Bonds-Leyland chat pays quick dividends First-inning double sparks 4-run rally

October 12, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Pirates manager Jim Leyland said he had a 90-minute meeting with slumping superstar Barry Bonds after Saturday night's fourth game of the National League Championship Series.

Leyland said the chat came at the NL playoffs notebook

outfielder's request, and while he wouldn't describe the content of their talk, he said its nature was "tremendous" and "very emotional."

"If anybody thought it was negative, they're all wet," Leyland said. "It was almost like a father-son chat."

Bonds, who was not available for comment before last night's fifth game with the Atlanta Braves, is a favorite to win his second National League Most Valuable Player award, having hit 34 homers and driven in 103 runs to go along with a .311 average in the regular season.

But he had been less than stellar in the NLCS, with one hit in 11 at-bats before an RBI double in the first inning last night helped the Pirates to a 4-0 lead. The double broke an 0-for-15 streak with runners in scoring position over three NLCS series. He singled in the third and came around to score Pittsburgh's fifth run in a 7-1 victory.

"He feels bad. He feels like he let me down, like he let the club down," Leyland said before last night's game. "And I told him that he doesn't have to apologize to anyone."

Bonds and Pittsburgh pitcher Doug Drabek will be free agents at the end of this season, and Bonds' future destination has been the subject of much discussion.

Leyland said he thought some of that speculation had affected Bonds' performance at the plate.

"I think now he's concerned that this could be his last game as a Pittsburgh Pirate," said Leyland. "Barry's a real sensitive guy and a bright guy. That's some of what is on his mind."

Leyland said he wanted Drabek and Bonds to enjoy themselves and their impending contract negotiations, rather than dread them and have them impact their lives.

And while he hopes that both will return here next season, Leyland said he is prepared to try to win a fourth straight National League East title without them.

"I'm going to manage next year, and if they're here fine and if they're not fine," Leyland said. "I know Pittsburgh's a great place, but I can't tell them to stay because the Allegheny and the Monongahela forms the Ohio [River]."

TCAH: There could be more to come

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said the Braves should remain as solid as they've been the past two years, in which they've won the West Division twice and a pennant.

"It should stay good. I don't know if it will be better," Cox said of the Braves, who have won 192 games in the last two seasons.

The Braves have an embarrassment of riches from the top of their organization to the bottom, but next month's expansion draft will mean Atlanta will lose some of that talent.

Each club can protect as many as 15 players in the first round of the draft, but Cox said the Braves are in the "middle or high 20s" of players they would like to protect.

"We're going to lose three guys we don't want to lose. There's no way around it," said Cox.

Don't plan on Pena

Reliever Alejandro Pena is the 26th man on the Braves' 25-man postseason roster, having been on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right elbow when the rosters were set on Aug. 31.

Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone said Pena has thrown in a late-season game as well as some batting practice and simulated games, but is not ready to be activated.

Mazzone said Pena had been throwing around 89 mph consistently in the middle of the season, when he was particularly effective.

But since the tendinitis, Pena has topped out around 83 or 84 mph, and has felt "uncomfortable at times," said Mazzone.

You're not so smart

Not everybody believes that Leyland's managing credentials are so top notch, especially when it comes to using rookie knuckleballer Tim Wakefield for just one game.

Take, for instance, a few fans who cornered Leyland as he was getting out of his car to enter Three Rivers Stadium for last night's game.

"They asked me to sign an autograph for them. The second after I sign it, one of them said, 'You dumb SOB. Why don't you pitch Wakefield?' " said Leyland.

There had been speculation that Leyland would bring back Wakefield, who won Friday night in Game 3, on one day's rest to try to keep the Pirates in the series, but Leyland said that never crossed his mind.

"I was not going to pitch him on one day's rest. If the Pittsburgh Pirates have only one pitcher that can win a game, then we've got a problem," said Leyland.

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