AL playoff notebook

TORONTO — Gaston has an ally in La Russa

TORONTO -- The Toronto Blue Jays are learning again that it's tough to please everybody. They lost the first game of the American League Championship Series and the locals already were muttering the "C" word.


"I don't see how you can call that a choke," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "I know some people are going to put that on us because they like to look at things that way, but how can you say that kind of game was a choke."

Gaston was under the microscope again. This time, he was being grilled on why he left starter Jack Morris in the game to pitch the ninth inning. He took it all good-naturedly, but he obviously is growing tired of being second-guessed so regularly.


Oakland A's manager Tony La Russa sympathizes with him. He has seen the way Gaston is treated by the local media and he doesn't like what he sees.

"I'll tell you what ticks me off," La Russa said. "I was asked yesterday to compare the two teams. I talked about their bullpen, their offense and I also mentioned their coaching staff, because they obviously know how to use their talent well. Then I check the paper and I don't see one word that I brought up about the coaching staff."

La Russa railed at the notion that Gaston should have made a pitching change in the ninth inning, bringing up Morris's 10-inning performance in last year's World Series to illustrate how hindsight affects the perception of a manager's performance.

"It's like Tom Kelly last year," La Russa said. "He left the guy out there for 10 innings. If he had given up three runs, everybody would have asked what in the world you did a stupid thing like that for. Morris pitched a shutout so he [Kelly] is smart. The only moves that are smart are the ones that work. If that bothers you, you shouldn't get into this job."

Coming home

This could have been a very special series for Oakland pitcher Vince Horsman, who was born in Canada (Halifax, Nova Scotia) and was a member of the Blue Jays organization until the A's took him on waivers this spring.

It could have been, but Horsman was bumped off the playoff roster when veteran left-hander Rick Honeycutt returned from an injury. He didn't take the news well.

"If it wasn't for my wife, I probably would have broke some things in the hotel room," he said. "I really concentrated the last month on getting here, but they went with the guy with experience. Everybody in the bullpen has at least 5 1/2 years experience, then there's me. I had a feeling it would happen."


Morris in Game 4

This should come as no surprise, but Gaston confirmed that Morris will come back to pitch Game 4 on Sunday in Oakland.

"If we put Jimmy Key and Todd Stottlemyre in the bullpen, that means we're going with a three-man rotation," Gaston said.

Gaston originally had left open the possibility that Key or Stottlemyre might get a start if the Blue Jays went up 3-0, but he said yesterday that he probably wouldn't have changed even in that event.

"You might want to go for the throat in that situation," he said.

Gaston on Orioles


Gaston used the Orioles as an example when he explained why he didn't want his team looking at last night's game as a must-win situation.

"When you do think that way, you just put pressure on yourselves," he said, "and there is enough pressure in this game without doing that. When we went into Baltimore, the Orioles players were saying that they had to sweep that series. I think they put too much pressure on themselves."

But Gaston sympathized with manager Johnny Oates, who went out of his way all year to downplay individual games and series.

"It's your job to tell kids what they should and shouldn't do, but they have to live it," he said, "just like we did."

Shot at Schott

Minnesota Twins general manager Andy MacPhail didn't mince words when he heard that the Cincinnati Reds -- who won 90 games and finished second in the National League West -- had fired general manager Bob Quinn.


In in interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, MacPhail questioned the judgment of Reds owner Marge Schott. "He was the executive of the year, for God's sake," MacPhail said. "I'm sure glad Marge doesn't own the Twins. You can use that. I don't care what she thinks."