Mussina apologizes Gaston warms to peacemaking


TORONTO -- After two weeks of verbal sparring, Cito Gaston and Mike Mussina settled their differences here last night.

And despite hints of open hostility, the traditionally cordial Toronto fans gave the Orioles nothing worse than a chilly reception. The flap over Gaston's decision not to use Mussina in the All-Star Game might still be a major issue in Baltimore, but the ensuing furor fell short of being an international incident in SkyDome.

Gaston said he was concerned that the Blue Jays might not be afforded the same courtesy when they come to Baltimore for the last series of the season. "What bothered mewas the way our players were booed in Baltimore," said Gaston, who expressed hope the situation would be defused before the end of the season.

Saying that people often do irrational things, Gaston expressed concern for his team's safety. "I would hate to see any of my players or myself get hurt because of a misunderstanding," he said.

The misunderstanding arose when Mussina began warming up in the eighth inning of the All-Star game, giving the crowd at Camden Yards the impression he would make an appearance in the final inning. It later was revealed that Mussina knew he would pitch only if the game went into extra innings.

Gaston said he had no problem with Mussina's throwing in the bullpen to get his work in before his next start (two days later). What the Blue Jays' manager did object to was that after the game Mussina didn't indicate to the media that he knew he wasn't going to pitch unless the game went into overtime.

Mussina set the stage for yesterday's peace mission two days earlier, when he said he would apologize to Gaston "for any embarrassment I caused . . . unintentionally."

To avoid a potential media circus, Mussina talked to Gaston by telephone rather than face-to-face. He did so in Orioles manager Johnny Oates' office more than three hours before game time.

"I talked to him and we settled it," Mussina said, after emerging from the trainer's room. "We got everything worked out -- case closed."

Mussina was asked if the discussion was friendly. "It was friendly the whole time," he said. "He [Gaston] explained where he was coming from, and I explained my side.

"The funny thing was that he didn't mind me throwing in the bullpen. What it boiled down to is that I didn't make a statement during the media crush [after the game] that I knew I wasn't going to pitch unless it went extra innings."

Gaston confirmed the basics of the conversation and reiterated that he didn't mind Mussina's getting up to throw on his own in the bullpen. He also talked to Orioles coach Elrod Hendricks, who was in the bullpen during the All-Star Game and took responsibility for Mussina's throwing when he did.

"There's no need for him [Hendricks] to take the blame," Gaston said. "That [Mussina's warming up] was no problem. If it had been one of my guys, I'd expect him to do the same thing.

"But we went into the game with a plan. And the plan helped win the game. Bobby [National League manager Bobby Cox] had a lot of left-handed hitters, so we wanted to start a left-hander [Mark Langston] and then bring [Randy] Johnson in."

Gaston said he saved Mussina for extra innings for a basic reason -- he had the most rest.

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