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A mound of question marks

Diamondbacks' hopes are riding on uncertain pitching.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 3, 2001


PHOENIX -- There is no question the Diamondbacks will be confident about extending the World Series with Randy Johnson on the Bank One Ballpark mound tonight.

There is some question, however, whether Curt Schilling will be able to pitch, and pitch well, if they force a seventh and deciding game on Sunday.

The bleary-eyed Series shifted back to the desert after a pair of highly dramatic and early morning Yankee victories, and there is some concern about Schilling's availability.

ESPN.com reported Friday morning it was "up in the air" whether Schilling would start because of arm weariness and that he might prefer a relief role if limited to a few innings.

Arizona manager Bob Brenly confirmed in a news conference Friday afternoon that a decision had not been made.

"We are just going to have to wait and see how Curt feels," Brenly said. "He expressed some concern (Thursday) that he was a little more taxed physically than he thought he would be after pitching in Game 4, so we're just going to have to play it by ear."

If Schilling is not available, Brenly mentioned the possibility of using Game 3 starter Brian Anderson and ex-Rays Albie Lopez (the Game 5 loser) and Bobby Witt.

A few minutes later Schilling unexpectedly joined the session and downplayed the uncertainty, saying he would be able to go.

"I can, and if he gives me the ball, I will," Schilling said. "I talked to the skipper the other day and told him I was sore. It was 299 innings into the season and the seven hardest ones I threw were the last seven so I was sore. But it's amazing what 48 hours and some baseball will do for you."

Schilling was scheduled to receive treatment from the team masseuse Friday afternoon and said, "If I feel as much improved (today) as I did (Friday) from (Thursday), then it will have been a very good off-day. ... I'll be ready. I'll be fine."

Schilling said he would relish the opportunity to start: "When you look at the bylines of the game, Roger Clemens and Game 7 of the World Series and all that entails, and what has happened in my career, and what he's done to influence my career, and I don't know that I'd ever get a ball for a bigger game in my life."

If Schilling can't start, or doesn't pitch well in what would be his third outing in nine days, Brenly will receive even more criticism for using Schilling on short rest in Game 4 rather than at full strength in Game 5.

And he'll keep fighting it.

"I don't regret it at all," Brenly said. "I think we did the right thing and I think the way Curt went out and threw the ball in Game 4 kind of justified that to some extent."

Brenly did not pitch Johnson on short rest, and as a result knows that the menacing left-hander is rested and ready. Johnson was dominating in Game 2 last weekend, allowing three hits and striking out 11 in a 4-0 complete-game victory. His record for this postseason is 3-1 with a 1.36 ERA.

"The way Randy has thrown the ball this season and specifically in this postseason, we feel very good about our chances," Brenly said. "He's working on regular rest and pitching here at home in front of our fans, we're expecting a great outing from him."

The D'backs need something. The two victories they logged last weekend seem like a month ago after the events in New York.

They lost 2-1 to Clemens on Tuesday, and that turned out to be the easiest loss for them to take.

On Wednesday, the D'backs were one out from a 3-1 Series lead when Tino Martinez hit a two-run homer off closer Byung-Hyun Kim to tie the score and Derek Jeter won it with a two-strike, two-out home run in the 10th.

Then Thursday, the D'backs were one out from a 3-2 Series lead when Scott Brosius hit a two-run homer off Kim to the tie the score and Alfonso Soriano won it with a run-scoring single with one out in the 12th.

It was the first time a team won two games in a Series when trailing by two or more runs after eight innings, and just the fifth and sixth times it ever happened.

"You probably could not see two more dramatic wins than we saw the last two nights," D'backs outfielder Luis Gonzalez said. "This is a veteran team we have over here. The game was over and we were shaking our heads and scratching our heads going, "We can't believe this.'

"But we got on that plane and knew we were coming back here at home. We've played well here at home, and we don't feel like they were that comfortable playing here against us."

The Yankees expect to be comfortable and confident, especially with Andy Pettitte pitching. But they also are aware of the tall, lanky hard-throwing obstacle in their way. "There's no question Randy Johnson is full of momentum himself," manager Joe Torre said. "The starting pitcher usually dictates and I'm confident that Andy will go out and do what he can to match him. That's what it's all about."

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