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Brown set for Fenway, Game 310/14/2004 12:12 AM ET
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- In the most important start of his season, Kevin Brown's back may or may not be a factor.
The Yankees won't know how he'll feel until he toes the rubber, but that uncertainty doesn't apply to the environment. Brown has more or less dismissed Fenway Park's atmosphere, saying that he knows how to shut out the crowd.
"At this time of year, obviously, anywhere you play is going to be supercharged," he said on Wednesday, two days before his slated rotation turn in the ALCS. "I've said it before -- once you walk on the field, you usually have a tendency to forget about all that stuff. You're trying to do what you can do to get the guys out with the bats."
That's the thing. Brown relies on his emotions as fuel, and sometimes they become combustible. The most noteworthy incident came on Sept. 3, and it wasn't caused by the fans in the stands. In the thick of a pennant race, Brown responded to a tough start against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium by punching a wall. The wall didn't break, but his left hand did.
In the aftermath, he apologized to his teammates and promised to rein in his temper, a vow that's stood over the last five weeks. In truth, the right-hander had a lot of reasons to be frustrated. He had already missed a month-and-a-half with two separate ailments -- a strained back and a bout with an intestinal parasite.
In all likelihood, those factors contributed to his short fuse. Brown (10-9) doesn't like talking about his health or his temper, because both often carry an excuse's connotation. At this time of year, he recognizes that it's a noteworthy issue and begrudgingly issues a tepid response.
"Emotionally, it's been tough. It's been up and down," he said. "I think the whole season has been difficult. To have an opportunity to be here again in this situation ... it's an honor and it's a privilege."
Brown's gotten the job done enough this season, but he hasn't worked overtime at all over the last few months. He hasn't pitched seven innings since Aug. 28, the last outing before he broke his hand.
Here's another cause for concern: The Red Sox have given Brown fits this season, riding him to an 0-1 record with a 5.93 ERA. He only lasted two outs in his last start against Boston, which was also his first start after returning from the broken hand. Yankees manager Joe Torre said he's seen a lot of progress since then.
"He pitched in the Division Series and he pitched outstanding in a very important game for us. I'm confident, just by the way he's been since that start and the throwing session he had before that start," said Torre. "It's been pretty consistent, as far as how he's felt. That's usually a pretty good indicator -- not necessarily that he's going to win, but that he's going to be OK to go out there and compete."
Torre sees the track record and sees reason for optimism. He knows that Brown is 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA during League Championship Series, and he also knows how bad the veteran wants to win again. His competitive desire has never been questioned -- and never will be, judging by his resume.
Of course, there have been other competitive pitchers that couldn't answer the bell. Looking into the other dugout, there's Curt Schilling, who may or may not be able to pitch again in this series. And during Torre's tenure, there's a whole host of pitchers who had to struggle through injury concerns at the most crucial time of the year.
"You pitch on fumes. We've had this in the past. We had David Cone, and before he went out and pitched a World Series game, he got a cortisone shot. We didn't know what to expect -- you sort of hold your breath," said Torre. "Last year, we didn't fare too well. We're standing for the national anthem and I feel somebody tugging on my sleeve. ...Mel (Stottlemyre) said, 'I don't think (David) Wells can pitch.'
"Things like that happen. You're always surprised by them. You have to understand that somebody has to go out there and pitch, so you do what you can."
Brown understands that better than anybody, and he serves up his own slice of the same statement.
"At this point of the season, you look towards the goal and try to ignore everything else. Do what you can, try to go out there and get the job done," he said. "We've all seen this game enough to know that no matter how good you are, there are no guarantees for success. The only thing I can guarantee is that I'm going to go out there and give it my all."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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