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Marlins eye crown behind 'TBA'
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10/24/2003  1:23 AM ET 
Marlins eye crown behind 'TBA'
Fish undecided on Game 6 starter; Yanks turn to Pettitte
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One win shy of a world championship, Florida manager Jack McKeon has remained coy regarding his starting rotation. (Charles Krupa/AP)
MIAMI -- An interesting and still developing dynamic has taken hold as we ponder the possibilities for Game 6 of the 2003 World Series.

It is the Yankees, facing a must-win situation, who are absolutely certain about their Game 6 starter. It is the Marlins, who have a lead and essentially a game to play with, who are not certain about which direction to take on the mound.

The Yankees, even one game away from losing a World Series, know who is whom and what goes where. Andy Pettitte starts Game 6 because he started Game 2 and Saturday night in Yankee Stadium will be the proper time and place for him to pitch again. And his record in this postseason is a perfect fit for these circumstances.

The Marlins have operated much more on hunches and intuition, because they don't have the postseason veteran pitchers that the Yankees do. And Florida manager Jack McKeon's hunches and intuition have brought this Wild Card team to within one victory of a world championship.

Still, as of Thursday night, the Marlins had not determined who to turn to in Game 6.

"We don't have a Game 6 starter at the present time," McKeon said. "We're worrying about Game 5 tonight and then we got (Friday) off. So we figure that we can make that decision later on tomorrow. Or the next day, for that matter."

Even after their 6-4 victory in Game 5, the Marlins were still undecided.

"Can't tell you any more than I told you earlier today," McKeon told reporters. "We got a few options. Gonna see which way we're gonna go, see how our pitchers are. We're not opposed to starting somebody with three days' rest."

    Josh Beckett   /   P
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 190
Bats/Throws: R/R

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That sounds like the Marlins' emerging postseason ace, Josh Beckett, doesn't it?

Saturday night would normally be left-hander Mark Redman's turn to pitch, but he has been inadequate in his last two starts. Actually, inadequate is a little too gentle. He gave up four runs in 2 1/3 innings in Game 2.

"He's not out of the picture," McKeon said. "That might mean that he isn't in the middle of the picture, either.

  Mark Redman   /   P
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 220
Bats/Throws: L/L

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"We got an option. We got Redman, (Josh) Beckett, (Dontrelle) Willis and that's about it. (Rick) Helling (also), I guess," McKeon said. "That would be your four choices to go in the sixth game."

Helling has a 7.27 ERA in four relief appearances in this postseason. They're not going to start him, either, which was probably why McKeon initially didn't include him on the list of possibilities.

Before Game 5, it was suggested to McKeon that if the Marlins lost Game 5, they would bring back the starting pitcher who is their best at the moment, Beckett, on three days' rest, to pitch Game 6.

When presented with this scenario, McKeon largely confirmed it.

"I think you have all those options pretty much in line there," he said with a smile. "Pretty close to what we were thinking, you know. We still haven't made the decision which way we're gonna go yet. But we're not trying to hide anything from anybody. We just don't know."

But after Game 5, McKeon seemed to suggest that, even with the victory, Beckett might be the Marlins' option of choice.

"We brought him back on two days' rest (in a relief appearance in the NLCS) and he did a fabulous job in Chicago," McKeon said. "So I think any of those guys will tell you they want to pitch. If they're strong and healthy I don't see any problem with that.

"But three days and four days, I think it's in your mind, really. I don't think it makes any difference. Years ago, you only had four-man rotations. You went every four days."

    Dontrelle Willis   /   P
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 200
Bats/Throws: L/L

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In the same vein, McKeon suggested that the fact that Willis, the rookie left-hander, had been working out of the bullpen and had appeared in Game 5, would not disqualify him for the start in Game 6.

"Dontrelle hasn't pitched that much out of the 'pen. (He) pitched a couple of times, two or three times," McKeon said. "He got one inning today. He certainly is strong enough to come back and pitch if we want to on Saturday. He's fine. He's a strong kid. He wants the ball all the time. Got to love that."

On the other side, the Yankees face serious circumstances, but no uncertainty about their starter. Pettitte has been a postseason bulwark for them. Three times in this postseason the Yanks have dropped the first game of a series and then Pettitte has come back to win the second game. He was brilliant in Game 2 of the World Series, pitching 8 2/3 innings in which the only run he gave up was unearned.

    Andy Pettitte   /   P
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 225
Bats/Throws: L/L

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Yankees manager Joe Torre acknowledged that in a World Series situation, the advantage might shift back to the hitters when they face a pitcher for the second time, because they have a better idea of his pitch selection and his pitching patterns. But he said this didn't have to be an issue with Pettitte.

"Pitching is all about location," Torre said. "With Andy, the first time around was really good location-wise. He has a lot of different weapons to get people out. He doesn't do it the same way every time. I think that works to his advantage as long as his stuff is working."

More than that, there is Pettitte's experience and track record.

"We feel very confident that we have Andy Pettitte in a situation that he's been in many times: where we need a win. And he's on the mound Saturday," Torre said.

The conventional thing for the Marlins to do would be to save Beckett for Game 7; give him that one, a fully-rested shot, and take their chances with either Redman or Willis in Game 6. But you can't classify McKeon's work as this club's manager as conventional, which is why Beckett is an option in the first place.

But this much we know for sure: Pettitte will try to save the series for the Yankees and they have good reason to believe he is the man for the job.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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