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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS | NEW YORK vs. SEATTLE : NOTES

Torre Faces Difficult Decision With Clemens

October 17, 2000|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

NEW YORK — If the Yankees defeat the Mariners to set up a Subway World Series against the New York Mets, Manager Joe Torre will have a difficult decision to make regarding pitcher Roger Clemens.

The hard-throwing Yankee right-hander beaned Met catcher Mike Piazza with a fastball in an interleague game in July, and there has been speculation the Mets would retaliate in the World Series.

So, does Torre pitch Clemens in Game 2 on Sunday in Yankee Stadium, where the designated hitter would be used, in order to avoid starting him in Games 3, 4 or 5 in Shea Stadium, where pitchers have to hit?

Or does Torre disregard the incident and allow Clemens to start a game in Shea, where Clemens could face the chin music so many of his opponents have had to deal with?

"I guess if it's 50-50, you'd probably stay away from it, but that's not going to really influence how I line it up," Torre said. "I mean, if we're concerned about Roger hitting at Shea Stadium, then, you know, we don't have our priorities right at that point. I'm going to line my pitching up the way I think they best line up to win."

Clemens declined to comment on the issue Sunday. "I'll be more than happy to answer all those questions when we get there, hopefully in a couple of days," he told reporters.

If the Yankees do make the World Series, Torre has resolved one key question in his mind: When the series shifts to Shea, leadoff batter Chuck Knoblauch, who has been a designated hitter during the playoffs, will return to second base, where he has been a defensive liability.

"I told Knobby on the plane ride to Oakland [during the division series] that he's not as good a defensive player as he once was or will be again, but I thought he was on his way back," Torre said. "He'll play second in the National League park. No hesitation there."

*

The Yankees and Mariners did not work out Monday, but Seattle reliever Arthur Rhodes planned to use the off day to throw a few pitches off the Yankee Stadium mound, which he and Manager Lou Piniella believe is flatter than the visiting bullpen mound and can be difficult to adjust to when relievers enter games.

"That mound is a lot different," said Rhodes, who was rocked for three runs and four hits in the seventh inning of Game 2 in Yankee Stadium. "I need to do a better job of getting my pitches down, so I can be on my game."

*

Joe Oliver was supposed to catch for the Mariners in Game 5 on Sunday but was sidelined because of a strained quadriceps muscle he injured running to first base. Oliver was scheduled to undergo treatment today, and he is questionable for Game 6 tonight.

"He hurt it trying to put it into a different gear running to first base," Piniella said. "I told him a John Deere tractor only has one gear."

*

Look for Piniella to give pitcher John Halama a little more rope in Game 6 tonight than he did in Game 2 on Wednesday. The Mariner left-hander and Brooklyn native had a five-hit shutout through six innings and had thrown only 83 pitches when Piniella went to his bullpen, which gave up seven runs in the eighth inning of a 7-1 loss.

THE SERIES

Yankees lead series, 3-2

Game 1: Seattle 2, New York 0

Game 2: New York 7, Seattle 1

Game 3: New York 8, Seattle 2

Game 4: New York 5, Seattle 0

Game 5: Seattle 6, New York 2

Today: Seattle (Halama 14-9) at New York (Hernandez 12-13), 5 p.m.

Wednesday: Seattle at New York, 5 p.m.*

TV--Ch. 4; *--if necessary

All times Pacific

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