Brown reaches breaking point - to Yanks' dismay

Slumping team is irked by injury

Bigbie in center

Notebook

September 04, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec and Roch Kubatko | Jeff Zrebiec and Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - An already edgy New York Yankees team, which has seen a double-digit lead in the American League East shrink to 2 1/2 games with last night's loss to the Orioles, was downright somber after the news that it could be without one of its top starting pitchers for an extended period.

The manner in which it happened certainly didn't help.

After giving up a run in the sixth inning, Kevin Brown returned to the clubhouse and punched a wall in frustration, breaking the third and fifth metacarpal bones in his left hand.

"Stupidity," said Brown, who has battled injury and illness all season. In last night's game alone, he took a shot from Miguel Tejada off his right hand and appeared to hurt his knee while covering first base in the fifth inning. He said those two plays added to his frustration.

"I reacted to the frustration that I swallowed all year. I did a good job of controlling it to this point. There are no excuses. I let [my frustration] boil over and I did something stupid. I owe my teammates an apology."

Brown said he will see a hand specialist today and spoke of pitching with a splint on his left (non-pitching) hand.

However, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Torre appeared to be resigned to losing Brown for the foreseeable future and they were clearly not happy about it.

"It's a major issue that we shouldn't have to be dealing with, but we are," Cashman said. "You just can't do that. There's no excuse for it."

Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, normally known for having a good rapport with the media, snapped at a reporter who asked about Brown, telling him to "ask me about the game."

The injury could mean that Esteban Loiza, who is 0-2 with an 8.46 ERA since being acquired, may be forced back into the Yankees' rotation.

Man in middle

Larry Bigbie made his ninth start in center field last night for the Orioles, continuing to get comfortable at a position he hadn't played in his pro career until last season.

With Luis Matos and Jerry Hairston out for the last 29 games because of injuries, manager Lee Mazzilli considers Bigbie a favorable option. Bigbie also started in center Thursday against Tampa Bay, after Tim Raines had played there in four consecutive games.

"I don't know if it will be an extended look," Mazzilli said, "but he'll play."

That's fine with Bigbie, who's made 95 starts in left this year.

"I feel OK out there," said Bigbie, who made a nice running catch Thursday at Tropicana Field. "I really don't think about it too much. It's a different position, but at the same time I don't think it's that much more ground you have to cover."

Rookies pitch on

Pitching coach Ray Miller says he doesn't believe that rookie starters Erik Bedard or Daniel Cabrera are wearing down as their innings build. At least not in body.

"They're not physically tired. You get a little mentally tired, but it's important to learn how long a big league season is," he said.

"I've always told starters you're going to make 25-30 starts, and if you're on a first-division ballclub, which we plan on being, you're going to be totally and completely armed maybe 12, 14, 15 starts, so the success you achieve is what you do in the other 15. If you have the ability to change speeds, then it's not so traumatic if you don't have good stuff that day."

No embrace for Mazzilli

Asked whether he was happy to catch up with Mazzilli, his first base coach for four years, Torre decided to reserve judgment.

"I'll let you know at the end of the weekend," Torre said. "They're a streaky club, and they can really score. If anybody is going to expose ordinary pitching - if that is what we're doing around here - those guys can."

Mazzilli has long held Torre as a mentor.

"We talk from time to time, but I didn't talk to him during their 12-game losing streak," Torre said. "We have no particular schedule when we talk. There's no plan."

National following

Friday's game against the Yankees at Camden Yards has been picked up by ESPN. The starting time has been changed from 7:35 p.m. to 7:05 p.m.

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