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Cone's pitching becomes bright spot for Yankees

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 17, 2000


SEATTLE -- All but lost in the Mariners' Game 5 victory over the Yankees was the perfect eighth inning David Cone pitched for the Yankees, his first appearance in the post-season.

"It felt good. My arm felt a lot better, and I was able to make some pitches," said Cone, hit hard several times after separating his left shoulder Sept. 5 in diving for a bunt.

Cone got Mark McLemore and Raul Ibanez on grounders and Mike Cameron on a foul pop, mopping up in the Mariners' 6-2 victory Sunday in Seattle that sent the American League Championship Series back to New York for Game 6 tonight.

"It was a chance to make an impression," Cone said. "I don't know what that means for the future, but I felt good about it.

"I was really anxious to get out there and see what I had. ... I'm thankful Joe (Torre, the Yankees manager) gave me that chance. I'm happy that it went well and that my stuff was much better than it's been. I'd welcome any opportunity to get the ball again."

BYE-BYE: When Alex Rodriguez waved to the fans Sunday as he returned to the dugout following his decisive two-run single, and again as the Mariners walked off the field after securing the win, he may have been waving goodbye as well.

He will be a free agent after the World Series, and he could conceivably command a $20-million-a-year salary. One young fan at Safeco Field held up a sign, a plea of sorts, for Rodriguez to remain a Mariner. "Money Can't Buy You Love," it read.

The man called A-Rod admitted to being ... well ... sleepless in Seattle on Saturday night as the emotions of maybe his last game as a Mariner caught up to him.

"I don't really know what the future holds for me," he said. "For the most part this season I've been able to put that behind me and worry about the present. But for the first time last night, I had a hard time sleeping, thinking about the possibility this could be it. ... It was very emotional for me out there."

TWO MORE CHANCES: The Yankees couldn't be happier with Orlando Hernandez on the mound tonight. "El Duque" is 7-0 in eight career starts in October.

Hernandez won Game 2 of the ALCS, limiting Seattle to six hits in eight innings. And he's pitching following his usual four days of rest.

"I like our chances," Torre said, "because we have two of our best going (Andy Pettitte would pitch Game 7) and, hopefully, only one is enough."

THIS HURT WORSE: Getting smacked around by Seattle surely pained usually reliable reliever Jeff Nelson, but there was worse to come. Nelson, who pitched for the Mariners from 1992-95, still lives in Carnation, a Seattle suburb, in the off-season. His wife, Collette, and their three daughters, Chandler, 5; Gabriell, 3; and Emily, 1, live there year-round. Collette is pregnant; their fourth daughter is due Dec. 16.

As Nelson left the clubhouse for the bus taking the Yankees to Sea-Tac Airport for another flight to New York, Chandler was crying, "I don't want you to leave."

"We have to do this for Daddy and be supportive of him," Collette told Chandler as Nelson comforted his daughter. "I know it stinks, because we love Daddy more than anything in the world."

Nelson walked hand-in-hand with Chandler while holding Gabriell. When Nelson reached the bus he kissed his wife and hugged his daughters and told Chandler one more time, "Don't cry." He kissed his fingers and touched her lips through a chain-link fence. As Collette ushered her children toward a parking lot, she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "He's only leaving because he's got to kick the Mariners' rear ends."

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