Notes: Cirillo says humidor is 'cheating'

Notes: Cirillo says humidor is 'cheating'

DENVER -- Brewers infielder Jeff Cirillo is not the first person to espouse a Coors Field conspiracy theory. On Tuesday he became the latest.

Cirillo, who played in Colorado from 2000-2001, stood by the comments he made earlier Tuesday on a Milwaukee radio station accusing the Rockies of using their baseball-storing "humidor" to an unfair advantage.

"I will bring you home a ball from Coors Field and I will show you," Cirillo told radio host Drew Olson. "It's all spongy and it's big and it's water logged. They're illegal baseballs. They are non-flying baseballs."

According to Cirillo, a number of Brewers stood in the outfield during batting practice on Monday and compared a new baseball that traveled from Milwaukee to new one from Coors Field. Cirillo said the humidor ball was bigger, heavier and visibly oblong.

"You wouldn't think that they'd be cheating. They are," Cirillo said. "The balls are not the same. Hey, I'm not the first one to complain about it."

Before you accuse Cirillo of watching too many Oliver Stone movies -- and plenty of Rockies and Brewers were doing just that on Tuesday -- consider this:

The Rockies have been storing baseballs in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room near the home clubhouse at Coors Field since 2001, but scoring is dramatically down this season. Teams combined to score 13.83 runs per game during the pre-humidor conditions of 1995-2001, but it dropped to to 11.97 from 2001-2005 and to 9.10 this season entering play Tuesday. Home runs also are down, from 3.20 per game pre-humidor, to 2.63 in 2001-2005 and 1.90 this season.

Still, most have brushed off Cirillo's theory.

"Both teams are playing with the same balls," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "It doesn't matter if they're mushy, if they're square, if they're triangular. ... That's nuts, man. That's just a waste of time, discussing it."

Said Monday's losing pitcher, Chris Capuano, who surrendered back-to-back home runs to Garrett Atkins and Matt Holliday: "It didn't look like Garrett Atkins hit a sponge ball."

And Rockies manager Clint Hurdle: "Jeff's always been a creative thinker. He's always been able to think outside the box."

The Rockies insist that the baseballs are kept to the exact specifications recommended by the manufacturer, Rawlings. Jimmie Lee Solomon, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of operations, has said that MLB officials are periodically dispatched to check on the humidor, and predicted that other clubs will soon install their own.

Still, Cirillo is not alone in his claims that something's up. Dodgers manager Grady Little and Athletics catcher Jason Kendall are among those who have complained this season.

"I know everyone says that they have better pitchers," Cirillo said. "But I have a hard time believing that Mike Hampton [a Rockies bust in 2001 and 2002] isn't a better pitcher than what they've got now. That's not to say the guys they have now won't be good -- that [Aaron] Cook guy is good. Jeff Francis is good. But for them to have eight shutouts, most in the National League ... you can't just say it's the pitching."

OK, how about this? Both teams are playing with the same baseballs, so how could the Rockies benefit? Cirillo has an argument for that, too.

"They're a mile up, every day," he said. "That's a distinct advantage in the fact they're used to playing in altitude and we're not.

"Or, say they get behind by a bunch of runs in a game. Who's to say that can't break out the non-humidor balls?"

Cirillo was an All-Star for Colorado in 2000, when he matched a career-high with a .326 batting average and set career highs with 111 runs scored and 115 RBIs. He hit 11 home runs.

"It's hard for me to really pop off on the Rockies because I definitely benefited from playing here," Cirillo said. "I definitely liked hitting here."

Back to backup: Cirillo re-assumed a bench role since the team traded for veteran third baseman David Bell on July 28. Cirillo is hitting a team-high .326 this season, but told MLB.com during the July 21-23 Cincinnati series that he would rather be playing 3-4 days a week than every day.

Yost had no problem with that rare admission from a player of his limitations.

"Jeff Cirillo gives you everything he has every time he steps on the field," Yost said. "That's just the way it is. Last year, we played him in long stretches and he got worn down. But he is a very, very valuable guy on this team."

National attention: Rookie first baseman Prince Fielder is in the current edition of Sports Illustrated, which hits newsstands on Wednesday. Fielder told the magazine he'll miss departed left fielder Carlos Lee, traded to Texas on Friday.

"He took me under his wing and showed me how to be a run producer," Fielder said in the first-person feature. "With runners in scoring position, he told me what to look for and what mindset to have. He said you want to be 'the guy' in those situations. [And] when they would walk him and bring in a lefty to face me, he would pump me up and say, 'You've got to get them.' I hung out with him a lot, went out to eat with him. He's a good friend."

Last call: Injured second baseman Rickie Weeks (right wrist) is scheduled to hit off a tee on Friday in St. Louis. The Brewers may make a determination at that time whether he can play through a tendon injury. ... Brevard County's Brendan Katin was named the Florida State League's Player of the Week after hitting .522 (12-for-23) with two home runs and nine RBIs. ... Bill Hall was a finalist for the National League's Player of the Week award. The Phillies' Chase Utley and the Mets' Carlos Beltran shared the award.

On deck: Right-hander Tomo Ohka will make his fourth start since coming off the disabled list when the Brewers and Rockies conclude a three-game series on Wednesday night. Ohka, who will face Rockies right-hander Byung-Hyun Kim, has not pitched at Coors Field since May 18, 2003, when he took a 4-0 loss with Montreal.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.