Mussina apologizes Gaston warms up to peacemaking

July 28, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

TORONTO -- After two weeks of verbal sparring, Cito Gaston and Mike Mussina settled their differences here last night.

And despite hints of open hostility, the traditionally cordial Toronto fans gave the Orioles nothing worse than a chilly reception. The flap over Gaston's decision not to use Mussina in the All-Star Game might still be a major issue in Baltimore, but the ensuing furor fell short of being an international incident in the SkyDome.

Gaston said he was concerned that the Blue Jays might not be afforded the same courtesy when they come to Baltimore for the last series of the season. "What bothered me was the way our players were booed in Baltimore," said Gaston, who expressed hope the situation would be defused before the end of the season.

Saying that people often do irrational things, Gaston expressed concern for his team's safety. "I would hate to see any of my players or myself get hurt because of a misunderstanding," he said.

The misunderstanding arose when Mussina began warming up in the eighth inning, giving the crowd at Camden Yards the im

pression he would make an appearance in the final inning. It later was revealed that Mussina knew he would pitch only if the game went into extra innings.

Gaston said he had no problem with Mussina's throwing in the bullpen to get his work in before his next start (two days later). What the Blue Jays' manager did object to was the fact that after the game Mussina didn't indicate (to the media) that he knew he wasn't going to pitch unless the game went into overtime.

Mussina set the stage for yesterday's peace mission two days earlier, when he said he would apologize to Gaston "for any embarrassment I caused . . . unintentionally."

A potential media circus was avoided before last night's game when Mussina decided to talk to Gaston by telephone rather than face-to-face. He did so in the privacy of Orioles manager Johnny Oates' office more than three hours before game time.

"I talked to him and we settled it," Mussina said later, after emerging from the trainer's room. "We got everything worked out -- case closed."

Mussina was asked if the discussion was friendly. "It was friendly the whole time," he said. "He [Gaston] explained where he was coming from and I explained my side."

One thing the two agreed on was that they were getting their information relayed through media reports. "He told me what was going through his mind," said Mussina. "The funny thing was that he didn't mind me throwing in the bullpen.

"What it boiled down to is that I didn't make a statement during the media crush [after the game] that I knew I wasn't going to pitch unless it went extra innings."

Gaston confirmed the basics of the conversation and reiterated that he didn't mind Mussina's getting up to throw on his own in the bullpen. He also talked to Orioles coach Elrod Hendricks, who was in the bullpen during the All-Star Game and took responsibility for Mussina's throwing when he did.

"There's no need for him [Hendricks] to take the blame," said Gaston. "That [Mussina's warming up] was no problem. If it had been one of my guys, I'd expect him to do the same thing.

"But we went into the game with a plan. And the plan helped win the game. Bobby [National League manager Bobby Cox] had 2/3 2/3 TC lot of left-handed hitters, so we wanted to start a left-hander [Mark Langston] and then bring [Randy] Johnson in."

Gaston said he saved Mussina for extra innings for a basic reason -- he had the most rest. "[Jack] McDowell had pitched seven tough innings [against the Orioles two days before] and we could only use him one inning," said Gaston.

"The Yankees didn't want [Jimmy] Key used more than one inning. Mussina was the only one we had who could have gone any distance at all. The idea is to have fun and win the game and we won the game."

Gaston said that the reaction Mussina's non-participation caused in Baltimore took some of the enjoyment out of what was supposed to be a fun time. But he said, in hindsight, he has no regrets, and wouldn't do anything different.

"I picked him [to be on the team] because I think Mike is a good pitcher and I still feel that way. I didn't have to pick him -- there were other good pitchers, like [Alex] Fernandez, who didn't get picked."

Gaston said as far as he's concerned, the issue is over . "Mike apologized and the thing I said to him was 'If I did anything to offend you, I apologize.'

"He apologized and I accepted," said Gaston. "I hope we can put this behind us and go ahead and play ball."

Mussina wasn't the only member of the Orioles who made a point to talk to Gaston. Oates, who later exchanged greetings on the field, said he also had spoken with the Blue Jays' manager, but refused to divulge any of the conversation.

"I'm not going to talk about it," said Oates, who is probably as relieved as Gaston that the issue has been put to rest. The hope is that come Oct. 1 the division race will be more important than an All-Star misunderstanding.

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