CLEVELAND -- At his best, David Cone is one of baseball's toughest pitchers, which is why the New York Yankees had him slotted to start two games in the Division Series. But if the Yankees are to get past the Cleveland Indians, they'll have to do it without their ace.
An ailing right shoulder will force Cone, who was scheduled to start Game 4 tomorrow night, to miss the rest of the series. Cone had hoped to take the mound after getting battered in the opener Tuesday night, but he felt something pop in his throwing arm during a workout at Yankee Stadium before Game 2 on Thursday.
A magnetic resonance imaging test revealed inflammation but no tears, but the pain is enough to keep Cone benched. He said he likely will require surgery in the off-season.
"It's an all-time low for me," said Cone, 34. "I tried to get ready. I didn't pitch well in Game 1. I had a pretty good throwing session going [Thursday] until the last pitch. And there was one pitch when I threw and heard a couple of pops."
Those pops may have a tremendous effect on the Yankees, last year's World Series champions. The best-of-five series is tied 1-1, with the next three games scheduled at Jacobs Field beginning tonight.
With Cone scratched for Game 4, the Yankees will give the ball to right-hander Dwight Gooden (9-5, 4.91 ERA). He warmed up in the bullpen during the final innings of Thursday's 7-5 loss, a session that appears to have been in preparation for tomorrow night.
"I'm glad to get the opportunity to start," said Gooden, 32. "Unfortunately, David had to go down, and we don't want that. It makes our chances a lot tougher. But that doesn't mean it still can't be done.
"I like rising to the occasion," he added. "I love these situations. Hopefully, I'll come through."
Despite suffering a setback with Cone, the Yankees have to like their chances against the Indians with Gooden, who was 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts against Cleveland this season, winning twice at Jacobs Field. In five career starts against the Indians, Gooden is 5-0 with a 2.88 ERA.
"My health is real good, I feel fine and I have to stay aggressive early in the game," Gooden said. "I want to use all my pitches because in this ballpark, they're very tough."
Cone found out how tough the Indians can be when he gave up five runs in the first inning in the opener, a game in which the Yankees rallied to win, 8-6.
He was hit hard while allowing six runs in 3 1/2 innings, and there was much speculation that he was still bothered by the right shoulder that he injured Aug. 17 against the Texas Rangers.
The diagnosis then was tendinitis, and Cone was placed on the 15-day disabled list. He was given a cortisone shot Sept. 3, threw several times off the mound and reported no pain.
In his one start after coming off the disabled list Sept. 20, Cone gave up three runs in five innings against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Cone, 12-6 with a 2.86 ERA in 29 starts this season, was chosen to start the opener and Game 4 despite being winless since Aug. 7.
Yankees manager Joe Torre, who was so upset by news of Cone's injury Thursday that he declined to answer questions about it after Game 2, said yesterday, "If I'd known he couldn't pitch twice I would have thrown him in Game 3."
Cone said he would be available to come out of the bullpen if needed, but the Yankees said the earliest he would come back is the AL Championship Series if New York advances.
"I'm not ready to concede the season," Cone said. "I'm not going to start, that's for sure. But if we get into extra innings, and at some point we run out of pitchers, I'll have my spikes on."
Gooden played with the Yankees last season but was not on the team's postseason roster. The last time he pitched in a playoff game was in the 1988 NL Championship Series for the New York Mets, throwing in relief against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In seven postseason games with the Mets, including six starts, Gooden was 0-3 with a 3.25 ERA.
Pub Date: 10/04/97