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Yanks undecided on Game 4 starter
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10/07/2004 10:39 PM ET
Yanks undecided on Game 4 starter
Nothing official yet, but Vazquez looks likely to get ball
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
If Javier Vazquez gets the ball Saturday, he could be entrusted with trying to burst the Twins' postseason bubble. (Duane Burleson/AP)
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Yankees didn't officially announce their Game 4 starter on Thursday, but it looks like Javier Vazquez is the leading candidate to get the ball on Saturday afternoon at the Metrodome.

Manager Joe Torre said that he would announce his starter on Friday afternoon, but pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre indicated that, barring a sudden turnaround in the status of Orlando Hernandez's tired right shoulder, Vazquez would get the nod.

"He's taken his regular bullpens as if he's pitching Saturday," Stottlemyre said of Vazquez. "That's the way we're set up right now, and I don't know if anything will change that."

Vazquez, who would be pitching in his first postseason game, will either be trying to close out the Twins or save the Yankees' season, depending on the outcome of Game 3.

The 28-year-old right-hander had a solid first half, going 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA to earn a spot on the AL All-Star team. But his second half was inconsistent, as he went 4-5 with a 6.92 ERA, leading some to question his ability to pitch under pressure.

As for Hernandez, he said Thursday that his arm felt the same as it did on Wednesday, when he threw a 50-pitch bullpen session at Yankee Stadium. Hernandez, who was originally penciled in for Game 3, was replaced by Kevin Brown.

"I've ruled him out for tomorrow, but I haven't ruled him out for anything else," Stottlemyre said. "That will depend on Joe and what he wants to do."

"I need patience. I need to throw, but I need to come back next year, too," Hernandez said. "I want to go to the mound, but only when I feel good. If I don't feel good, I won't help the team."

Unless Hernandez makes a tremendous improvement by Friday, it is unlikely that he will start on Saturday. He could remain a possibility to work out of the bullpen in a Game 5, though Torre has said that Mike Mussina would be the starter if the series goes to a deciding game.

"He has to convince us that he feels real good, show us a little more arm strength," Stottlemyre said. "Off of that bullpen yesterday, I didn't feel strong enough to say that he's [the Game 3] starter, because we had already committed to Kevin Brown. He'll continue to play catch daily, and we'll monitor it from day to day."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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