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Torre gives El Duque Game 4 nod
10/14/2004 5:58 PM ET
BOSTON -- Orlando Hernandez will make his first appearance of the postseason on Saturday, as Joe Torre named "El Duque" as his starter for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox.

Hernandez has been dealing with a tired right shoulder for the past few weeks, but after throwing bullpen sessions on Monday and Wednesday, he declared himself ready to pitch.

"I feel happy that I've felt better in the last week," Hernandez said. "I'm happy with the decision of Joe Torre to pitch me in Game 4. I'm happy."

Hernandez takes Javier Vazquez's spot in the rotation, shifting Vazquez to a long-relief role in the bullpen. Hernandez boasts an impressive 9-3 record in his postseason career, while Vazquez allowed five runs in five innings against the Twins in Game 4 of the ALDS last week in his first career playoff start.

"We spoke to both Duque and Javy today, and explained to Javy that it wasn't anything he did wrong," Torre said. "It's just the fact that Duque has this postseason experience and we feel that he's healthy enough to try this."

"I'm disappointed, but I understand their point of view," Vazquez said. "I wanted to start, but I'll do whatever I can to help the team."

Hernandez was a savior of sorts for New York after joining the club on July 11, going 8-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 15 starts. Hernandez started the season 8-0, helping make up for the absence of Mike Mussina and Kevin Brown, who both spent long stretches on the disabled list.

From 1998 through 2001, Hernandez was a staple in the postseason for the Yankees, compiling a 9-2 record in 13 starts. El Duque won each of his first eight October decisions, losing for the first time in the 2000 World Series against the Mets.

In 2002, Hernandez was bumped from the rotation, as Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and David Wells got the nod over him, but he made two relief appearances, going 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA. His career postseason ERA is a sparking 2.51, and his nine wins are the most by a right-hander in team history. He is third overall, trailing only Pettitte (13) and Whitey Ford (10).

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Hernandez went 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox in the 1999 ALCS, earning series MVP honors. He got a no-decision in Game 1 and threw seven shutout innings in Game 5.

"I think he's ready to pitch," said pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre. "He's a big-game pitcher."

In his only meeting with Boston this year, Hernandez left the game after just three innings, as two extended rain delays shortened his night.

Hernandez had a scheduled start on Sept. 29 pushed back three days when he was feeling some tiredness in his shoulder, but when he took the mound on Oct. 1 in Toronto, he lasted just three innings before being lifted.

"Joe and I will watch him very closely," Stottlemyre said. "Hopefully we won't have to pay too much attention until we get past five."

As for Vazquez, he will be available in the bullpen beginning on Friday, when Kevin Brown starts for New York in Game 3. Stottlemyre said that the Yankees wouldn't hold Vazquez out of Game 3 for insurance on Hernandez.

"He'll be ready to go in the event anyone has any early trouble, whether it's Game 3, 4 or 5," Stottlemyre said. "This time of year, you can't hold somebody back."

Vazquez has pitched in relief just once in 224 career games, throwing one inning out of the bullpen in 1998 for the Expos.

"That's the hardest I've thrown in my life, that one inning," Vazquez said. "I got up to 96 or 97. Hopefully nothing happens."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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