SMOLTZ BACK TO THE BULLPEN AGAIN

     It's amazing what John Smoltz is willing to go through to keep playing major league baseball.  At age 41, the Lansing native was activated Monday by the Atlanta Braves after a time on the disabled list.  But Smoltz will relief pitch the remainder of the season, a role he filled from 2001-2004 when he recorded 154 saves.  John thinks that relief pitching will save wear and tear on his tender shoulder that makes starting more difficult.  He is the only major leaguer ever to record 200 plus career wins and 150 plus saves.

     Grand Ledge baseball coach Pat O'Keefe enters play this week with 967 career victories in his 40 years as the Comets' head coach.  That is second best all time in state history to Blissifleld's Larry Tuttle who has 1,002.  Both are still going strong and they are friends.  O'Keefe's junior outfielder, Tony Wieber, in my opinion, is the greater Lansing player of the year.  He is hitting over .600 to go with 71 runs batted in, now 12 shy of the single season state record set by Brighton's Drew Henson (you remember that name Michigan football fans!) in 1998.  The Grand Ledge record is 81 runs batted in by Pat O'Keefe, Jr.  The Comets could play four games this week-- two in the Diamond Classic and two more Saturday in the Regionals which Grand Ledge will host.  But the Comets, favored to win their 20th Classic title on Wednesday, will have a tougher time in the Regional.  The opening game at 12:30pm Saturday for Grand Ledge is against Portage Central, 33-3.  The Comets enter play this week 33-1, the lone loss coming 5-4 against Lansing Catholic back in April.

     The Tigers are desperate for relief pitching help and Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya finally get rehab stints this week in minor league games.  Each has missed the entire season thus far, perhaps a key factor in the Tigers 24-32 start.  The Tigers are a mere six games out of first place in the American League's Central Division because no one else can pull away.  The White Sox have lost three in a row and they still sit atop the division standings.

     It seems like only a matter of time before the Pistons say good bye to Rasheed Wallace.  He gets $13 million next year, the final year of his contract.  He is likely to be dealt because other teams will like his one year only contract status.  My problem with Wallace was his constant showing up of coach Flip Saunders, virtually paying little to no attention to him on the floor during time outs almost the entire season.  Saunders may not care-- he may be replaced anyway by assistant Michael Curry, but the Pistons have made no announcements as of yet.

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