- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2006

ST. LOUIS — If the National League Championship Series somehow goes the distance, the New York Mets could face a pitching predicament of epic proportions.

With Steve Trachsel nursing a deep right thigh bruise suffered during the second inning of Game 3 on Saturday night, the Mets may have to dig deep into their bullpen for a potential Game 7 starter.

Trachsel, who was ineffective against the St. Louis Cardinals even before taking a Preston Wilson comebacker off his plant leg, may not be available to return the rest of this series.

“It stiffened up so quickly, it kind of took me by surprise,” Trachsel said following the game. “The last couple of pitches to [Cardinals slugger Albert] Pujols, I wasn’t able to push off. I was just throwing with my arm. That’s not going to work.”

Mets manager Willie Randolph said yesterday he would have to wait and see how Trachsel responds to treatment before knowing about his availability. If Trachsel can’t go, Randolph may choose to go with long reliever Darren Oliver, who saved the New York bullpen Saturday with six shutout innings.

For that matter, the Mets could be tempted to start Oliver over Trachsel even if the latter is healthy.

“We’ll wait and see, obviously, but Darren has started for us, and that’s a possibility,” Randolph said. “He’s done great things for us this year as a spot guy. I love his versatility. We’ll have to wait and see on that.”

One guy who won’t be available to pitch Game 7 (or any other in this series) is Orlando Hernandez. The veteran right-hander, out since the start of the playoffs with a strained calf, threw in the bullpen before last night’s game but is not on the Mets’ active NLCS roster.

Weaver vs. Glavine

Game 5 tonight pits a couple of hurlers at the top of their respective games: New York’s Tom Glavine and St. Louis’ Jeff Weaver.

The two have been in fine form since before the postseason began. Glavine hasn’t given up a run in his last 19 innings, and Weaver is 4-2 with a 3.74 ERA over his last eight starts.

Weaver’s success has been particularly surprising, considering the way he seemed to bottom out following his trade from the Los Angeles Angels over the summer. At one point, he was 4-12 with a 6.71 ERA. But given a chance by the Cardinals to work through his problems, the lanky 30-year-old responded in kind.

“Once I started putting together a couple good starts and gaining a little momentum and getting that trust with your teammates, it just kind of gradually evolves into finally getting back to being the type of pitcher you are,” Weaver said. “It’s an organization that is built to win. When you become a part of something like that, you don’t want to be the loose piece.”

Both Glavine and Weaver will face a new challenge tonight, though: pitching on only three days’ rest because of Wednesday’s rainout at Shea Stadium.

“It’s something that I’ve done,” Glavine said. “I mean, I guess I understand how to make the subtle changes I need to make in order to prepare for a short rest.”

Leave your phone on

Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland have been close friends for decades, so the Cardinals manager obviously wanted to congratulate his counterpart from Detroit upon winning the American League pennant on Saturday.

La Russa, though, forgot to turn his cell phone on when he left Busch Stadium following St. Louis’ 5-0 win. By the time he remembered, it was 2 a.m. and Leyland already had left several messages.

La Russa didn’t bother responding immediately.

“I figured by then, it’s 3 a.m. there, so I talked to him this morning,” he said. “I could have called him at 3 because he wasn’t asleep.”

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