No relief: Controversy, Rocker meet once again

Closer not endearing himself to fellow Indians with remarks, behavior

Notebook

Baseball

October 15, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

John Rocker seems to be on borrowed time - again.

The combustible Cleveland Indians reliever apparently alienated himself within his clubhouse with recent comments about fellow reliever Bob Wickman, whom he replaced as closer when obtained from the Atlanta Braves earlier this season.

Rocker's latest gaffe was making a reference to reporters about a 1998 lawsuit filed against Wickman and several other club employees when Wickman was with the New York Yankees. The civil suit never went to trial but contained allegations of sexual harassment by a clubhouse attendant infected with the AIDS virus.

Rocker, who became a pariah to the Braves when his indelicate remarks about gays and minorities were published last year in Sports Illustrated, made the reference when reporters approached him about his allegedly throwing a cup of water at fans who were taunting him during Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Seattle's Safeco Field. Rocker wondered why reporters continue to hound him while ignoring the accusations of "gay bashing" against Wickman.

Though gifted with an arm almost as explosive as his temper, Rocker has not endeared himself to his new teammates since coming to the American League. He was 3-7 with a 5.45 ERA, and, in only 38 games, his seven relief losses were fifth-most in the league. The Indians reportedly may opt to not tender a contract to Rocker - allowing him to become a free agent - if they can't find a trade partner before the December deadline when contracts must be offered.

Dye fractures leg

Oakland Athletics outfielder Jermaine Dye, who was acquired at midseason to beef up the batting order, had to be carried off the field yesterday after he fouled a ball off his left leg and suffered a fracture of the shin bone (tibia) just below his left knee.

Losing Dye is a huge blow to the A's, who headed for New York reeling from two straight losses at Network Associates Coliseum. Dye likely will be replaced in the lineup by veteran outfielder Ron Gant, who subbed for him for the remainder of yesterday's game.

Different terms

Seattle's Lou Piniella is among the game's most animated and excitable managers, as evidenced by a heated exchange with plate umpire Rick Reed during yesterday's seventh inning of the Mariners' 6-2 victory over Cleveland that tied the series at two games apiece. But given the circumstances under which this postseason is being played, he is putting a lid on the hype for today's tell-all Game 5.

"I said yesterday that we had to win today. If not, we go home," Piniella said. "For certain, one of the two teams is going home tomorrow and, hopefully, we are the one that stays out on top and continues forward. But it's not do-or-die. It's a game. It really is. And both teams are going to go out there and play their hearts out. But it's not a do-or-die situation."

Limited Clemens to start

Yankees manager Joe Torre conceded that starting pitcher Roger Clemens might be only "70 [or] 80 percent" because of the strained right hamstring that forced him out of Game 1, but the presumptive Cy Young Award winner is scheduled to start in tonight's Game 5 against Oakland's Mark Mulder.

"He felt good today off the mound, so I feel good that he'll physically be able to do it tomorrow," Torre said.

If Clemens is not able to go deep into the game, the Yankees could go to left-hander Andy Pettitte on short rest or long reliever Ramiro Mendoza, but Torre said his first choice still is The Rocket.

"Sure, he's probably not as good as if it never happened," Torre said. "But the thing is ... we'll have plenty of support for him."

Nap time for Suzuki

Game 4 was delayed 2 hours, 20 minutes because of rain, sending players to the clubhouse lounge for some television, to the weight room for more lifting, or in Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki's case, to his locker for a pillow. Suzuki had loosened up for a 1:20 p.m. start before learning of the delay.

"I brought my pillow, so I prepared for a rain delay in the game," Suzuki said. "Once I woke up, I just prepared again for the game."

Around the horn

Indians Gold Glove shortstop Omar Vizquel committed his second error in 271 postseason chances during yesterday's first inning when he attempted a quick catch-and-throw on Suzuki. Vizquel also stole his first base since Aug. 1 in the sixth inning, which made him the all-time Division Series leader with 10 steals. He is hitting .444 (8-for-18) for the series. ... Juan Gonzalez's second-inning home run tied Indians teammate Jim Thome for most Division Series home runs with eight.

Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

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