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  Wed, July 7, 2004


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Carlos back in the swing
By BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

Once again, the Blue Jays minor-league system has produced a blue-chip, can't-miss phenom.

After the Jays unveiled a portrait of Hall of Fame-bound Paul Molitor and presented it to the Seattle Mariners hitting coach at the SkyDome last night, they took the wraps off their new first baseman.

Check out these numbers at triple-A Syracuse: A .556 batting average, a .556 on-base percentage and a 1.111 slugging percentage. Wow!

Neither one-time Jays batting champ John Olerud, now the M's first baseman, nor Molitor had those numbers.

Hold on a sec ...

That first baseman, just back from a tour of single-A Dunedin and Syracuse looks familiar. Why, it's old No. 25, Carlos Delgado!

He looked different. For a month, he had hair.

Delgado went on the disabled list May 30 and stopped shaving his noggin around June 7. He wasn't sidelined with an injury which prevented him from shaving, but ribcage problems.

When he returned home to Puerto Rico, his parents saw him without the shiny chrome dome for the first time in years.

REACTION

Their reaction?

"They said I looked different," said Delgado, his pate returned to its shaven state.

Did they say you looked older or younger?

"They just said I looked different. I couldn't have looked that bad, they didn't kick me out of the house," Delgado said jokingly.

With the presence of Olerud, the return of Delgado, and Molitor in the building, it was sweet swing night. And some sweet swings put 13 runs on the board in a 7-6 Blue Jays win.

Delgado, coming off a 33-game layoff, returned at 7:20 p.m. when he stepped in against lefty Jamie Moyer.

Suddenly, manager Carlos Tosca, working in the final year of his contract with three or four bench players in the lineup and two double-A pitchers until Adam Peterson was demoted last night, became a lot smarter.

His managing ability will be bumped again when centre fielder Vernon Wells (right calf) and outfielder Frank Catalanotto (right groin) return from the disabled list.

"Carlos brings a different perspective to our lineup," Tosca said, "especially against Moyer, whom we can't run against."

Moyer and Delgado have battled over the years, with the latter winning a few. He has a career .440 (22-for-50) average against Moyer, with six doubles, six homers and 11 RBIs.

Delgado blooped a double into centre in his first at-bat.

"He changes speeds very well, you have to take what he gives you. Usually he doesn't give you much," Delgado said.

Missing more than a month will make it impossible to equal the 145 RBIs he had in 2003.

Reaching 100 RBIs for the seventh consecutive season would seem impossible, but Delgado, who has 32 RBIs this season, had 97 RBIs prior to the break in 2003.

"Possible? Anything is possible, but I don't play for numbers," said Delgado, who is about to enter free agency. "The big thing is I didn't have pain, I'm going to take a lot of hacks before the season ends."

Miguel Batista, who gained the win, welcomed Delgado's return, saying, "When he's in the lineup, you don't want to pitch to either the guy in front of him, or the guy behind him. People shouldn't be disappointed he only had a bloop double."

No. 3 hitter Reed Johnson hit a two-run homer and Gregg Zaun singled home Delgado in the first.

"Hopefully we'll see some three-run homers," Tosca said, prior to the game.

He saw one, but it was by Josh Phelps, not Delgado.