Player of the week: Kevin Youkilis

Forget David “Big Papi” Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, Youkilis has been the most consistent hitter this season for baseball’s best team. Youkilis has a 22-game hitting streak for the Boston Red Sox, including a nine-game stretch of multi-hit games in which he drilled three home runs, smacked eight doubles and drove in eight runs. Not exactly blessed with speed, he also had an inside-the-park homer. During his hitting streak, Youkilis has raised his average from .286 to .354, a mark that stands second in the American League. Youkilis is also among the AL leaders in on-base percentage (.421), runs (40) and OPS (.987).

BASEBALL STORYLINES

The two-day Major League Baseball draft (televised for the first time in its history, on ESPN2) gets under way Thursday. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have the first pick and, despite a strong history of steering away from college stars, the overwhelming consensus is that they will choose Vanderbilt star David Price. The 6-foot-5 junior left-hander has compiled an 11-0 record this season with a 2.71 ERA and 175 strikeouts in just 123 innings — enticing numbers for a team with the worst ERA in the American League.

Despite an up-and-down trip through the minor leagues, Roger Clemens will finally take the mound Monday when the New York Yankees take on the Chicago White Sox. After pitching six scoreless innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Monday, the Yankees’ brass decided Clemens was ready for the big leagues, although he won’t be going in New York’s series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park this weekend. The seven-time Cy Young Award winner has his work cut out for him — the Yankees, even with the highest payroll in the majors, are currently sitting in last place in the AL East.

The first round of All-Star voting came out this week and featured its usual fan-biased oddities. In the NL, the New York Mets, sporting the senior circuit’s best record, had four players leading their respective positions, but one — catcher Paul Lo Duca — certainly should be replaced. Russell Martin is fourth in voting despite being a central force in the offense for the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Catcher is also an issue in the AL, where Detroit’s Ivan Rodriguez leads, while the Yankees’ Jorge Posada has the best batting average in baseball at .357 and Victor Martinez is one of Cleveland’s leaders.

— Will Reisman

KEY SERIES

DIAMONDBACKS AT METS (Today-Sunday): This weekend’s clash will be a contrast in exposure as the high-profile Mets will bring the NL’s best record into this matchup against Brandon Webb and the Diamondbacks, a team that has managed to slip under everyone’s radar despite being near the top of the NL West all season.

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