10/12/2003 3:38 PM ET
Notes: Pavano to start Game 6
Examining Willis' mechanics; McKeon reacts to Zimmer
MIAMI -- Throughout the playoffs, Marlins manager Jack McKeon has shown a willingness to shake up his lineup.
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
The 72-year-old manager is doing it again for Game 6 in the NLCS.
Right-hander Carl Pavano will start at Wrigley Field instead of Brad Penny, who took the loss in Game 2.
Florida's fifth starter in the regular season, Pavano was used in relief thus far in the postseason.
"Pavano matches up good against the Cubs," McKeon said. "He's pitched extremely well against the Cubs. We talked to the coaches, and we decided this is the way we're going to go."
Pavano was 0-1 against the Cubs in the regular season, giving up three runs in seven innings at Wrigley Field in July.
"To get to this point where we are at, I feel proud to get the ball at this time," Pavano said.
The Marlins trail in the best-of-seven series, 3-2. Pavano a has tough opposition in Chicago's Mark Prior, who gave up three runs (two earned) in seven innings in Game 2.
Penny had a rough time in his start at Wrigley Field, giving up seven runs, including two home runs, in two innings.
Penny threw an inning of scoreless relief Saturday, and said he has difficulty preparing to start when he is throwing in games instead of his usual between outing bullpen sessions.
"Throwing in games is not the same as throwing on the side," Penny said. "I can't be coming out of the pen and then start."
Pavano went 12-13 with a 4.30 ERA in the regular season, and likes the Marlins' chances, despite having to win twice in a tough place to play.
"We don't give in to the hype," Pavano said. "We have our own inner confidence and our own mental toughness that we live by. We all know our roles. We know what it takes to win."
As for facing Prior, Pavano adds: "I'm pitching against the Cubs. Prior has pitched well. We're well aware of that. There is not much margin for error. He is going to go out there and compete and bring his best stuff. I'm going to try to do the same."
Willis' delivery slightly off: Much of Marlins rookie Dontrelle Willis' early success was attributed to his unorthodox delivery that made him deceptive to hitters.
On the flip side, some of Willis' second-half struggles also are connected to the left-hander's high-kicking, wild delivery.
Mechanically, Willis has been a bit off, pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal said.
"It's easy with a clean delivery, like [Josh] Beckett, to correct what he does wrong," Rosenthal said. "With Dontrelle's funky delivery, it is not as easy. That delivery takes a lot of effort."
Willis gave up six runs in 2 1/3 innings in Game 4 of the NLCS Saturday night against the Cubs. The 21-year-old walked the bases loaded in the first inning and then surrendered a grand slam to Aramis Ramirez.
Rosenthal said Willis' release point was slightly off, causing his fastball to miss the strike zone. In his rough outing, he gave up six runs on three hits with five walks and two strikeouts.
"He's leaning across his body," Rosenthal said.
With Willis, it gets back to the delivery.
The Alameda, Calif., native developed the quirky throwing motion as a kid. He and his friends painted a strike zone box on a wall. With a tennis ball, they engaged in a game of strikeouts. To deceive his friends, Willis added the high leg kick and a way of shielding the ball.
In the first half of the season, when he was 9-1 and made the All-Star Game, his pitches were exploding on the hitters.
The life in his pitches faded in the second half.
Rosenthal said the length of the season had much to do with it. Called up from Double-A in May, Willis had never pitched in September, let alone October. Willis is a tired pitcher, although his velocity still is in the 92 mph range.
Despite his second-half problems, Rosenthal believes Willis can emerge as a special pitcher. At 21, he has handled a great deal, making the All-Star Game while becoming a media darling and a highly marketed player.
"I'd be shocked if he doesn't come back next year in perfect shape," Rosenthal said. "He lives and dies baseball. That's the bottom line."
Unsure he would even pitch in the Major Leagues this season, Willis finished 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA and has made two playoff starts.
"He's going to prove guys wrong," Rosenthal said. "He wants to prove it's just one year."
McKeon on Zimmer: McKeon was saddened to see the incident Saturday in Boston when Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer took part in a bench-clearing hubbub and was pushed to the ground by pitcher Pedro Martinez.
Like McKeon, Zimmer is 72.
McKeon noted that he would not go after a player, and if a brawl broke out, he would try to play peacemaker.
The root of the problem Saturday at Fenway Park, McKeon says, stems from pitchers trying to work inside. Things often get out of hand when pitchers work in.
Also at issue in the American League is the designated hitter. Pitchers don't have to bat, so retaliation often is against other players.
"That's the sad part, they don't go after pitchers," McKeon said. "They hit somebody else. I think it would send a message to a lot of pitchers [if they got hit]. That's the way it used to be years ago. You'd send a message."
The inability to work inside, McKeon contends, is a reason the home run totals have been up in the last decade.
"You can't pitch inside," the manager said. "The umpires over-react all the time. Somewhere along the line common sense has to take over."
McKeon talks of legendary pitchers like Sal "The Barber" Maglie, Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale.
"They'd kick them out of the game today," McKeon said. "How long do you think Gibson and Drysdale would be in the league? They'd be kicked out of the game."
Cabrera cleaning up: Another day, another spot in the order for rookie Miguel Cabrera.
For the first time in the postseason, the 20-year-old is batting cleanup.
Cabrera started for the second straight game in right field Sunday.
He's been a consistent RBI producer for more than a month.
One thing about McKeon, he isn't afraid to test rookies.
"If he had more speed, I'd try him in center," McKeon joked. "Challenge them. Give him a challenge."
Cabrera's eagerness is refreshing to McKeon.
In the dugout, the rookie is always waiting to bat.
"I wish I could hit him every inning," the manager said.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.