Beckett, 23, no fish out of water

Marlin full of confidence after first playoff success

Lowell accepts N.Y. exit

World Series notebook

October 21, 2003|By Peter Schmuck and Joe Christensen | Peter Schmuck and Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - Florida Marlins pitcher Josh Beckett may be an unlikely postseason hero, but you'd never know it by his demeanor.

He has a total of 17 regular-season victories over the past three years - and no more than nine in any season - but he carries himself more like a perennial 20-game winner than a green 23-year-old kid.

If he comes off as cocky, that might not be a bad quality for a guy who once again will lift the weight of his team's postseason hopes on his very talented right shoulder in Game 3 tonight at Pro Player Stadium.

"I've had a lot of young players ... young pitchers," said manager Jack McKeon. "Believe me, this guy here is, I'd have to say, the most outstanding young man as far as mental toughness in the big leagues.

"He's a youngster that has got a lot of confidence, has outstanding stuff. But he's always in command of himself. I mean, he's had a few bad outings, but that was early on when he was coming off an injury. Right now, I have the most confidence in Josh Beckett as I do in anybody."

Beckett's career numbers are deceptive, because he was on the disabled list three times last year with blister problems and missed time this year with a sore elbow. His potential is well-known, and he has put it on display very effectively in the postseason.

McKeon gave him the ball for the Division Series opener against the San Francisco Giants and he hooked up with Jason Schmidt to produce one of the best-pitched games in playoff history. Schmidt pitched a three-hit shutout to win, but Beckett gave up just two hits over seven innings to show he was not cowed by the pressure.

Beckett got knocked around in the National League Championship Series opener against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, but bounced back to pitch a two-hit shutout in Game 5 that started the Marlins' dramatic comeback.

That might be a tough act to follow, but Beckett is excited about the opportunity to take his game to an even higher level.

"I think you always strive for that," he said. "It's not always going to work out like that, but, yeah, I feel I should go out there and do that again."

Beckett has never pitched against the Yankees, which he feels will be an advantage.

"I think the upper hand in that situation is the pitcher," he said. "It doesn't always work that way, obviously, but I think the upper hand generally goes to the pitcher because we're still doing the same thing. ... They've never seen where I throw from, stuff like that. They're all watching tape, but all the tape is from behind [the pitcher]."

The same could be said for Yankees starter Mike Mussina, though the Marlins will get first-hand scouting reports from former American Leaguers Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Conine.

Boss relieved

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner kept quiet after the Yankees lost Game 1, but he broke his silence briefly after his team evened the series on Sunday night. The World Series, he told the New York Post, has been less stressful than the volatile American League Championship Series.

"I didn't enjoy Boston, to be honest with you," Steinbrenner said. "It was a very difficult series because it was so intense. I don't believe I've ever been involved in any athletic event that had so much pressure."

Orioles trivia

On Sunday, Andy Pettitte came one out from pitching the Yankees' first World Series complete game since Jim Beattie did it in Game 5 of the 1978 World Series against the Dodgers. Beattie now serves as the Orioles' executive vice president of baseball operations.

Lowell looks back

Maybe if things had been a little different a few years ago, Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell would be wearing a couple of World Series rings. He was traded to Florida by the Yankees when he was a Triple-A player in 1999.

"I think it's human nature to look and see the team and picture yourself, just because I came up through the organization, and see all the rings that they've won. You obviously would want to be part of that.

"But at the time of the trade for me, it was actually pretty good. They just signed Scott Brosius to a three-year deal. He was coming off a good year. I didn't want to go back, to Triple-A. I welcomed the trade."

This Series rates

More people are watching the World Series on television than they did last year, even though the popular Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox aren't in it.

For the first two games, this World Series has averaged an 11.7 rating and 20 share, up 9 percent over last year's record-low 10.7 and 19 share for Anaheim and San Francisco.

The rating is the percentage of all homes with TVs, even if they are not in use. Each rating point represents 1,084,000 homes.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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