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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS / NATIONAL LEAGUE | ST. LOUIS vs.
NEW YORK : NOTES

Benes Won't Rock Boat in New York With Words

October 14, 2000|PAUL GUTIERREZ

NEW YORK — John Rocker he's not.

Andy Benes, who will start Game 3 of the National League championship series today for the St. Louis Cardinals, said he does not fear playing in a hostile environment. And he didn't insult New Yorkers, a la Rocker.

Rather, Benes all but sported a T-shirt with the "I (Heart) New York" slogan on it during a day-off workout at Shea Stadium Friday.

"This is fun and I may be a little biased because I think St. Louis is the best place to play, but this place is right up there," Benes said. "The fans here are awesome and they love their baseball. It's going to be fun."

Although he may not have to dodge batteries from the stands, Benes will be trying to keep the Cardinals from falling into a 3-0 series deficit. And he'll be doing it as damaged goods.

Benes started 25 times before he was put on the disabled list Aug. 19 because of inflammation in his right knee. He returned Sept. 3 and was limited to three starts and two relief appearances to close out the regular season. He last pitched Oct. 1.

"My knee cartilage is frayed and I need to have it 'scoped," Benes said. "It's just a matter of getting my knee drained before I pitch and I wear a brace and go out and get them.

"I feel fine. It's not great and I'd like to be completely healthy but that's what I have. If I wasn't excited about this team and . . . hopefully, something really nice here at the end of the year, I would have had the surgery two months ago."

Benes shrugged when asked if the pressure-cooker that is New York would bother him, what with his long layoff and being in less-than-tip-top shape.

"Pressure? Pressure is when you don't know where you're going to sleep at night," he said. "This is a game that we're paid to play. This is fun."

*

The Mets will start Rick Reed against St. Louis today, the first right-handed starter the Cardinals will face in the series.

"I know I'm not left-handed and they've got a tough left-handed hitting lineup," said Reed, who had an 8.00 ERA without a decision in two starts against the Cardinals this year.

*

Seemingly any time Mark McGwire and his sore knee make a move in the Cardinal dugout, speculation mounts about when the single-season home run king will pinch hit.

He has made only one appearance in the series so far, drawing an intentional walk in the eighth inning of the Cardinals' 6-5 loss to the Mets in Game 2.

Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa denied that having an injured McGwire chomping at the bit for an at-bat was a negative.

"It's no burden," La Russa said. "Suppose he wasn't on our bench--that's a burden. He's a weapon."

Met Manager Bobby Valentine hasn't really had to deal with McGwire yet, except for the intentional walk.

"It's such an unknown on how he's going to be used," Valentine said. "For me to be surprised I would have to have a plan on how he's going to be used. "

*

Valentine's contract with the Mets expires Oct. 31 and questions about his plans are becoming more frequent. When asked if it was a distraction, Valentine said, "It's not distracting except for when I have to answer questions about it."

THE SERIES

Game 1: New York 6, St. Louis 2

Game 2: New York 6, St. Louis 5

Today: St. Louis (An. Benes 12-9) at New York (Reed 11-5), 1:15 p.m.

Sunday: St. Louis (Kile 20-9) at New York (B.J. Jones 11-6), 5 p.m.

Monday: St. Louis at New York, 5:15 p.m.*

Wednesday: New York at St. Louis, 1:15 p.m.*

Thursday: New York at St. Louis, 5:15 p.m.*

TV--Ch. 11; *--if necessary

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