10/14/2003 1:09 AM ET
Nelson pawn in Little game
BOSTON -- Touché.
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
Boston manager Grady Little decided to get involved in Yankee manager Joe Torre's chess match Monday night during Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
Little asked home plate umpire Derryl Cousins to check New York reliever Jeff Nelson's glove and belt buckle after Nelson came into the game with one out in the eighth inning. The move appeared to be in direct response to Torre's Game 1 request that the umpires inspect Boston reliever Mike Timlin's hat.
As was the case last Wednesday, the search proved fruitless. But the chess match was on.
"We just got some indication that maybe we saw a little something out there," Little said. "We didn't know but we appreciated the umpires going to check."
The move was also clearly designed to rattle Nelson, who has been the center of attention -- along with teammate Karim Garcia -- after the two became involved in a bullpen altercation with a Red Sox employee during Game 3. Nelson was the target of chants and insults for much of the game as he sat in the bullpen Monday night. The taunts only grew worse as he warmed up before coming into the game.
Nelson, however, never got rattled, inducing an inning-ending double play from Nomar Garciaparra. Felix Heredia had started the inning but was lifted in favor of Nelson after hitting Todd Walker with a one-out pitch.
The reliever won the battle that inning but the Red Sox won the game, 3-2, to even the ALCS at two games apiece.
"I don't know what they were after," Nelson said. "My first thought was that I was slide stepping [to first] and that they wanted to get me to stop. They came out asking to look at my belt buckle and then they looked at my glove. My pitches always move, especially when you throw three-quarters.
"[Crew chief] Tim McClelland said 'it looks good to me,' let's go throw some strikes. I'm sure [checking Timlin] had something to do with it. I'm glad I don't do anything. It would be tough to be called an attacker and a cheater all on the same day."
Nelson said the jeers and catcalls didn't bother him, particularly since he was sheltered in the bullpen for much of the game. He's been a visiting pitcher in Yankee Stadium and that has prepared him for just about anything.
"I heard it at Yankee Stadium when I was with Seattle after I had signed there away from the Yankees," he said. "This is just 15,000 less people yelling it at you. It wasn't anything different than I've been through before."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.