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Brown pays back teammates10/09/2004 3:07 AM ET
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Although his teammates claim they didn't need any reimbursement for Kevin Brown missing three weeks after punching a clubhouse wall, Brown still symbolically slipped a $20 into each of their lockers with his performance Friday in the 8-4 Game 3 win over the Minnesota Twins.
There was a question whether Brown would even pitch in the postseason after he broke his left hand in two places pounding a wall after a tough start on Sept. 3 against the Baltimore Orioles. Club officials feared the break would be so severe that Brown might not return.
Brown was under the impression he would put a brace on the hand and not miss a start. The down time was somewhere in between. Brown missed enough time to anger his teammates because it was the middle of a pennant race. They questioned how he could potentially cost the team a division title with such a selfish act. But after Brown apologized to the team just hours after having two pins inserted into the hand, all was forgotten.
Except Brown didn't feel that way. After five weeks, he helped out the Bombers' effort to win a World Series. He allowed just a Jacque Jones solo homer in six innings. He was smooth, kept the ball down and threw lots of strikes. This wasn't vintage Brown, he struck out just one and allowed eight hits, but this refurbished model was good enough to get the Yankees to within one game of a much-anticipated ALCS matchup with Boston.
And the start was good enough for Brown to become a permanent part of the postseason rotation.
"I'm very happy with the results, obviously," he said in his self-deprecating manner. "There's things I can't do now that I've done in the past but it's not how you get them out, as long as you get them out."
Brown entered the Metrodome like a heavyweight fighter after a long layoff. And Jones threw a haymaker that staggered Brown in the first round. His home run to left-center field invigorated the 54,803 homer-hanky waving fans. Brown asked for a new ball from home plate umpire Brian Gorman in total disgust. It appeared it was going to be a short night for Brown.
But Brown would allow just one more extra-base hit, a Torii Hunter double in the sixth and he was thrown out trying to reach third base by Hideki Matsui. Brown earned Friday's win because he pitched well with men on base.
With the Yankees leading, 3-1, in the second, Lew Ford hit a tapper to shortstop Derek Jeter who hurriedly threw the ball into the stands for a single and error. Christian Guzman then followed with an infield single to put runners at the corners and one out.
Brown responded by striking out Michael Cuddyer on a fastball and then getting Henry Blanco to line out to Alex Rodriguez at third base.
"He certainly came up big for us tonight," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "And the fact that he got in a lot of trouble and was able to pitch out, he kept his composure all night, which I thought was great."
The Twins had one final threat against Brown in the fourth, when Corey Koskie singled with one out and move to third on Guzman's two-out single. Cuddyer could manage just a bouncer to Jeter and Brown would last into the sixth.
Although there was a perception that Brown felt like he owed his teammates something, they continued to deny that was the case.
Left fielder Gary Sheffield was Brown's teammate on the 1997 World Series champion Florida Marlins and knows his competitiveness first hand.
"He didn't need to prove anything to me," Sheffield said. "We're the new guys here, so I don't know how other guys who have been here for a while feel, but I know what he's capable of. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball. Hurt and all, he went out and gave us what we needed."
Brown was more relaxed and confident in his postgame media session than he was Wednesday when he addressed the media. And he has come to grips with his limitations. No longer is he the horse of 1998 that practically carried the Padres to the World Series. But he doesn't need to be.
He just needs to carry his own weight.
"When I was young, I probably, like most guys, felt a little bit like Superman," he said. "I definitely don't take that for granted these days. To be able to be on the mound and be part of the win, it's a great honor."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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