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World Series 2001
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10/09/2001 09:28 PM ET
Five Yankees to watch
By Mark Feinsand
MLB.com
STERLING HITCHCOCK: The veteran lefty was brought in to step in for Orlando Hernandez during the regular season while "El Duque" recovered from foot surgery. Now, with Hernandez's status in limbo for the ALDS, Hitchcock may wind up as New York's Game 4 starter. Not that the pressure would be overwhelming for the 30-year-old -- Hitchcock was the MVP of the 1998 NLCS as a member of the San Diego Padres. Should Hernandez be able to make his start in Game 4, Hitchcock will likely be the second southpaw out of New York's bullpen behind Mike Stanton, an important role against Oakland's left-handed heavy lineup.

DAVID JUSTICE: It's difficult to label a player with 13 career playoff home runs and 54 postseason RBIs as a darkhorse, but the reigning ALCS MVP enters the 2001 postseason in one of the biggest slumps of his career. Justice, who has been hampered all season by groin injuries, missed about one-third of the year, finishing with a disappointing .241 average, 18 home runs and 51 RBIs . Justice had a rocky September, batting .166 (9-for-54) with one home run and three RBIs over the final 25 games. But Manager Joe Torre said that the Yankees will have trouble succeeding if his slugger doesn't find his rhythm.

CHUCK KNOBLAUCH: It has been a roller-coaster season for Knoblauch, his first as an outfielder. After throwing problems forced his move from second base to left field in Spring Training, Knoblauch was made a part-time player after struggling at the plate over the first half of the season. Torre insists that the Yankees' lineup is at its strongest with Knoblauch as its leadoff hitter, but his .340 on-base percentage has been a disappointment. If Knoblauch can get his OBP closer to his career average of .382, the heart of the Yankees' lineup will have more chances to drive in some runs. Torre will give Knoblauch every chance to take the starting left field job, but Shane Spencer waits in the wings if Knoblauch can't get it done at the plate. Knoblauch's past performance in the ALDS isn't a good sign: .188 (6-for-32) with one RBI, one stolen base and no extra-base hits in three ALDS appearances.

MIKE MUSSINA: The Yankees signed Mussina in the offseason to bolster their starting rotation. Mussina signed with New York for a chance to win a championship. Beginning with the ALDS, he'll have his chance to lead the Yankees to their fourth straight title, and win his first ring in the process. Mussina has been to the postseason twice in his career, but has not pitched deep into October in four years. He allowed three runs in six innings in his only 1996 ALDS start against the Indians, but was dominating in 1997, winning both of his starts against the Mariners, allowing just three runs over 14 innings. Mussina was the Yankees' hottest pitcher over the final six weeks, going 6-1 with a 1.39 ERA over his final eight starts. Torre named Mussina the Game 3 starter, saying he felt that whether his team is up 2-0, down 2-0 or tied 1-1, Game 3 will be the biggest game of the series.

MARIANO RIVERA: At 31, Rivera already holds the Major League record with 19 postseason saves. The only question surrounding Rivera is his right ankle, which has been giving the closer trouble for the second half of the season. Rivera had a cortisone shot in his ankle at the end of September, relieving the pain that had been building up. Since becoming the Yankees' closer, Rivera is eight of nine in save opportunities in the Division Series, his only blown save coming in Game 4 against the Cleveland Indians in 1997. Over the last three seasons, Rivera has been automatic, saving seven of New York's nine wins, sporting a 0.00 ERA in the process. The A's know what Rivera can do: He saved all three New York wins in last year's ALDS.

Mark Feinsand is the site reporter for Yankees.com. He can be reached at mfeinsand@yankees.com.