- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

NEW YORK Bob Brenly doesn't make managerial decisions based on statistical trends or conventional logic. Rather, the first-year Arizona Diamondbacks skipper goes by feel or by one of his many hunches when making a crucial call, a philosophy that has won over his veteran-laded clubhouse and has led the fourth-year franchise to its first World Series.

No decision from the past six months, however, can possibly compare with the whopper facing Brenly heading into Game 4 tonight at Yankee Stadium.

The dilemma: Do you start pitcher Curt Schilling on three days' rest, or do you stick with your original plan and send journeyman right-hander Miguel Batista to the mound tonight against the New York Yankees?

The answer may not come until this afternoon.

"I'll continue to stick by the company line, that we hope to win this ballgame tonight and continue to roll with our regular rotation and keep everybody on their regular rest," Brenly said last night before Game 3, which did not end in time for this edition. "If we happen to drop this ballgame, that would give me something to think about before I get back here tomorrow. I won't rule out that Curt may pitch Game 4."

Batista or Schilling may prove to be Brenly's most important decision of the series. In this age of five-man rotations and closely guarded pitch counts, managers rarely bring a starter back on short rest. And recent history is not kind to those who attempt to buck the odds. Since 1999, pitchers going on three days' rest in the postseason have a combined 1-9 record and average less than four innings per start.

Schilling, though, is no ordinary pitcher, a fact underscored by his 4-0 record and 0.79 ERA this postseason. And after tossing just 102 pitches in his seven-inning Game 1 victory, he seems to have positioned himself for a quick return to the hill.

With his team leading the series 2-0 entering last night's game, the ball is clearly in Brenly's court. His plan was to stick with Batista, who has pitched well thus far in the playoffs, if the Diamondbacks are up 3-0. If the lead is 2-1? Stay tuned, but Brenly seems to be leaning toward Schilling.

"I chose to think that if we do go that direction, Curt Schilling is a different animal at this time of year," Brenly said. "If we decide to start Curt on three days' rest, we would only do it because we think he's capable of doing it. We would expect him to go out and if not pitch the same way he has on four days' rest, at least certainly very close to that."

Should Schilling come back to pitch tonight, he would also be in line to start a potential Game 7 in Phoenix on Sunday. No pitcher has started three games in a World Series since Minnesota's Jack Morris in 1991.

That also would mean that Schilling and fellow ace Randy Johnson would combine to start five games in the series (Johnson, who tossed a three-hit shutout in Game 2, is scheduled to pitch Game 6).

"The big question in a seven-game series, are you better served having your two horses go two times on regular rest or five times with three of those starts coming on short rest," Brenly said. "The numbers say that it's not a percentage play to bring them back on short rest, but these guys are not your run-of-the-mill, everyday pitchers."


Back in the lineup

After sitting out the first two games of the series, Yankees right fielder Paul O'Neill returned to the starting lineup last night, batting in his familiar No. 3 spot.

New York manager Joe Torre had kept the popular veteran out of the lineup in Games 1 and 2 because of his lack of success against Schilling and Johnson. O'Neill has had significant success against last night's Arizona starter, Brian Anderson, though a 9-for-19 clip with four homers and nine RBI.

"It was a matter of either hitting him third or maybe sixth or seventh, and I decided to keep him up at the top of the batting order," Torre said. "It's nice to have him in there."

Torre also chose to use leadoff man Chuck Knoblauch as his designated hitter and start Shane Spencer in left field. Spencer impressed Torre with a strong pinch-hit at-bat against Johnson Sunday night.


More changes

Brenly also tinkered with his lineup for Game 3, moving leadoff batter Tony Womack all the way down to the No. 9 hole, with Craig Counsell batting first and Steve Finley second.

Because the game was played in an American League park, the DH was used, and that led Brenly to toy with his lineup.

"We really struggled with it and basically came down to two lineups," Brenly said. "One was configured in a National League style, Womack at top and Counsell second. The other was an American League lineup with Counsell in the leadoff spot and just line up our regulars from 2 to 8. After the first time through the order, there's a good chance Tony may be leading off an inning or two as the game goes on."

Left-handed slugger Erubiel Durazo made his first appearance of the series as the Diamondbacks' DH and batted fifth.


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