- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO The St. Louis Cardinals have gone through so much this season that it's easy to forget about Andy Benes' strange journey to the National League Championship Series.
The 35-year-old right-hander will be front and center tonight, though, called upon by manager Tony La Russa to start Game4 against the San Francisco Giants, with no less than the season on the line.
Only four months ago, Benes was contemplating retirement after 13 seasons in the big leagues, his arthritic right knee preventing him from doing anything but tossing underhand pitches to his 6-year-old son's team.
But in June, with the Cardinals' pitching staff in shambles, Benes told general manager Walt Jocketty he'd be willing to try a comeback. One month later, he was back in a Cardinals uniform. By the end of the season, he had a 1.86 ERA in 15 appearances (14 starts) the best second-half ERA in the majors.
Benes' secret? A new outlook on life.
"I really have an appreciation for what I do and for the opportunity," he said. "I've been looking at each start as a tremendous opportunity to go out and do what I love to do. I don't take it as serious. I really care about what I do, but I know that it's not a life-or-death situation."
St. Louis fans might sense a little more urgency to today's must-win game, but Benes who will be opposed by San Francisco's Livan Hernandez will be happy just to be standing on the mound at Pac Bell Park.
"I enjoy the game for what it is," he said. "And just to be able to go on a sunny, Sunday afternoon in a great stadium and play in a playoff game is exciting to me."
Dravecky back in town
The crowd at Pac Bell was treated to an inspirational pregame moment when former Giants pitcher Dave Dravecky threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
A top left-hander in San Francisco's rotation during the 1980s, Dravecky had his career ended in devastating fashion when he broke his arm throwing a pitch during a game in Montreal. Doctors later had to amputate it.
With his family watching and the sellout crowd giving him a standing ovation, Dravecky walked out to the pitcher's mound and lobbed a right-handed strike to Giants catcher Benito Santiago.
"I have to say the most wonderful thing about my life now every day is that I have a challenge to be the best husband and the best father that I can be," said Dravecky, who pitched for the Giants during the 1987 NLCS against St. Louis. "God only knows, that's an incredible challenge. It's a whole lot easier going out and throwing in front of 60,000 people in the seventh game of the World Series than it is to try to be a good parent."
No go for Rolen
The Cardinals once again were without third baseman Scott Rolen, who tested his bruised left shoulder during a pregame indoor workout, but wasn't ready to return.
La Russa said Rolen could have been used as a pinch runner if absolutely necessary, but the situation never arose.
Anderson takes a dive
ANAHEIM, Calif. When Garret Anderson left his feet to rob A.J. Pierzynski of a hit for the final out of Anaheim's 2-1 victory in Game3 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, some fans might have thought he does that all the time.
His teammates know better.
"He'll be the first one to tell you that he's not a guy who dives after balls. He doesn't know how to do it, and if he does, he's liable to get hurt," said closer Troy Percival, whose second save of the series was secured by Anderson's catch. "Garret's strength is not diving, but his strength is getting to balls that a lot of people don't get to. I've seen him run down balls that other people have to dive for."
Anderson has played all three outfield positions on a regular basis for the Angels. He spent the 1999 and 2000 seasons in center field before manager Mike Scioscia put him back in left and shifted Gold Glove left fielder Darin Erstad to center at the start of 2001.
Reunion time
Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher had an opportunity this weekend to rehash old times with his former hitting coach in Minnesota, three-time AL batting champion Tony Oliva, who made the trip to Anaheim for Games 3, 4 and 5 after singing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" in the seventh inning of Game2 at the Metrodome.
Oliva found the fun-loving Hatcher to be a no-nonsense student during their years together in Minnesota, when Hatcher tied a club record with nine straight hits and was the toughest player in the AL to strike out in 1983 and 1985.
"He didn't swing only at perfect pitches. When you swing at perfect pitches all the time, you give yourself room for mistakes," Oliva said. "He swung at everything close, he used the whole field, and he had some power.
"He could have hit more home runs if he wanted to, but the way he played allowed him to stay in the big leagues for a long time. The best thing for him was to use the whole ballpark and hit for a high average, and that was a great approach," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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