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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS

Wells Is Demanding--of Himself and Others

Yankees: Irascible lefty would pitch every game if he could, and why not, his postseason record is unimpeachable.

October 11, 1998|BILL PLASCHKE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CLEVELAND — David Wells will take the mound today for the New York Yankees on his normal four days' rest with a chance to win their most important game of the season.

And, we have to tell you, he's not too happy about it.

The unusual left-hander--is there any other kind?--barreled into Manager Joe Torre's office Saturday afternoon and offered to pitch then and there.

With the Yankees down, trailing the Cleveland Indians two games to one in the American League championship series at the time, Wells wanted to be the one to throw the first sucker punch.

"Not taking away from anybody else, but I feel pretty good and I want to pitch, so I guess I'm stubborn," Wells said.

Torre told him fine, under one condition: "Only if you pitch tomorrow, too."

So Orlando Hernandez remained Saturday's starter, and Wells will pitch today and that will be that.

Sort of. If there is a Game 7 on Wednesday, even though Wells would be pitching with just two days' rest, he likely would demand to go back to the mound again.

"It would be tough but . . . get me out after five [innings], I could probably manage," he said. "I can dig deep and find a little extra."

On a team of players whose talent is often overshadowed by their ability to work, nobody digs deeper than David Wells.

Even if, sometimes, trying to figure him out is as easy as digging to China.

"[Wells] is a much more cerebral pitcher . . . even it's even possible to say that about him," teammate David Cone said with a smile.

Uh, whatever.

Before Wells pitched his perfect game this year, he was the model of imperfection.

There was that hand injury suffered in a bar fight just weeks after signing a big contract with the Yankees two winters ago.

Then, during last season, there was the shouting match that nearly led to blows with Yankee owner George Steinbrenner.

And always there is his habit of scowling at struggling teammates from the mound.

But this time of year, no Yankee pitcher is better.

In his career, he has yet to be beaten in the postseason, with a 4-0 record in division series, and 2-0 in the league championship series, and 2.08 ERA overall.

"I really get geared up for this," he said.. "The fans really pump me up."

He's even speaking admiringly of Steinbrenner these days.

While Wells was giving a pregame interview Saturday, Steinbrenner was in the middle of the action, riding his team in the Yankee clubhouse.

"He's in there ranting and raving right now--'We're going to kick some butt'--and I think it's great," Wells said. "To me he should come in there and spark a fire under everybody's butt, but don't over-bounce, do it in a good way because he can motivate you and [tick] you off at the same time."

He added, "I think we're proud of him for sticking with us and putting the team out there that he's done."

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