Cone might just hang his holster in Toronto


ATLANTA -- In the Old West, when someone did what David Cone is doing for the Toronto Blue Jays, they called him a hired gun.

And, make no mistake, the Blue Jays have Cone, their starting pitcher in Game 2 of the World Series, to do what the gunfighters did 100 years ago. Namely, get the bad guys out.

Cone misfired last night, allowing four runs and five hits in just 4 1/3 innings in Toronto's 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Cone will be a free agent after the World Series, able to offer his services to the highest bidder. Yet Cone may actually want to stick around with Toronto. It seems he has taken a bit of a hankering to his new surroundings and if the price is right, well, he might just settle in the North for a spell.

"The city has been terrific," he said. "The fan support throughout the playoffs has been amazing. I've never heard a crowd as loud as the one at Game 2 in the playoffs. They're tremendously supportive. It's a great organization and well run. I'm just happy to be a part of them right now."

Cone, who is rumored to be considering heading to the New York Yankees, said he might not be the last hired gun to move from an also-ran to a contender.

"It is still quite possible. When you see a guy like Jose Canseco being moved, then you pretty much feel that anybody is [available]," Cone said. "So, I guess in theory, the question could be true, but it really won't be proved until we find out what sort of new [basic] agreement is going to be hammered out."

Cone, 29, was traded by the New York Mets to Toronto on Aug. 27, just four days before postseason rosters were to be set in what was seen as a push by the Blue Jays to put distance between themselves and the Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers in the American League East.

After a rocky first start with the Blue Jays, where he gave up seven runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Brewers, Cone was effective, compiling an American League record of 4-3 with a 2.65 ERA.

With Jack Morris, Saturday night's Game 1 loser, and a healthy Juan Guzman, who will start Game 3 in Toronto tomorrow, Cone got the Blue Jays their division title and their first AL pennant, winning Game 2 of the AL playoffs over Oakland, 6-2, but losing Game 5.

Still, Cone said he has only recently started to feel that he's more than just a pitcher for hire.

"I have to be honest and admit that the ultimate is to be with the team the entire year and feel like you are really a major reason why or a major contributor to the cause from spring training on," Cone said.

"When we did win the pennant, and again in the celebration afterward, several players and [general manager] Pat Gillick came up to me and told me comments along the line of 'Thank you, we could not have made it here without you.' That made me really feel special. It made me feel a part of the team."

Cone, who won eight straight for the Mets from June to August, was in line to win his third straight NL strikeout title this year before he was traded.

As it turns out, Atlanta's John Smoltz, who opposed Cone last night, beat him by one strikeout, 215 to 214, though Cone had the overall major-league mark of 288.

"I'd be lying if I told you that it wasn't important to me," Cone said. "On one hand, it's no shame to lose it to John Smoltz. He's a terrific talent with wonderful stuff. Maybe, because it took him until the last start of the season to catch me, I should feel pretty good about that."

Reported to be one of the more brash Mets, Cone has brought some of that cockiness to Toronto, gladly sharing his wit and wisdom with younger players such as Guzman and Todd Stottlemyre.

"I've never been afraid to talk and if you knew me in New York, you know that's true. Maybe that is one of the reasons that I'm out of there," Cone said.

"I'm going to tell them everything I know. I would rather go out on a limb, be the type of guy who maybe talks a little too much, verbalize everything I know."

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