10/20/2004 8:49 PM ET
Notes: Olerud available for Game 7
First baseman not 100 percent, but could pinch-hit
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
|John Olerud launches a two-run homer in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the ALCS on Wednesday night. (Bill Kostroun/AP)
NEW YORK -- After being ruled out for the remainder of the American League Championship Series, John Olerud will be available off the bench for the Yankees in Game 7 on Wednesday night.
Olerud, who suffered a bone bruise in his left foot during Game 3 of the series, took batting practice and fielded ground balls before the game. He said that he felt better than he had in a few days, but added that he isn't 100 percent.
"It feels better as far as putting weight on it. The most difficult thing for me is running hard," Olerud said. "We'll see what happens. I think I was able to move around first base all right, take ground balls. The big problem is running."
Manager Joe Torre pronounced Olerud ready to play, but didn't feel that he was ready to be back in the starting lineup just yet.
"He's a player," said Torre. "He took ground balls and everything, but mobility is the determining factor."
Olerud was hitting .182 in the series, but his two-run homer against Pedro Martinez in Game 2 proved to be the game-winner for New York.
Tony Clark has been at first base ever since Olerud injured himself by getting hit with his own bat. Clark is hitting .158 with one RBI, but he has struck out in several key situations, including the last out of Game 6.
Tests taken on Olerud's foot on Tuesday, including a CT scan and a bone scan, revealed no fractures, but Olerud said that the bone scan showed that the foot was certainly not in top shape.
"It's tough," said Olerud of the injury. "Something like this couldn't have come at a worse time. In the playoffs, you want to be out there playing. It's frustrating."
Game 7 guy: Kevin Brown got the nod for Game 7 for the Yankees, as Torre selected him over Javier Vazquez, given that both pitchers were on three days' rest.
Brown's postseason experience was the key, so once Torre felt that the pitcher's back would not be an issue, the decision was an easy one.
"Brown satisfied me that he feels well enough to do this. That was my only consideration last night," Torre said. "He's had as much practice at getting ready for big games as anybody. That weighs big with me."
Vazquez will be the first one out of the bullpen if Brown gets in trouble in the early innings. Also available are Orlando Hernandez, Mike Mussina and the normal group of relief pitchers. Mussina saved the day last year in Game 7, getting out of a first-and-third jam with no outs in the fourth inning, even though Torre had promised the pitcher that he wouldn't bring him in to the middle of an inning.
"If we need some help, it's going to be maybe Moose, Vazquez or Duque," Torre said. "No promises this year that I know of."
Supportive Steinbrenner: George Steinbrenner visited the Yankees' clubhouse early on Wednesday afternoon, stopping by to give his team a word or two of encouragement.
Steinbrenner spent about 30 minutes in the clubhouse, including some time in Torre's office.
"He was as supportive as he could be," Torre said. "He was a little jumpy himself."
Good luck charm? Bucky Dent, who hit one of the most famous home runs in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry back in the one-game playoff in 1978, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 7.
Dent's catcher wasn't too shabby, either. Yogi Berra, 10-time World Series winner, caught Dent's pitch.
Lineup shuffle: Kenny Lofton started Game 7 as the designated hitter, as Torre decided that Ruben Sierra was more useful to him as a pinch-hitter late in a game.
"With Ruben Sierra, you'd like to have him in there all the time," Torre said. "But you also like to have the ability to use him when the right spot comes up."
Lofton was put in the No. 7 spot, right behind Jorge Posada. Following Lofton were Tony Clark and Miguel Cairo.
"Splitting up Clark and Posada a little, get a contact guy in there," Torre said. "I moved some people, because we haven't been doing a whole lot, offensively. We may have to think more in terms of forcing the issue a little bit."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.