Rusty or not, Abbott gets call for Mariners

Last outing was disaster, but Piniella shows faith

ALCS notebook

Baseball

October 21, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - The weight of the World Series now rests squarely on the shoulders of Seattle Mariners starter Paul Abbott, which would appear to put baseball's winningest team in something of a pinch.

Abbott had a breakthrough, 17-4 regular season, but he struggled badly in a three-inning relief appearance (eight earned runs) against the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series and has not started a game since Sept. 26.

So why is manager Lou Piniella acting so confident?

"For the most part this year, he's pitched very well," Piniella said. "I've got all the confidence he'll go out there tomorrow and give us a chance to win."

Abbott seemed fairly comfortable during yesterday's pre-game news conference, though this figures to be the biggest game of his career.

He did pitch in a very similar situation in last year's ALCS, losing Game 4 in Seattle after the Yankees went up, two games to one, but the Mariners were not trying to make good on one of the greatest regular-season performances of all time.

"It's another start," Abbott said, who again pitches with the Yankees leading two games to one. "You go out, and if you make too much of what it is, you get out of your routine."

But how do you stay in a routine when you haven't started in 24 days? Abbott has been throwing in the bullpen every couple of days, trying to simulate the same schedule he kept during the season."[I'm] trying to stick to my routine as if I were going out every fifth day," he said. "That's basically the only thing that I can do."

Clemens `better'

Yankees manager Joe Torre chose to use Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez in Game 3 so that he could give Roger Clemens one more day to rest his sore right hamstring. It didn't work out for the Yankees yesterday in a 14-3 loss, but Clemens said that his leg has improved.

"My leg is feeling better," he said. "Some of the swelling is going down behind my knee. I guess we're just trying to move some of the fluid around, but, you know, you're never going to feel terrific, so your adrenaline and the excitement of being here is going to take over."

Piniella has precedent

Piniella knows a team can come back from two games down to win a best-of-seven series. He was on one Yankees squad that did it and another that let a 2-0 lead get away.

"Yeah, I think probably the '78 Series we lost two in a row and then won four. And then in 1981, we won the first two and then lost four in a row. So believe me, it can happen."

For the record, the opponent both times was the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Visiting ground zero

Several of the Seattle players visited the site of the World Trade Center. But Piniella, a former player and manager with the Yankees, said he had no desire to do so.

"Anything the organization can do for families or anything, yes. But to go, no."

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