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NLCS notebook

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 12, 2000


Managers pad benches, not pens

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa activated catcher Rick Wilkins and Mets manager Bobby Valentine added infielder Matt Franco to the NL Championship Series rosters.

La Russa said he was concerned about starting catcher Carlos Fernandez's sore back. "He was stiff and sore, and he didn't practice for three days; this is his first day on the field," La Russa said before Wednesday night's opener.

"We didn't want to run the risk that, according to that rule, you can't replace a catcher or any other player, and we thought that was not smart to do. ... We didn't think it was too smart not to protect ourselves."

The move means the Cardinals will go with a 10-man pitching rotation. "I think 10 is more normal," La Russa said."We went 11 the other day, mostly because Matt (Morris) passed (a physical) at the last minute. But having the ability to pitch a starting pitcher out of the bullpen, I mean, we have seven pitchers that can pitch in this game and tomorrow's." La Russa knocked on wood.

Franco, rather than a pitcher, takes the roster spot outfielder Derek Bell held before he injured an ankle in the division series against the Giants.

"We played the whole season with a six-man bullpen," Valentine said. "Now we feel we can play a two-game series (at St. Louis), a three-game series (at New York) and a two-game series (back here) with the same bullpen.

"In the last series we played, the only vulnerability that we were exposed to was the time when we had to move Robin (Ventura) from third to first and put (Joe) McEwing in at third. We feel that vulnerability is covered a little with Franco, a guy who could play third and first."

DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT CHEMISTRY: Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds spent six seasons with the Angels, and he said he never experienced the kind of chemistry he sees in the St. Louis clubhouse.

One by one, his teammates extolled the togetherness, the pulling for each other, the confidence of the Cardinals. All used the same word: chemistry.

Eric Davis, who has been in a lot of clubhouses in his 15 seasons, shrugged when the subject arose.

"Any time you win, people talk about chemistry," he said. "If we don't win the World Series, it's not going to be because of our chemistry. I've been on winning teams where the chemistry was great between the lines but not so good off the field."

EAVESDROPPING: NL senior vice president Katy Feeney repeated the first question to Al Leiter, the Mets' starter in tonight's game -- "Talk about facing the Cards lineup" -- at a news conference before the opener. Her words echoed around Busch Stadium, just beginning to fill with fans. The public address system inadvertently was tied into the conference.

Just outside the interview room, Cardinals pitchers were loosening up in the outfield. Leiter, grinning wickedly, asked, "Are they listening?" He followed that with "Yes, they are," as the pitchers turned toward him and made a few jokingly disparaging remarks.

"You mean you want to know how I get Mike Timlin out? Hey, Timmy, how do I pitch to you?"

"Down and in," Timlin shouted.

"Who else can I talk about, Timmy? Pat Hentgen? Jason Christiansen? Changeups." The novelty wore off, and Leiter said, "This is a little silly, isn't it?" The Cardinals and fans heard that, too. Then the sound man arrived and threw the switch that ended Leiter's impromptu broadcast.

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