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McLemore looks for better

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 10, 2000

NEW YORK -- Another October, another chance for Mark McLemore against the Yankees.

McLemore faces New York in the playoffs for the third consecutive year and fourth time in five years when the AL Championship Series opens tonight at Yankee Stadium. The difference this time is McLemore plays for Seattle.

He was with the Rangers in three division series losses. McLemore figures both in the Rangers' absence from and the Mariners' presence in the playoffs this season.

The Rangers missed McLemore as much as the Mariners benefited from him.

"I never knew he was this good a player," manager Lou Piniella said. "He's done so many things for us that you don't see in a box score."

McLemore did that with the Rangers for five seasons, three of which brought a playoff appearance. He left the club as a free agent after last season, unwilling to take a pay cut.

McLemore, his eyes betraying a combination of hurt and bitterness about the Rangers' move, said there is no vindication to this season for him.

"I'm always going to be invigorated, no matter who I'm playing for," McLemore said. "It was nice to be appreciated here."

The Rangers never adequately replaced McLemore at second base. Luis Alicea and Frank Catalanotto had defensive problems that showed in more ways than their combined errors total of 19.

"They missed a lot of guys over there, but looking from the outside you could see that McLemore was their major leader," shortstop Alex Rodriguez said. "He knew how to push the buttons on guys like Pudge (catcher Ivan Rodriguez)."

McLemore went to Seattle to play leftfield and became the second baseman. He had only eight errors and the second-best fielding percentage in the league at the position.

The Mariners, in their change to a little-ball team at Safeco Field, needed that type of player. Seattle, which depended on big boppers in past playoff appearance, now wins with pitching and defense.

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