|© 2004 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.|
Brown to get ball for Game 310/07/2004 9:30 PM ET
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Brown hasn't had much of an opportunity to prove he's a clutch pitcher in the past few years. After dominating the 1998 playoffs, Brown signed a seven-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was expected to help catapult the once-proud franchise back to the postseason.
That didn't work out. Because of poor management, bad personnel moves, injuries and late-season meltdowns, the Dodgers never made the postseason with Brown as the No. 1 starter and they sought to dump what was remaining of his $105 million contract and struck a deal with the New York Yankees.
The Yankees acquired him to pitch in situations such as Game 3 of the Division Series on Friday night against the Minnesota Twins. And Brown may feel as if he has something to prove, despite his reputation as a premium starter when he's healthy.
After smashing his left (non-pitching) hand against a wall during a Sept. 3 outing against the Baltimore Orioles and potentially jeopardizing the Bombers' playoff chances by taking himself out of the rotation, Brown met with his teammates and explained his rash actions. In an apologetic manner, Brown sought to make his teammates understand the degree of his competitiveness.
He got that message across. His teammates and coaches realize how crucial of an outing this is for Brown, who feels he hasn't carried his share of the weight for the Yankees' 101-win season and seventh straight American League East title.
"I think that (meeting) probably helped out in terms of everyone understanding what happened," shortstop Derek Jeter said. "He let his emotion get the best of him. He is pretty emotional. I think he probably would view tomorrow as being a big game for him. But he has been in these kinds of situations before."
When Brown broke his left hand, which took him out of the rotation for three weeks, several teammates reacted with anger and disbelief. At the time of the injury -- Sept. 3 -- the Yankees had their lead slashed in the AL East to 2 1/2 games by Boston and were feeling vulnerable.
"You know there had to be a [meeting] to sort of clear the air because when you are in the middle of a pennant race and to have Kevin do that," Yankee manager Joe Torre said, "that had to take place as soon as possible because there were some players who were angry and I was angry and it wasn't going to do any good just to stay that way."
Brown's sudden outburst appeared to further weaken an already crumbling pitching staff. Mike Mussina and Javier Vazquez were in slumps, Jon Lieber was steady but not spectacular and the club was relying on Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, who pitches more on guile at this stage of his career than physical ability.
Brown had two pins placed in his left hand on Sept. 5 and told reporters he was embarrassed about the incident. What impressed Brown's teammates was that he called that team meeting that night without any encouragement. Before then, teammates considered him a guarded teammate who was reluctant to open up.
"I think the biggest turning point was that big meeting he had," catcher Jorge Posada said. "That was a big thing. He opened a lot of eyes. Obviously he's a big competitor. It's tough to apologize in front of a lot of people and I thought he was very sincere and it was very good to see."
The Yankees are tied with the Twins at a game apiece, similar to the 2003 Division Series when they came to Minnesota and won both games. But the similarities end there. The Yankees had Roger Clemens ready for Game 3 and then came back with David Wells. This time, it's Brown and then an undetermined starter.
Club officials are hoping Hernandez, who worked out with the team Friday, is healthy enough to go on Saturday. Javier Vazquez, acquired from the Montreal Expos to help anchor the rotation, likely will go if Hernandez is unable.
So there is obvious pressure on Brown to perform on Friday. The broken left hand is a distant memory. His teammates have forgiven him. But he knows he could truly earn their admiration and respect with a big win on Friday night.
"It may enter into his thinking," pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. "The main thing is that he realizes where he's at, what he has a chance to do. He can put the team in good shape by winning tomorrow, and I think he's ready. I expect him to be Kevin Brown. If he's Kevin Brown, he'll go out and pitch a very strong game, give us an excellent chance to win."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Yankees Homepage | MLB.com