From cleaning toilets to Yankee pinstripes

BOB ELLIOTT

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

At the ripe old age of 21, Joe Torre was in his second year in the majors.

Torre, now the New York Yankees manager, was the backup catcher to Del Crandall with the Milwaukee Braves in 1962.

At the same age, Larry Bowa, the Yanks' third base coach was at double-A Reading in 1967. The great Derek Jeter? Well at that age, he had played 15 games for the 1995 Yankees.

And flame-throwing right-hander Joba Chamberlain, 21, is in the Yanks bullpen for the final seven weeks of the season. His debut was fight night, on Tuesday at the Rogers Centre against the Jays.

Lost in Josh Towers' plunking of Alex Rodriguez and his war of words with coach Tony Pena, and Alex Rios getting drilled by Roger Clemens, was Chamberlain working the eighth and ninth innings in a 9-2 New York win. He walked two and struck out two, while allowing one hit.

By dealing overworked reliever Scott Proctor to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the deadline, the Yanks opened the door for Joba (pronounced Jah-bah).

If it all unfolds as the Yankees hope, Chamberlain will pitch the eighth in front of closer Mariano Rivera, just as Ron Davis did for Goose Gossage in 1980, as Rivera did for John Wetteland in 1996 and as Jeff Nelson did for Rivera in 2000.

Will Chamberlain be a mound version of outfielder Shane Spencer, who pounded out 10 home runs in 67 at-bats for the 1998 Yankees?

Chamberlain has struck out 135 hitters -- while walking only 27 -- in 861/3 minor-league innings this season at three stops while climbing the Yankees ladder: Eight outings, seven starts at class-A Tampa, seven starts at double-A Trenton and three appearances (one start) at triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Chamberlain's fastball has been clocked at 97 miles per hour and he has a dominant slider.

Gnash your teeth and spit whenever you say "Yankees," but name another club with two homegrown strikeout kids with the ability to pitch out of a second-and-third, one-out jam? Strikeout swinging, strikeout looking. Inning over.

Right-hander Philip Hughes, 21, has started three games for the Yankees, striking out 16 in 151/3 innings. On his way back from injury, Hughes has fanned 42 while walking 12 in 372/3 innings.

Damon Oppenheimer, the Yanks vice-president of scouting, deserves credit for landing both Hughes and Chamberlain.

Hughes, a high schooler from Santa Ana, Calif., was chosen with the 23rd pick of the 2004 draft and given a $1.4-million US signing bonus.

Chamberlain was selected with the 41st pick overall in the 2006 draft out of the University of Nebraska and given a $1.1-million signing bonus.

In two seasons at Nebraska, he struck out 232, while walking 56 in 218 innings, almost a 4-to-1 ratio.

RESERVATION

Chamberlain's father, Harlan, was born on the Winnebago reservation in the northeast corner of Nebraska. Harlan was stricken by polio at nine months old. He can't use his left arm, wears a brace on his left leg and is deaf in his left ear.

Joba, despite being chosen 41st overall, does not have the pedigree of your usual sandwich pick.

After graduating from Lincoln Northeast High School in 2003, but without enough money to go off to college, Chamberlain stayed home working for the city. He cleaned washrooms and groomed ball diamonds.

Then he was off to University of Nebraska-Kearney, a Division II school, and then the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Every day, Joba calls home, maybe more than once, to Lincoln, Neb.

And every time, Harlan signs off the phone call with the same message: "Knock 'em dead."

And so far, the son has done just that.

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QUICK HITS

NO SUCH ANIMAL AS THE ASTERISK

All of this talk about an asterisk for Barry Bonds' record is silly. There never was an asterisk for Roger Maris' 61-homer season or any other record. All baseball did regarding Maris in the record books was add another line: 162-game season, to go with the 154-game season. Same with every other record.

ALL IN THE FAMILY

Shannon Watson of Arnprior, Ont., has married former Montreal Expo and Chicago White Sox outfielder Tim Raines. A volleyball player, Shannon graduated from the University of Western Ontario and did post grad in public relations/media communications before getting an internship with the Expos in Florida where Raines was managing. He is now a hitting coach at double-A Harrisburg (Nationals). Shannon's brother, Tanner Watson, who pitched for Team Ontario and the Canadian junior team, is pitching for the Rockford Riverhawks and is 7-1 with a 1.42 ERA for the independent Frontier League team.

TURGEON A BALL PLAYER

Pierre Turgeon -- yes, the long-time NHL star -- will be the first Canadian inducted into the Little League Museum's Hall of Excellence at Williamsport, Pa. The induction will take place Aug. 25. Turgeon's Rotary Little League team from Rouyn, Que., competed for the 1982 title. He pitched a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 3-0 victory over Torrejon of Spain before Canada lost 10-7 to eventual champ Chinese Taipei, then 7-4 to Wyoming, Mich. Turgeon was 1-1 on the mound, while going 5-for-9 with three doubles.

SIGNED AND SEALED

Shortstop Kyle Gilligan of Etobicoke has signed with the Blue Jays. The former Ontario Blue Jay was selected in the 27th round and was playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs senior team this summer ... Right-hander Nibaldo Acosta of the Hamilton Thunderbirds has signed with the Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League.

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THE BOOK ON ...

Blue Jays centre fielder VERNON WELLS

What a major-league scout says: "I know people are asking what's wrong with this guy? Is he taking too many pitches? Is he swinging at too many first pitches? I don't think anything is wrong with him.

"The only thing I see when I watch him is that he's trying a little too hard after signing that huge contract extension. Sometimes he swings too hard.

"I know RBIs are only one measurement -- but it's not a bad one when we're talking about the No. 3 hitter. He's a good building block to build a team around and that's what they've done."

Rating out of five: 4

AVG. HR RBI

.261 14 64

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MADE IN CANADA

Kansas City Royals outfielder MARK TEAHEN

Kansas City Royals players have been stopping by Teahen on the way to the plate ... to touch his red-hot bat, or rub his blue batting helmet for luck.

Teahen went 4-for-4 Tuesday for his third consecutive multi-hit game in a 5-1 win over the Minnesota Twins.

A bank of lights in right field went dark soon after he doubled in the eighth -- like Roy Hobbs in The Natural.

Teahen was born in Redlands, Calif., but his father Mike is from Barrhead, Alta. He has relatives in St. Marys, Ont.

Mike Teahen caught for Team Canada on the international stage from 1973-79.

AVG. HR RBI

.289 5 49

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FARM REPORT

STRUGGLES RETURN FOR ROMERO

After three consecutive solid outings, former first-round pick Ricky Romero lasted only 21/3 innings at double-A New Hampshire in a 16-9 loss to Harrisburg on Wednesday. He walked six and allowed four runs in 21/3 innings, blowing a 6-0 lead. In his three previous starts, he worked seven innings, including striking out eight in 71/3 innings for his first win. He's 1-5 with a 4.70 ERA in 13 starts, walking 40 and striking out 55 in 611/3 innings.

DUNEDIN HONOURS

Lefty A.J. Wideman of Mississauga earned pitcher- of-the-month at class-A Dunedin. He was 4-1 with a 3.38 earned run average. Wideman is 9-4 in 17 starts for Dunedin since joining the team on May 5 and has a 3.59 ERA. Dunedin enjoyed an 18-9 mark in July. Catcher Brian Jeroloman was named player of the month, hitting .300. He had an on-base percentage of .492. Through Aug. 7, Jeroloman's on-base percentage is .431, second in the Florida State League.

WALKING OFF

Infielder Ryan Roberts hit a walk-off, two-run homer in the 12th to give triple-A Syracuse a 4-2 win over Rochester on Wednesday. Sergio Santos drew a two-out walk before Roberts went over the left-field wall. Roberts, who entered the game in the 10th as a pinch-runner, had only three hits in his previous 26 at-bats. Kevin Barker had a solo homer, his 13th, and Howie Clark delivered an RBI double for the Chiefs.

WALKING OFF II

John Tolisano hit a walk-off homer to give the rookie-class Gulf Coast Blue Jays a 6-5 win over the Yankees.

MARTIN IMPRESSES

Adrian Martin was named the Florida State pitcher of the week. Martin pitched two shutout innings, allowing one hit in Dunedin's 2-1 win over Fort Myers at the start of the week. Four days later, Martin was given his first start against Palm Beach and threw five runless innings, allowing only one hit.

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MY GREATEST DAY ...

Hall of Famer and former Blue Jay PAUL MOLITOR

"I had great days in high school and university if we're talking purity," said Molitor. "But as pro, getting into the winner's circle is what you want. It has to be Game 6, 1993 (Oct. 23).

"After 16 years, finally being on the team that walks away after a seven-month season as the champs was an accomplishment."

Molitor replaced popular Dave Winfield as the Jays DH.

"It was a great finish to a year which began with questions, I was adjusting to new teammates, a new city and country," Molitor said.

Now an instructor with the Twins, he tells minor leaguers how the bottom of the ninth unfolded. Rickey Henderson stepped out on the first pitch and Mitch Williams almost fell over. Henderson walked and Devon White flew out.

"Your brain is trained to dream of hitting a game-winning homer in the World Series," Molitor said. "But I didn't have good numbers against Williams. Me hitting a homer was against probability. I had to try to get a single, keep the line moving, and I hit one to centre.

"Joe Carter looked bad on two pitches and Mitch got a pitch down and in ... that's a long time ago, lots of visuals come back."

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HOT PROSPECT

U. of Texas outfielder KYLE RUSSELL

AB H AVG. HR RBI

223 75 .336 28 71

Russell will get plenty of attention heading into the 2008 draft. He may have been the best college hitter in 2007.The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder from Tomball, Tex., hit 28 homers with 71 RBIs.

He also smashed the single-season Longhorn homer mark of 20.

Russell earned Big 12 player-of- the-year honours this year.

Rating out of five: 4

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6 -- Times the Minnesota Twins have been shutout in Carlos Silva's 23 starts this season. A free agent at the end of the season, Silva is 9-12 with a 4.51 ERA. Minnesota has been blanked 10 times which leads the majors.

13 -- Winless starts for Marlins lefty Dontrelle Willis who hasn't won since May 29. He did hit a two-run homer off Kyle Lohse on Wednesday in Philly to join Gary Peters as the only pitchers in the past 50 years to hit one in each of their first five seasons.

118 -- Vermin violations handed out at Angel Stadium kiosks and restaurants the past 21/2 years, including 33 major violations in which "rodent activity was observed" by inspectors. Petco Park in San Diego had two violations, Dodger Stadium seven.


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