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DODGER REPORT

Tracy Defends Bullpen Decisions

September 12, 2003|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX — Manager Jim Tracy has come under fire for his handling of the bullpen Wednesday as the Dodgers squandered a four-run lead in the eighth inning of Arizona's 5-4 victory.

Tracy was roundly criticized publicly by baseball analysts and privately by players for leaving in left-hander Tom Martin too long, bringing in right-hander Paul Quantrill to face pinch-hitter Steve Finley -- who was seven for nine against Quantrill to that point -- and not using record-setting closer Eric Gagne.

Shea Hillenbrand hit a two-run home run off Martin. Finley delivered the game-winner against Quantrill -- a three-run shot -- as the major leagues' most dominant reliever sat in the bullpen.

Tracy tried to avoid the Finley-Quantrill matchup, and definitely didn't want it to occur with Finley representing the potential winning run. Always turning to Gagne, however, isn't as easy as it looks, Tracy said.

"It's a very delicate scale that you have to balance there, and one that'll you'll be grossly criticized for all the time," said Tracy, who defended his decision. "That's very easy to do, because as soon as you see a situation like that, the immediate thing to say is, 'Gagne!' That's where this situation has gone, and understandably so.

"But the scales I have to balance are using him to the point where I'm watching him pitch and saying to myself, 'I'm stretching this a little too far.' I have to balance that there are still 2 1/2 weeks of baseball left to be played.

"You can foresee, in the days ahead, the possibility of even a two-inning stint [for Gagne]."

Although Dodger players declined to comment on the record, there was frustration throughout the clubhouse about Tracy's eighth-inning decisions.

Gagne supported Tracy.

"I was ready to go, I don't know why I didn't get used, but it's not my decision," said Gagne, who last month told Tracy he could pitch as many as seven days in a row. "I'm just here to pitch whenever they ask me to pitch, and I'm not going to start second-guessing."

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Hideo Nomo (rotator cuff inflammation) had a satisfactory bullpen session Thursday and will start Sunday against San Diego at Dodger Stadium, Tracy said. Rookie right-hander Edwin Jackson would have made his second start if Nomo had remained sidelined. Jackson will be used in relief.

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Center fielder Dave Roberts (neck stiffness) underwent tests that confirmed his injury is muscular, he said. Roberts expects to return to the starting lineup tonight.

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If the Dodgers end the regular season tied for the wild-card berth, a one-game playoff would be played at Dodger Stadium as a result of coin flips conducted at the commissioner's office. The Dodgers won five coin flips.

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ON DECK

Opponent -- San Diego Padres, three games.

Site -- Dodger Stadium.

TV -- Fox Sports Net 2 tonight and Sunday, Channel 13 on Saturday.

Radio -- KFWB (980), KWKW (1330).

Records -- Dodgers 77-68, Padres 59-86.

Record vs. Padres -- 3-9.

Tonight, 7 -- Wilson Alvarez (4-1, 2.44) vs. Kevin Jarvis (5-7, 5.85).

Saturday, 7 p.m. -- Kevin Brown (13-8, 2.44) vs. Jake Peavy (11-10, 4.15).

Sunday, 1 p.m. -- Hideo Nomo (15-11, 2.88) vs. Ben Howard (1-1, 3.63).

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