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Mulhern could be trade pawn

Ryan Mulhern keeps hitting. Scouts keep showing up in Dunn Tire Park. The trade deadline is just eight days away. That might be good news for the 26-year-old first baseman/DH, whose path to the big leagues is clearly blocked by Ryan Garko and Travis Hafner, but it would be a big problem for the Buffalo Bisons.

Mulhern doubled twice and drove in the eventual winning run in the Herd's 3-2 first-game victory over Syracuse Sunday and continues to roar down the path of becoming the first player to lead the Bisons in average, home runs and RBIs since Russ Morman pulled that team triple crown in 1993.

The Cleveland Indians are looking for help in middle relief and are also rumored to be interested in Texas outfielder Kenny Lofton, the ex-Indian. If they have to part with prospects, Mulhern's name has popped up in several Cleveland-area blogs and media reports.

"In the past I might have thought about that stuff but now it's just kind of a waste of energy to play GM," said Mulhern. "You focus on what you can, play hard. Let the chips fall where they may. You can't control all that other stuff."

With just 44 games to go, it would be tough for Buffalo to lose its cleanup hitter. Mulhern is batting .305 and will lead Bison hitters as soon as the gone-to-Cleveland Ben Francisco (.329) slips under at-bat minimums in a few days. Mulhern has 12 home runs and 55 RBIs.

He combined for 32 homers and 94 RBIs between Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron in 2005, then collected 15 homers and 69 RBIs last year in Akron.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself last year but now I'm trying to relax, not trying to hit it out on the highway [Oak Street] in left field," Mulhern said. "Just hit it hard. That's one of the reasons I'm having success this year."

Manager Torey Lovullo acknowledged trade rumors might make the next week difficult for his team.

"From sitting in that clubhouse as a player myself, I know that things change quickly here," Lovullo said. "We have a number of young prospects who are potential major leaguers, for the Cleveland Indians as well as other teams. We always explain that to them, that they're playing for every team."

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Lovullo said there were no real problems with the infield, which was saturated by a broken irrigation pipe valve that caused the postponement of Saturday's twinbill.

"No issues," Lovullo said. "I walked it and there were some soft spots but nothing like [Saturday]."

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Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Gustavo Chacin will make an injury rehabilitation start for Syracuse tonight at 6 in the opening game of the teams' second straight doubleheader (Radio 1230 & 1330 AM).

Chacin, 26, was 2-1 with a 5.60 ERA in five starts for Toronto but has been on the disabled list since April 28 with shoulder trouble and has been with the Jays' Florida State League affiliate in Dunedin. He was 9-4 for the Jays last year and 13-9 in 2005, finishing fifth in voting for American League Rookie of the Year and setting a team record for victories by a rookie.

Sean Smith (8-6) and Eric DuBose (2-2) are scheduled to start for Buffalo.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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