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ANGEL NOTES

Scioscia Still Cautious in His Use of Percival

October 04, 2002|Bill Shaikin; Helene Elliott

On the surface, this appears silly, almost absurd. The Angels trust closer Troy Percival to get four outs, but not five?

Thus far, the defining issue of the Angel-Yankee playoff series involves how Angel Manager Mike Scioscia uses his closer. If the Angels need one out to escape the eighth inning, Scioscia will consider using Percival. If the Angels need two outs to escape the eighth, he says he will not consider using Percival.

In the playoffs, managers commonly expand the role of the closer beyond the ninth inning, because of the importance of the games and because teams play no more than three consecutive days without a day off. In his 53 playoff games, Yankee closer Mariano Rivera has pitched 80 innings.

But Rivera is more efficient in his work. Percival can be erratic, and Scioscia is concerned that a high pitch count in the eighth inning could weaken him for the ninth. He could get those two outs in the eighth, but he might walk one or two along the way.

"If he gets out of the eighth inning but he's thrown 23 pitches to get the last two outs, and now he's going out there for another one, he could throw 45 or 50 pitches," Scioscia said. "That is beyond pushing the envelope. That's extending Troy into a situation we're not comfortable with.

"Troy's a little bit on the high end as far as pitch counts go, but he does get the job done."

Percival earned 40 saves this season, third in the American League. He blew four saves, including two of four when he entered the game in the eighth inning. In one of those blown saves, he walked three and made a season-high 41 pitches in 1 1/3 innings.

But if he's on, he might be done with an inning in 10 pitches.

"With the amount of pitches I throw sometimes, I might be able to get six outs," Percival said. "Right now, it doesn't matter how I feel. I'll go out there in whatever situation he asks."

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The Angels plan to use Jarrod Washburn and Kevin Appier on three days' rest in the fourth game and, if necessary, fifth game of the series. Washburn, 28, worked on three days' rest against Oakland last month and pitched eight shutout innings.

Appier, 34, said he has not started on three days' rest since the 1995 season. The Yankees put nine runners on base against him in five innings Wednesday, on five hits, three walks and a hit batter.

"Physically, I feel good," he said. "I only threw 91 pitches--granted, it was in five innings. But I should be fine to pitch."

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Angel reliever Ben Weber hopes to be available tonight after X-rays revealed no fracture in the index finger of his right hand. In the eighth inning of Wednesday's game, Weber instinctively stuck his hand out at a ground ball, and the ball deflected off his hand for an infield single that put the tying run on base.

"If I let the thing go through, it's a double-play ball," he said.

Bill Shaikin

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Yankee second baseman Alfonso Soriano, hit on the left shoulder by a Percival pitch in the eighth inning Wednesday, said he expects to play tonight.

"It's bruised a little bit but it's OK," he said. "I put a lot of ice on it [Wednesday] night and I'm OK."

Outfielder Rondell White, who strained a hamstring running to first base Tuesday, might be available as a pinch-hitter.

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Although Angel starter Ramon Ortiz gave up a major league-leading 40 home runs this season, Yankee Manager Joe Torre said he doesn't want players to fixate on the long ball.

"He makes mistakes, and you have a chance to hit balls out of the park, and we've done it probably as well as anybody," he said. "I don't want our club to have the mentality of going out there thinking we're going to think, 'Home run.' To me, most home runs come by mistake. In other words, you swing, hit the ball hard, and it goes out of the ballpark....

"Hopefully he makes enough mistakes where we could benefit, but it's going to come down to pitching."

Torre also said pitcher Orlando Hernandez, who pitched four innings Wednesday and took the loss, won't be available today.

Helene Elliott

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