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Wendell Wore Out His Welcome

October 23, 2000|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

Met reliever Turk Wendell faced only seven batters in Game 1 Saturday night, but by the time the Yankees' 4-3, 12-inning victory was over, the right-hander felt as if he'd pitched half the game.

"I was ready to pitch in the sixth, seventh, eighth, 10th and 11th innings," said Wendell, who gave up Jose Vizcaino's game-winning RBI single in the 12th. "I probably threw five innings in the bullpen. When you're in a bullpen that doesn't have well-defined roles, every time the phone rings, everyone jumps up."

This is the emotional--and physical--roller coaster many relievers ride night after night. They get up, they sit down. They throw, they rest. They're coming into the game ... wait a minute, they're not.

In Wendell's case, he was told he would face Derek Jeter if the Yankee shortstop came up in the ninth, so he geared up for the moment with some high- velocity, high-intensity deliveries.

But when Met closer Armando Benitez gave up a game-tying, bases-loaded sacrifice fly to Chuck Knoblauch, Manager Bobby Valentine changed his mind and left Benitez in.

The decision looked good when Benitez struck out Jeter to send the game into extra innings, but it left Wendell hanging. He sat down, cooled off and then warmed up in extra innings.

Wendell, who gave up Tino Martinez's single and Jorge Posada's double before Vizcaino's game-ending hit, didn't think he left his best stuff in the bullpen, though.

"I threw some good pitches and had a good sinker going," Wendell said. "Looking back, I should have thrown something inside to Vizcaino. But I'd be a Hall of Famer if I could throw everything looking back."


Luis Polonia may best epitomize these Yankees, because like the two-time defending World Series champions, Polonia simply refuses to go away.

The 36-year-old outfielder has been traded by two teams and released by seven others in the past 11 years. The Devil Rays loaned him to a team in Mexico in 1997 with an understanding he would be in Tampa Bay in 1998, but they never brought him back.

When the Tigers released Polonia this season, the Yankees picked him up, and the 5-foot-8, 150-pounder came up with a huge hit in Game 1 Saturday night, a pinch-hit single off Benitez during the Yankees' game-tying rally in the bottom of the ninth. It was Polonia's 11th career World Series pinch-hit appearance, the most in series history.

"I just keep hitting," Polonia said. "As long as I keep hitting and stay in good shape, someone is going to give me a chance somewhere."


Met first baseman Todd Zeile was asked how is sixth-inning drive in Game 1, a ball that hit the very top of the padded left-field wall, bounced back into play.

"There was a string attathed to it and someone yanked it back," Zeile said. "I saw a picture in the paper today, and it looked like the ball was sitting on top of the wall."

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