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Cranking out the hits in LA

Page 3 of 4 -- In it together Hartford Courant baseball scribe Dave Heuschkel points out that the next time Doug Mirabelli catches Tim Wakefield, he will have started more games with the knuckleballer than any other catcher in Wakefield's career. Mirabelli and Jason Varitek are currently tied at 52 . . . Don't look now, but former Sox second baseman Todd Walker began the weekend ranked eighth in the National League in on-base percentage at .456, the same as Manny Ramirez. Walker had 15 hits, 11 walks, and scored a dozen runs in his first 14 games. Last in the AL in on-base percentage at .234 was Pokey Reese, Nomar Garciaparra's fill-in at short and Walker's anointed successor at second. Walker has been doing a great job filling in for Mark Grudzielanek, who is recovering from a strained Achilles' tendon . . . Why opposing teams respect Varitek, Chapter LXV: "Did you see him come running in from the bullpen when he thought they might use him to pinch hit?" marveled Toronto bench coach Joe Breeden. "And did you see him run back out to the pen when he didn't? How many stars would do that?" . . . The Indians were sufficiently concerned about ace lefty C.C. Sabathia that they scratched him from what would have been his 100th start Thursday. An MRI showed tendinitis in his left biceps, but he is expected to be back in the rotation by the time the Sox are in Cleveland May 3. Sabathia is only 23; Bob Feller is the only Indians pitcher to make 100 starts before his 24th birthday . . . Sox 2003 sandwich pick Matt Murton (32d overall) began the weekend tied for the Florida State League lead in home runs with 4, which is twice as many as he hit in 53 games last year with short-season Lowell . . . Murton's teammate, switch-hitting shortstop Hanley Ramirez, is batting .304, but the Sox' top prospect made eight errors in his first 15 games . . . There were some raised eyebrows over the fact that the Sox had no problem with so many players staying over for the Bruins game in Boston last Monday night, even though that meant traveling on the day of a game, which clubs usually work to avoid. Manager Terry Francona said that in this day of private jets, he had no problem with it, but some baseball people were wondering whether a tricky precedent had been set . . . Did anyone believe Armando Benitez would lead the majors with eight saves entering this weekend? No. 8 came when Benitez struck out Jim Thome to save the Marlins' ninth straight win (and 18th in 20 meetings) against the Phillies. And Ugie Urbina, who picked up his first save for the Tigers last week after missing all of spring training, wonders why Marlins GM Larry Beinfest is untroubled that Urbina didn't re-sign with the Fish?   Continued...

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