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ANGEL REPORT

They're Wild About the Wild Card

October 01, 2002|Bill Shaikin

NEW YORK — For all the ridicule directed at Bud Selig, the Angels are enormously grateful to the commissioner this morning. Selig pushed hard for the adoption of the wild-card format, and without it the Angels would be sitting at home, rather than participating in the playoffs.

The Angels won 99 games this season, a club record. But the Oakland Athletics won 103, and under the old format, second place would have been good for nothing.

In 1995, the first year of the wild-card format, the Seattle Mariners trailed the Angels by 13 games. The Mariners acquired Andy Benes and Vince Coleman, shooting for the wild card but never dreaming the Angels would cough up that huge lead.

"If there wasn't a wild card, Seattle would have given up. It ended up costing us," Angel outfielder Tim Salmon said. "Now, I'm glad there's a wild card. If we won 99 games and didn't make it ...

"We got ripped off in '95. It's made the difference for us this year."

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John Lackey, who never has pitched in relief in either the major or minor leagues, will be available in the Angel bullpen for the first two games of the series. If the Yankees knock out a starter early in the game, Lackey and Scot Shields are the Angels' options in long relief.

The Angels still might start Lackey in the fourth game of the series, as originally planned, but they are thinking harder about bringing back Jarrod Washburn on three days' rest, even if they lead the series. That will depend in part on how many pitches Washburn throws tonight.

The Yankees, as usual, have a ridiculous assortment of riches on what Manager Joe Torre calls "the best staff I've ever had." The Yankees did not have room for Sterling Hitchcock on their playoff roster, despite his 2.35 postseason earned-run average. They sent starters Orlando Hernandez (2.48 postseason ERA) and Jeff Weaver to the bullpen.

The Yankees traditionally use closer Mariano Rivera in the eighth and ninth innings during the playoffs, but Torre said he would not ask Rivera to pitch before the ninth inning this fall. Rivera was activated Sept. 21 after missing five weeks because of a sore shoulder.

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Monday was the first day of the off-season for the Cleveland Indians, and their first order of business is to determine whether interim Manager Joel Skinner should be hired for the full-time job. General Manager Mark Shapiro has said he plans to interview other candidates before making a decision, with Angel pitching coach Bud Black believed to be atop the list.

Should the Indians hire Black, the Angels have no obvious candidate to replace him. Mike Couchee, the Angels' top minor league pitching instructor, has been fired. Mike Butcher, the triple-A pitching coach this season, has been promoted to replace Couchee and could be a candidate. Former Dodger Claude Osteen, the pitching coach under Manager Mike Scioscia at triple-A Albuquerque in 1999, also could be a candidate.

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The Angels haven't participated in the playoffs in 16 years, but the last two teams that returned to the playoffs after even longer droughts fared well. In 1995, the Indians made their first playoff appearance in 42 years and advanced to the World Series. In 1987, the Minnesota Twins made their first appearance in 17 years and won the World Series.

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The Angels' traveling party includes six players not on the playoff roster--catcher Sal Fasano, infielder Alfredo Amezaga and pitchers Mickey Callaway, Dennis Cook, Al Levine and Aaron Sele. The Angels cannot make a roster change during this series, even in case of injury. If they defeat the Yankees, the Angels can shuffle their roster before the American League championship series, so they want the extra players to keep working out with the team.

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Shields rejoined the team Monday after a whirlwind weekend in which he said he slept for a total of three hours. He made his first major league start Friday, flew to his Michigan home for the birth of his first child--a girl, Kayla--Sunday, then flew here Monday, for October baseball in Yankee Stadium. "I don't think it can get any better than this," he said.

TONIGHT

ANGELS' JARROD WASHBURN

(18-6, 3.15 ERA)

vs. YANKEES' ROGER CLEMENS

(13-6, 4.35 ERA)

Yankee Stadium, 5:15 p.m. PDT

TV--Channel 11.

Radio--KLAC (570), XPRS (1090).

Update--Washburn is 13-3 on the road this year; Clemens is 9-1 at home. Washburn loves to face Alfonso Soriano (0 for 8) and Jason Giambi (.231) and hates to face Bernie Williams (.444), Raul Mondesi (.444) and Derek Jeter (.333). Clemens loves to face Scott Spiezio (.115), Garret Anderson (.205), Troy Glaus (.211) and Tim Salmon (.235) and hates to face Darin Erstad (.389), Adam Kennedy (.333) and Brad Fullmer (.296). Scioscia said the Angels' regular-season platoons would remain in effect, with designated hitter Fullmer and second baseman Kennedy starting tonight against right-hander Clemens, and Shawn Wooten and Benji Gil replacing them Wednesday against left-hander Andy Pettitte.

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