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Giant Report/ NOTES

This Duo's Dynamic Is Often Edgy

October 19, 2002|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, in a lengthy media session Friday, said he and Jeff Kent complement each other the way Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan did, the way Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did, and Bonds must not have been referring to that uncomplimentary June 25 incident in San Diego, when his meaty hands gripped Kent's neck as if it were a Louisville Slugger.

Manager Dusty Baker, taking the analogy a step further, compared the sometimes-stormy, sometimes-respectful, never-a-dull-mo- ment relationship between Bonds and Kent to "The Defiant Ones," the 1958 movie starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis.

"Both are handcuffed, the one guy wants to throw the other guy off the cliff, and he realizes, 'Oh man, if he goes, I go too,' " Baker said. "I will urge everybody to get that movie. They end up being cool and being partners at the end. This has been a while, quite a transformation for both of them, actually. They're both great ballplayers, and they're both better together than apart."

When told of Baker's remarks, Kent, who will be a free agent after the series, sent notice to any Hollywood types looking to develop the idea.

"For all those screenplay writers out there, I think Barry and I could play ourselves," Kent said. "People have made such a big deal about our relationship, our ups and down, but look at us: We've played well together, and now we have a chance to be world champions."

Kent, who hit .313 with 37 home runs and 108 runs batted in during the regular season but has struggled with a .263 average, one RBI and 11 strikeouts in the postseason, is a key to the Giant offense because the No. 3 hitter bats ahead of Bonds.

"If Jeff's hot and getting on base, that's going to help Barry because the pitcher is going to go from the stretch," Baker said. "Hopefully, we can get not only Jeff but our leadoff hitter on base. The more runners you have on base, the better chance you have of them pitching to Barry."

Perhaps, Kent said, too much emphasis is placed on Kent and Bonds.

"Barry is good enough to not need me, and I'm good enough to not need him; what we do need is the guys in this locker room," Kent said. "The reason we're National League champions is these guys have played good baseball. This, more than any team I've been on, has players who complement each other."

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Baker chose his rotation for the series -- Jason Schmidt in Game 1 tonight, Russ Ortiz in Game 2, Livan Hernandez in Game 3 and Kirk Rueter in Game 4 -- with a possible Game 7 in mind. If the series goes the distance, Baker would have Hernandez, his big-game pitcher, for Game 7 on regular rest.

"Livo could handle that situation better than anyone," Baker said of Hernandez, who helped the Florida Marlins win the 1997 World Series.

Baker didn't announce his final series roster Friday, but the most likely candidate for designated hitter tonight is Shawon Dunston.

Or Baker could start center fielder and leadoff batter Kenny Lofton at DH and use the right-handed Tsuyoshi Shinjo in center.

Shinjo is a better defensive player than Lofton and hit .291 against left-handers this season.

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Neither Bonds in left nor Lofton has an above-average throwing arm, and one key to the series could be how much success the aggressive Angel baserunners have going from first to third on singles and scoring from second on hits.

"The secret of stopping a team from going first to third is not throwing them out necessarily," Baker said. "It's how you charge the ball and play the ball to stop them from running in the first place."

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