Sports

Texas' Lee says it's resin, not a hat trick

Cliff Lee has pitched so well in the postseason, some fans started wondering whether he doctors the ball.

The Texas ace had a white patch on the back of his cap during the division series against Tampa Bay and it became a topic on sports-talk radio in New York.

Lee, scheduled to start Game 3 of the American League Championship Series tonight against the Yankees, said it’s simply resin on his hat, which is perfectly legal.

The left-hander, who was traded by Seattle to Texas on July 9, had a sense of humor about the commotion.

“It definitely makes me way better. I know that much. Without that hat, I don’t know if I could do it,” Lee deadpanned. “I go to the resin bag quite a bit. I touch my hat in the same place over and over. And it just accumulates. I couldn’t pitch without it for sure.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Lee’s cap is not a concern.

“It’s resin. It’s available to everybody,” Girardi said. “I haven’t seen it to be a problem.”

STILL THE STARTER

Phillies starter Joe Blanton is still on target to pitch Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday – for now.

Manager Charlie Manuel named Blanton the starter going into the series, but the nod could go to Roy Halladay on short rest if the Phillies need him.

Blanton, 9-6 with a 4.82 ERA, did not pitch in the division series.

“We’ll just take it day to day and see what happens,” Manuel said. “I mean, our plans are Blanton.”

Halladay is 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA in six career starts on three days’ rest. He started once on two days’ rest and allowed five earned runs in 42/3 innings.

STICKING WITH A.J.

Girardi reiterated that A.J. Burnett is slated to start Game 4 against Texas on Tuesday.

Burnett, in the second year of an $82.5 million, five-year contract, went 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA this season and was left out of the first-round rotation against Minnesota.

Though the Yankees announced their plans to pitch Burnett before the ALCS, there has been plenty of speculation that they’ll instead turn to CC Sabathia on three days’ rest in Game 4 – especially if they’re trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.

“Maybe other people have talked about it, but my message has been clear that we’re on rotation,” Girardi said. “We set up our rotation for a number of reasons. We believe in A.J.”

SHORT HOPS

Giants shortstop Juan Uribe was a late scratch for Game 2 of the NLCS because of a bruised left wrist. Former Mets star Darryl Strawberry endorsed former teammate Wally Backman for the team’s next manager. Backman was hired as manager of the Diamondbacks in 2004, but was fired four days later when his arrests and financial troubles came to light. Backman returned to the Mets organization this year and managed the Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones to a 51-24 record. With the ALCS shifting to New York, Texas right fielder Jeff Francoeur can sleep in his own bed. The Rangers acquired Francoeur from the Mets in August and he still has an apartment in Manhattan. He plans to sleep at home this week. “It’s nice. I’ve got it through the end of the month, so it works out well,” he said.

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