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A career of many starts in a few stops

October 23, 2006|Tim Brown | Times Staff Writer

DETROIT — Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan, near the end of his 12th major-league season, finished another year with 32 starts, dependability becoming his signature.

Suppan, 31, just completed his eighth consecutive regular season with at least 31 starts, through stops in Kansas City, Boston, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

He can be a free agent in a week. His career record is about .500 and his career earned-run average -- 4.61 -- is that high because of some rough seasons around the turn of the decade.

But, just in time for the winter shopping season, Suppan has had one decent and two brilliant starts in the playoffs (giving up five hits and one run in 15 innings against the New York Mets).

He'll start Game 4 Wednesday in St. Louis, and already a few acquaintances have mentioned his playoff success might make him a few extra dollars.

"Yeah, probably a few people have said that," he said. "We'll have to wait and see."


Dave Duncan, father first and pitching coach second, defended his son, Cardinals first baseman-turned-outfielder Chris, against an anonymous scout who in USA Today called him "a butcher" in the outfield. Chris Duncan is a career first baseman who was blocked in the majors by Albert Pujols.

"It upsets me because he gets labeled a 'bad defensive outfielder' without anyone explaining why," Dave said. "I think he does pretty well under the conditions.

"That label, it's hard to erase, and it stinks."

In other news, Duncan was the designated hitter in Game 1.


Nate Robertson, who will start Game 3 for the Tigers in St. Louis, will have made all three of his playoff starts on the road. The first was in New York, the second in Oakland. For Robertson to get a start at friendly Comerica Park, the World Series would have to go seven games.

"It's certainly a different atmosphere," he said of the road starts, "because you have to deal with the boneheads in the stands."

He couldn't have meant New Yorkers.


Over four postseason appearances, hard-throwing Tigers reliever Fernando Rodney had given up one hit and no runs in 4 2/3 innings before Sunday.

Rodney features a fastball, a changeup and, once in a while, a slider.

"He throws the slider as often as [Troy Percival] threw his curveball when he first came up," said Tigers pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, the former Angels coach, "like once a month."

Robertson ranks Rodney's changeup among the top three in the big leagues. The others, Robertson said: Trevor Hoffman and Johan Santana.


Sign of the season: In the Tigers clubhouse two hours before game time, a small television in the corner replayed a National League Championship Series start by Jeff Weaver. The huge, almost-life-sized television in front of the couch was turned to the Vikings-Seahawks NFL game.

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