Slumping Soriano keeps leadoff spot, responds with HR

Others in lineup shifted

Down's job in jeopardy

Notebook

World Series

October 20, 2003|By Peter Schmuck and Joe Christensen | Peter Schmuck and Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - New York Yankees manager Joe Torre is not quick to make changes in his veteran lineup, but he juggled the batting order after his club went a combined 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position in Game 1 of the World Series.

Designated hitter Jason Giambi, who was dropped to seventh for the decisive game of the American League Championship Series, was back in the third slot for Game 2 last night. Derek Jeter moved back into the No. 2 hole, and first baseman Nick Johnson was dropped to eighth.

The changes apparently had the desired effect, because the Yankees jumped on Florida Marlins left-hander Mark Redman for six runs in the early innings last night on the way to a 6-1 victory in Game 2.

There had been speculation that slumping leadoff man Alfonso Soriano would be dropped to the bottom of the order, but Torre gave him a vote of confidence and left him in the leadoff role.

"I wanted to move Giambi up," Torre said before the game, "and I had to make up my mind on Soriano. We chatted. ... I wanted to make sure he - in spite of struggling - still had that aggressiveness and confidence. My feeling was the best support I could offer him was to lead him off."

Once again, Torre's interpersonal skills proved impressive. Soriano responded with a two-run home run in the fourth inning - his first homer in 56 plate appearances this postseason.

Soriano has been one of the most popular Yankees during his first three seasons in the major leagues, but he has begun to feel the wrath of the Yankees' faithful.

"It might seem like he's been here longer because of all he's done for this team," Torre said, "so maybe we're expecting too much."

Feeling the heat

Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer has already said he won't return next season, and hitting coach Rick Down knows his latest tenure in New York could end if the Marlins win the World Series.

"I don't worry about it, but obviously I'd be the first to go," said Down, the Orioles' hitting coach from 1996 to 1998. "I've been in the crosshairs - I think that's the reference [the media] uses."

Down is lauded as one of the game's better hitting coaches, but two of his top sluggers - Soriano and Giambi - have struggled during the postseason. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is known for his itchy trigger finger.

After the Yankees lost Game 7 of the 2001 World Series to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Steinbrenner fired hitting coach Gary Denbo and bullpen coach Tony Cloninger.

"We have no control over that," Down said. "Hell, we could win a World Series, and still somebody could go."

Fish or foul

The presence of the Marlins in the World Series has been a boon for the headline writers at the two major New York City tabloids. The fish puns are flying fast and furious as both papers try to "reel in" readers.

The New York Daily News won the battle of the fish references, dropping nine piscine puns into the paper's coverage of the opening game on Saturday night to only three for the New York Post.

The Post may have floated the best one, however, with its main story bannered "It's Hook, Line and Stinker."

Stay tuned.

Unkindest cut

Game 1 starter David Wells confirmed after the opener that he believed Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone should not have cut off a throw to the plate in the fifth inning. The cutoff allowed the decisive run of the game to score, though it appeared that left fielder Hideki Matsui had an excellent chance to throw out Juan Encarnacion.

"I had a pretty good look," Wells told reporters. "If he had let it go, then I think he would have had him out by a few feet."

Wells, however, insisted that he did not blame Boone on the play and accepted responsibility for giving up the two-run single by Marlins leadoff man Juan Pierre that started the ball rolling.

Baker visits

Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker was at Yankee Stadium yesterday to receive an award and help promote Ozzie Smith's "Take a Swing at Prostate Cancer" campaign.

Baker, a prostate cancer survivor, stressed the importance of regular prostate checkups for middle-aged men, but couldn't avoid questions about his club's disappointing loss in the National League Championship Series.

"I heard about Derek [Jeter] telling Aaron Boone to wait until the ghosts show up," Baker said jokingly. "While I'm here, I'm going to be looking around for those ghosts. I wonder why they always favor these guys. We've got that goat against us, so I'm looking for something to be for us."

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