominal strain, and another injury would torpedo Zduriencik's leverage. Lee is next slated to start Sunday in Detroit, and after that, next Friday against the Yankees in Seattle. Will he make it to Motown? The Yankees? Right now, it's anybody's guess.

 Lee, following Tuesday's win in Yankee Stadium, now has worked three consecutive complete games, and four in his last five outings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio this season is phenomenal: 78 whiffs and five walks in 95 2/3 innings pitched. When he walked Jorge Posada with one out in the second inning Tuesday, it snapped a string of 38 1/3 walkless innings, a total of 144 hitters.

 St. Louis, with Kyle Lohse disabled until deep into the summer with a forearm issue, is focused on former Cardinal Dan Haren as Arizona prepares to blow up its roster. So, too, are the Phillies and several other clubs. Haren has not been as sharp as usual this year, surrendering an NL-leading 131 hits and a 4.56 ERA, leading some to question his health.

 The Angels are traveling down parallel paths as the trade deadline approaches, looking at both pitching and hitting. With first baseman Kendry Morales done for the season, they'd like a lefty bat and are keeping tabs on Arizona first baseman Adam LaRoche and Washington's Adam Dunn. Right-handed hitting catcher Mike Napoli is manning first for the most part in Morale's absence.

 Uh-huh, did you hear Bobby Valentine on ESPN's Baseball Tonight Tuesday regarding Florida's incredibly amateur handling of the Fredi Gonzalez firing, the "interview" process and the naming of Edwin Rodriguez as interim for the rest of the year? Here's Bobby V: "If this is a major league process, I hope I'm never in the process again. It's very disturbing, confusing and it was insulting at times. But it's over."

 San Francisco's trade of catcher Bengie Molina to the Rangers will put Buster Posey behind the plate and opens an avenue for the Giants to a first baseman as the bat they need. One scout thinks the Cubs' Derrek Lee is a fit.

 The Padres, already leading the majors in pitching and with the NL's best record, say they'd like to add even more. Question is, can the team with the majors' second-lowest payroll afford much in the way of additions this month? CEO Jeff Moorad says yes. We'll see. The Cubs' Ted Lilly and Arizona's Aaron Heilman are two names that are being linked with the Padres.

 More evidence that San Diego's No-Name pitching staff is the real deal: A Colorado hitter told the Denver Post's Troy Renck this week that Clayton Richard is just as difficult to hit as Boston ace Jon Lester. That's some high praise there.

 Sunday night ended miserably for Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton as he surrendered four hits and four runs in just one inning during Los Angeles' epic loss to the Yankees. But the day sure didn't begin badly as Broxton met Mariano Rivera, the Yankees' iconic closer, for a pre-game chat in right field during batting practice. "Great guy," Broxton says. "Very smart. We were talking pitching, my mindset, things he tries to do. He was picking my brain a little bit to see what I'm thinking in certain situations." For Broxton, 26, it pretty much completed his to-do list in terms of chatting with all-time closers: He shared the National League clubhouse with Trevor Hoffman at last year's All-Star Game and had a chance to meet him then. "Two of the best," Broxton says.

 Player ballots for their portion of the voting for this year's All-Star Game were due Sunday.

 Derek Jeter said it was more awkward seeing Don Mattingly in a Dodgers' uniform last weekend than Joe Torre because Mattingly, the former Yankees great, "has never worn another uniform."

 Ozzie Guillen Tweet of the Week #1 (June 28): "I am very very very bad golfer oh my god."

 Ozzie Guillen Tweet of the Week #2 (June 28): "But I have great time."


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