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Notes: Garner hoping to relax
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10/16/2004 4:40 PM ET
Notes: Garner hoping to relax
Pair of aces in weekend games could give 'pen a rest
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Astros manager Phil Garner laughs during Friday's workout at Minute Maid Park. (Eric Gay/AP)

HOUSTON -- Houston Astros manager Phil Garner, the target of criticism from time to time during the postseason for how he has handled the bullpen, anticipated a relatively smooth ride during Games 3 and 4 with Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt on the mound.

Garner is hoping for a more textbook couple of days with the two staff aces slated to start, meaning Clemens and Oswalt log seven innings, the Astros score enough runs to have a lead late in the game, and Brad Lidge closes it out.

But when situations do get a little tight, Garner may adjust his plan in order to mix in Dan Wheeler a little more. Wheeler pitched two scoreless innings during Game 2 of the NLCS and has not allowed an earned run in five postseason innings.

"I'm not married to anything," Garner said. "In a short series, you may play a hot hand a little bit."


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Garner's approach when Oswalt and Clemens pitches changes significantly from when Brandon Backe and Pete Munro start. The need for more relievers when the latter two are pitching may give Wheeler his best chance to move up the depth chart in critical situations, especially since Chad Harville and Chad Qualls struggled in the first two games of the NLCS.

"With the Rocket going and with Oswalt going, I typically go deeper in the game with those guys, give them a little more opportunity," Garner said. "You may see a little difference in the next couple of games. I may not do the similar things with Brandon Backe. I manage a little bit differently with him.

"But our guys have done a pretty decent job out of the bullpen. We hit a little rocky spot right here. Hopefully, we can get over that. I think we can."

Warm reception: Judging from the ovation hitting coach Gary Gaetti received during pregame introductions prior to Game 1 of the NLCS in St. Louis on Wednesday, it's clear the St. Louis faithful have not forgotten the 20-year veteran's contributions to its team in the 1990s.

The sellout crowd at Busch Stadium stood and cheered loudly for Gaetti, who played for the Cardinals from 1996-98.

"I didn't think it would be like that," he said of the ovation. "It was really nice."

That moment brought back memories of his time with the 1996 Cardinals playoff team. That year, the LCS started in Atlanta, and in Game 2, Gaetti hit a grand slam to help propel St. Louis to a victory.

When the team returned for Game 3, the Cardinals' first LCS game at home, the fans erupted when he was introduced.

"The ovation I received in the first home game literally gave me goose bumps," Gaetti recalled.

Under the lights: The Minute Maid Park roof, which was open all morning on Saturday and througout batting practice, closed an hour before game time in a last-minute change of plans.

Because temperatures were higher than anticipated, coupled with the imposing shadows that shade parts of the field during the mid-afternoon hours, the decision was made to close the roof. Major League Baseball senior vice president of on-field operations Bob Watson made the call following a meeting with the managers of both teams.

Earlier in the day, Garner was asked if he preferred the roof to be open or closed during games.

"My preference is when it's a beautiful night, it is nice to have the roof open," he said. "We've had a couple of nice nights when the roof's been open. We've not had a game here where we've had it open during the day and we've experienced these shadows, so that's a question today we'll have to take a look at."

Odds and ends: Former first lady Barbara Bush will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 4 of the LCS on Sunday. Contemporary Texas country singer Robert Earl Keen will sing the national anthem and "God Bless America." ... On Monday, former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield will throw out the first pitch, and nationally acclaimed recording artist Edwin McCain will sing the anthem. Chris Botti, contemporary jazz trumpeter, will play "God Bless America."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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