Yanks glad they kept Pettitte around

Second strong start earns lefty LCS MVP

hobbling O'Neill homers

ALCS notebook

October 23, 2001|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Once again, the New York Yankees were thanking their lucky stars that they didn't give up on Andy Pettitte during his difficult 1999 season.

Pettitte, who weathered the impatience of owner George Steinbrenner to re-emerge as one of the most dependable pitchers in the Yankees' rotation, turned in another strong postseason performance last night and was rewarded with the ALCS Most Valuable Player Award.

The 29-year-old left-hander carried a shutout through six innings in last night's 12-3 series clincher against the Seattle Mariners, recording his second victory of the ALCS and his 10th career postseason victory. He is 4-0 since his rocky performance in '99 tempted The Boss to order club officials to trade him.

Manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre intervened on the left-hander's behalf.

"Andy was struggling," Torre said. "He was terrible. ... He lost his confidence for a time.

"But I think the fact that I had never been to the postseason as a player, I understood what he did in '96 [winning a 1-0 decision against Atlanta to turn the World Series in favor of the Yankees] was very special and that carried a lot of weight with me."

Pettitte was just glad to stay in the only major-league uniform he has ever worn.

"It's special for me," he said of the MVP award. "I'd be lying if I didn't say that. I've never won anything like that before. I'm not a pitcher that goes out and dominates games and strikes out a lot of hitters and stuff like that, so I never really expected to win anything like that. It's definitely a nice surprise."

Gimpy right fielder

Yankees veteran Paul O'Neill has been hobbled for weeks by a fractured bone in his left foot, but Torre said he is in no danger of aggravating the injury by playing in the postseason.

"It's sore," Torre said, "but it doesn't keep him from doing what he needs to do in the outfield. ... It could hurt more, but I don't think it is going to limit him any more."

It didn't limit his bat in the fourth inning last night, when he homered to right field to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead.

Stopping Suzuki

It's pretty clear that the Yankees scouted Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki well. They turned his aggressiveness against him in the first few games, keeping the ball out of the strike zone and allowing him to get himself out.

He showed more patience in Game 3, accepting a big walk in the Mariners' game-tying rally, but went 1-for-5 last night to finish at .222 for the series after hitting .600 against the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series.

"I don't know if there is any one place [to pitch him]," Torre said. "You really have to move the zone around on him because he's too good a hitter and he is going to make adjustments."

Mariners manager Lou Piniella also moved him around on defense.

Suzuki was listed in the original starting lineup as the Mariners' right fielder - his usual position. But when Seattle took the field in the bottom of the first inning, Suzuki was in left field for the first time in his major-league career and Jay Buhner was in right.

There is far more territory to cover in left field at Yankee Stadium than in right field.

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