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Notebook : Twins Go With Viola on Three Days' Rest, Instead of Joe Niekro

October 21, 1987|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS — Because the Minnesota Twins lost, 3-1, to the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday night, Twin Manager Tom Kelly will pitch Frank Viola on three days' rest tonight in Game 4.

Had the Twins held on to their late-inning 1-0 lead and beaten the Cardinals, veteran knuckleballer Joe Niekro would have started.

But with the Twins holding a 2-1 lead in the Series rather than 3-0, Kelly opted for Viola, his best pitcher.

"He pitched good against Detroit on three days' rest," Kelly said. "Our trainer says he's in good shape and he's our man."

Was Niekro disappointed?

Well, brother Phil was planning to fly up from his Lilburn, Ga., home to see Joe make the family's first World Series start.

"I'm more disappointed that we're not within one win of winning the World Series than I am of not starting," Joe said, "but I would like to get in.

"The first thing you want is just to be part of something like this, even if you're on the bench. But then you get here and that's not really enough. It's not a life or death situation, but I think everybody wants to play."

For Niekro, who is 43 and was 7-13 this year, it might be a last chance.

The Twins did not have as severe a reaction to their first exposure to playing at Busch Stadium as the Cardinals did last week at the Metrodome.

Still, Twin players said it was an adjustment. Actually, the Twins have had problems playing anywhere on the road this season, posting a dismal 29-52 record away from the Metrodome.

"It's kind of like Kansas City's park, with the power alleys," Kelly said of Busch Stadium. "But I didn't feel too much of a difference."

Said Twin third baseman Gary Gaetti, who grew up in suburban Missouri and spent a lot of time at Busch as a child: "OK, now we've got our feet wet at Busch Stadium. We're going to be all right. Busch Stadium is the greatest ball park in the world. And you can print that."

Gaetti, incidentally, said he wanted to be a baseball player ever since Dick Schofield Sr. gave him a broken bat while walking along the railing at Busch two decades ago.

It was reported Tuesday that Gussie Busch, the beer magnate and owner of the Cardinals, lost an estimated $150 million in Monday's stock-market plunge.

Quipped Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog: "Yeah, I bet he's really . . . worried."

Add Herzog: Because he is widely known as a fisherman, Herzog said that several people have called and asked him to go fishing at one of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes on the day off before Game 6.

"We got to get there first," Herzog said. "I'm not going to go there just to fish. I'll fish here. We got our work cut out for us. And if we get there, we're going to have our work cut out for us."

Are some of the Twins using corked bats?

That question was thrown out to Herzog during a free-form pregame interview.

Herzog pondered the question with a serious expression, then said: "Yeah, there are corked bats being used in this Series."

Then, he broke up laughing.

"Nah, I don't know. But, you know, there are a lot of balls jumping off the bats."

Kelly was asked if he had offered pitcher Les Straker, who had not been up to bat since 1983, any batting tips.

Kelly's advice? "Don't swing."

Kelly said he would vote for Toronto's George Bell over Detroit's Alan Trammell as the American League's Most Valuable Player.

"That's just my opinion," Kelly said.

What about one of the Twins for the award?

"We just all try to do it together, row the boat together," Kelly said. "We don't go for that leadership bull."

Ozzie Smith on Vince Coleman:

"When he says that he expects to steal three or four bases a night and score four or five runs, he's not blowing smoke. He can do it, he's done it. He's a great player, and people still haven't seen him at his best. It's a long, grueling season, and when you do as much running as he does, it's possible that you're not going to be at your strongest in October."

Times staff writer Ross Newhan contributed to this story.

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