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REPORT

Willis Retires Bonds in Short Relief Role

October 02, 2003|Ross Newhan | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — The 21-year-old left-hander whom the Florida Marlins call the D-Train steamed to the mound in the eighth inning of a long Wednesday afternoon to face the dreaded Barry Bonds, leading off. Dontrelle Willis needed three pitches to retire Bonds on a popup to third base.

"If he hits it in the water, he hits it in the water," Willis said of McCovey Cove. "I was going to challenge him, because I don't want to walk anyone in that situation."

The Marlins led and would win, 9-5, and Willis, 14-6 as the catalyst of the Marlins' artistic and attendance awakening in South Florida, was working on his normal throwing day in preparation for his start in Game 4 of the division series with the San Francisco Giants at Pro Player Stadium.

That's a start in which he can either eliminate the Giants from the best-of-five series or save the Marlins from elimination.

"I'll be ready physically and mentally," he said, even though this had been something of a different throwing day, considering he warmed up at least three times and his 27 regular-season appearances had all been as a starter.

"I just went out and pitched," he said, having followed the Bonds popup by yielding singles to Edgardo Alfonzo and Benito Santiago before being excused. "I had fun out there, even with the two singles."

*

Florida Manager Jack McKeon wouldn't say it, but it's suspected he will return Mike Lowell to third base when the series resumes Friday.

Miguel Cabrera, the 20-year-old rookie, is hitless in eight at-bats, having struck out four times and made a key throwing error in Game 1.

Lowell, with 32 homers and 105 runs batted in, broke his left hand when he was hit by a pitch Aug. 30.

He was one for four in his only subsequent start on the last day of the season.

McKeon has said it would be unfair to Lowell and the team to rush him back when he has been primarily restricted to batting practice.

"It's been frustrating, especially since I feel like I got the at-bats I needed [on that last day] and could contribute," Lowell said.

"But you can't take away the fact that Miguel and [Jeff Conine] have stepped up big-time these last few weeks. It's a tough decision, and that's why I'm glad I'm not the manager. My responsibility is to try to get ready and prepare myself for whatever is to be."

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