Yanks shuffle lineup as Soriano, Giambi don't start Game 5

ORIOLES NOTEBOOK

2nd baseman struggling

first baseman sits out, then hits homer in ninth

World Series

October 24, 2003|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

MIAMI - New York Yankees manager Joe Torre has been agonizing over the struggles of leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano throughout the postseason, and he finally decided to do something about it yesterday.

Soriano, batting just .209 in 67 postseason at-bats before Game 5, was replaced in the lineup by utility man Enrique Wilson, who batted second in the order. Derek Jeter replaced Soriano at the top of the lineup.

"Right now, it just looks like he's feeling for it and not necessarily picking the ball up," Torre said. "I don't really worry about how many hits he gets, it's the quality of his at-bats.

"In my eyes, he's had a tough time, so I just told him, `You're liable to come off the bench tonight and help us win a game, but if not, you take today off, tomorrow off, and Saturday maybe we can come in with a clean slate."

Soriano pinch hit for Karim Garcia in the eighth inning last night and struck out.

The Yankees also made a late lineup change, scratching slugger Jason Giambi because of a sore left knee and replacing him with first baseman Nick Johnson about an hour before last night's game. Giambi has been hobbled by the knee, but in the ninth last night, he homered in a pinch-hit role.

Being benched surprised Soriano, but it couldn't have surprised him all that much. He now has just three hits in 19 at-bats in the World Series and just one stolen base.

"I'm trying to do the best I can," Soriano said before the game. "I'm too excited and trying to do too much. I was surprised. I didn't know what he wanted to talk to me about. He gave me today and tomorrow [off]. Hopefully, that will help me."

There was speculation last weekend that he might be moved to the bottom of the lineup, and Torre confirmed in New York that it had been under consideration. He said at the time that the best way to support Soriano was to leave him in the leadoff spot, but he changed his mind because the Yankees had only scored 17 runs through the first four games of the World Series.

Pitching plans

When to play the ace? With the Marlins one win from a world championship, they have a big decision to make on whether to bring back their ace, Josh Beckett, on three days' rest for Game 6 of save him for a possible Game 7.

Florida manager Jack McKeon sounds like he's leaning going to Beckett for Game 6, but he could go with Mark Redman or Dontrelle Willis.

"We've got a few options," McKeon said. "[We're] going to see how our pitchers are. We're not opposed to starting somebody with three days' rest."

Beckett said he would be ready tomorrow, but he knows it's McKeon's decision.

"It doesn't bother me either way," he said. "I'm prepared for Game 6."

Clemens outlook

Roger Clemens has made his last start, but Torre said again yesterday that he might use The Rocket in relief if there is a Game 7.

"My guess would be if we have a Game 7 that he certainly would be available," Torre said. "My guess would be he would raise his hand to be available in Game 6, but that's Roger. We'll see how he feels."

Early bonus

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria didn't need to examine the contingencies before deciding how to reward his manager for the club's surprising presence in the World Series.

Loria surprised McKeon with the keys to a brand-new $125,000 Mercedes-Benz convertible before last night's game.

Poor ratings

Television ratings on Fox for the first four games are the third-worst in baseball history.

Fox's four telecasts this year were watched by an average of 12.4 percent of the 108.4 million U.S. homes with televisions, according to Nielsen Media Research Inc.

This year's ratings through four games are 13 percent above last year's record-worst ratings, when 11 percent of viewers watched the series between Anaheim and San Francisco.

The second-lowest World Series rating through four games was the 12.2 percent of viewers that watched the Yankees and Mets in 2000, when the Yankees won their 26th title.

"The Marlins are not a glamour team, and many people are tired of seeing the Yankees win," former ABC Sports executive Jim Spence said.

Sun staff writer Joe Christensen and wire reports contributed to this article.

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