If you think the New York Yankees are merely going to stand by and watch the Boston Red Sox coast in top spot of the American League East, you’re mistaken.


The Yanks plan to augment their recent reacquisition of future Hall of Fame pitcher Roger Clemens with the acquisition of future Hall of Fame first baseman Todd Helton.


The Yanks have begun serious trade discussions with the Colorado Rockies in their efforts to obtain Helton, and several major-league sources believe it’s not a matter of if the veteran will be in New York pinstripes but when.


Helton is enjoying another first-rate season. Entering Thursday, he ranked second in the big leagues in on-base percentage and first with 21 multi-hit games.


Oh, and the Yanks also intend to obtain relief ace Brian Fuentes from the Rockies. Fuentes has already established a Colorado record with eight saves this month.

• The Rockies, in case you’re wondering, are seeking prospects for their established players because they’ve decided that they already are out of contention and likely will finish in the cellar of the National League West.

Despite a dreadful start to the season, however, the Rockies have no plans to fire either general manager Dan O’Dowd or manager Clint Hurdle.

Joe Torre of the Yanks still heads the list of big-league managers most likely to be fired first this season, although Sam Perlozzo of the Baltimore Orioles, Mike Hargrove of the Seattle Mariners and John Gibbons of the Toronto Blue Jays are anything but secure in their positions.

• The Tampa Bay Devil Rays sat troubled Elijah Dukes on the bench Wednesday night, but they insisted Thursday that they will stand behind their rookie outfielder.

Rays president Matt Silverman said the organization was "disappointed" and "troubled" and took "very seriously" the allegations by Dukes' estranged wife that he threatened to kill her and their children, but for now would take no disciplinary action against him.

"Right now we're just monitoring the situation," Silverman said in a statement, "and our focus is on helping Elijah through what is a difficult time in his life. We hope that he can fulfill his potential as a ballplayer and as a person, and we are committed to helping him.”

A.J. Pierzynski started a mess on a Chicago radio station the other day when he questioned the sanity of the White Sox using another catcher instead of him.

But White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen had this to say Wednesday: ''If anybody is still pissed at A.J., they're wrong. If I find out that any player is still pissed at A.J. or talking like that, they're going to hear it from me. This kid said what he had to say. We've moved on. . . I don't want any of this [bleep] going on. If something is bothering you, my door is open, and we'll get it clear right away.''

Lou Piniella isn’t exactly having a picnic in the park as the Chicago Cubs’ new manager and sources are starting to believe that he may quit at or perhaps even before season’s end.

The heat has been on Piniella as the Cubs are under .500. His frustrations have been conspicuous with the barbs he’s been throwing out at Chicago media types.

He’s also got himself into a bit of hot water because of criticisms he’s made about the Cubs’ pitching ace, Carlos Zambrano.

Piniella said Zambrano suffers from lapses in focus. "I've talked to (pitching coach Larry Rothschild) long and hard about this,” Piniella said. “(Zambrano) seems to lose his concentration out there.”

• Oh, yes, and this from Guillen on the idea of having to face the Cubs in a rematch series in four weeks:

“If we have to play them again, why can’t it be in Mexico or Japan or somewhere?” he asked. “I don’t like having to deal with all this Chicago stuff. Next year, we got to play the series in other countries. Make it Australia. Anywhere. I don’t care. Just not Chicago.”

Troy Percival, a 37-year-old who has not pitched since 2005 because of arm problems, will be trying out shortly with the Philadelphia Phillies.

• Rodeo cowboys use a certain balm to treat blisters from rope burns. Apparently, it's good for baseball pitchers who get blisters, as well. Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets, who left his start Tuesday night in the seventh inning after popping a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, is being treated with that balm.

He’s hoping it will allow him to pitch Monday in Atlanta.

• Overheard in the press box during a Los Angeles Dodgers game:

Nomar Garciaparra’s wife has had more kids this year than he’s had home runs.”

Garciaparra’s wife, soccer star Mia Hamm, had twin daughters.

• Hall of Famer Frank Robinson on Jason Giambi's comments that baseball should apologize for steroid use in the game: "I have no idea what he was talking about. And I don't understand why all of a sudden out of the clear blue he made those comments. But Jason Giambi should focus on Jason Giambi. If he wants to tell us something about what he did as far as steroid use is concerned, do that. Don't throw a blanket over all of baseball."

• The Yanks are preparing to unload Giambi and his hefty contract. They're trying to find legal ways to escape the financial obligations from the guarantees in his pact.

That's another reason why they're trying to pick up Helton.

• Robinson on Clemens' return to the Yankees and his exclusive "travel clause," which permits him to skip road trips in which he won’t pitch: “I don't like the personal clauses. I think they're disruptive to a ballclub for one individual to be able to take certain liberties. I think if you're going to be a part of a ballclub you should be there on a daily basis just like everyone else. You make that sacrifice during the course of a season and everyone should have to apply to those rules and regulations. It's a shame when one individual comes in and is able to get those types of liberties."