Player of the week: Derrek Lee

It has been more than 65 years since Ted Williams became the last player to bat over .400, but at the rate Derrek Lee is hitting the ball, it looks like the Splendid Splinter might have company in 2007. After going 19-for-37 with three home runs, eight RBIs and nine runs scored during a recent nine-game stretch, Lee’s batting average stood at an impressive .414 and was still at .398 entering Thursday, leading the majors. Even more impressively, Lee has translated that hot hitting into victories for the Chicago Cubs, who have rebounded from a terrible April and are hovering around .500.

BASEBALL STORYLINES

You gotta hand it to Roger Clemens — he certainly knows how to make an entrance. Ending months of speculation, the Rocket announced during the New York Yankees’ game Sunday that he will be returning to the Bronx. Clemens’ deal, a prorated $28 million contract that makes him the highest-paid player in baseball history, is laden with incentives, including one that permits his exclusion from the team when it travels on road trips he isn’t scheduled to pitch. The contract luxury drew ire from some players around the league, including former Bronx Bomber pitcher David Wells, who said the clause “was not the Yankee way.”

Several teams around the majors acted quickly after the discovery that St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock was legally drunk during his fatal car accident, which occurred just hours after he pitched three innings. The Cardinals were one of several teams that banned alcohol in their home clubhouse and the Yankees recently announced they wouldn’t allow alcohol at all on their premises, similar to the move the A’s made last year after pitcher Esteban Loaiza was arrested for speeding and drunken driving.

During spring training, Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi stated to the media that star closer B.J Ryan was missing time due to back ailments. However, after Ryan went to the 60-day disabled list with an elbow injury, Ricciardi admitted that he knowingly misled the media about the extent of his pitcher’s condition. Ricciardi explained that he was protecting Ryan from continued questions about his health. It was revealed Thursday that Ryan will undergo Tommy John surgery, meaning a return next year is in doubt.

— Will Reisman

KEY SERIES

Twins at Indians (Monday-Wednesday): Minnesota has been decent so far, but unless the Twins pick up some key division wins, they are in danger of being left behind Cleveland in the AL Central. The Tribe, who are finally cashing in their vast potential, are led by Travis Hafner at the plate and C.C. Sabathia on the mound.

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