Fernandez not cowed by Stewart White Sox starter a winner vs. Jays AL notebook


CHICAGO -- It will be experience vs. youth in the pitching matchup for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series today, when Dave Stewart duels Alex Fernandez.

But Fernandez, a 24-year-old right-hander for the Chicago White Sox, said last night that Stewart isn't the only one in the pairing who has learned from experience.

"That has been the key factor for me this year," said Fernandez, who was 18-9 during the regular season. "What I learned in the last two years has made me a much better pitcher. The biggest thing I've learned is how to hold a team to one or two runs rather than give up four or five in an inning."

Of the pitchers working in the AL Championship Series, Fernandez has had the most success against his opponent. He was 3-1 with a 1.72 ERA against the Toronto Blue Jays this year and is 4-2 with a 1.58 ERA in his career.

"I stay with my game, which is basically power, but I change every time I see them," Fernandez said.

Fernandez said he will not be intimidated by Stewart's 6-0 record in postseason play. "No, not at all," he said. "He is a great pitcher, but I never worry about who I'm facing.

Stewart, who was 12-8 with a 4.44 ERA this year, finished strong. His aura of invincibility in the postseason is considered a plus.

"I maximize everything I have and put it into one game," Stewart said. "I approach it as if it's the last game you're ever going to see me pitch, and I don't want to leave a bad impression."

The big talk

Frank Thomas, whose status for last night's game was uncertain until shortly before game time, was just about everybody's main topic of conversation before the start of the AL Championship Series.

While White Sox manager Gene Lamont was deciding whether to use his star at first base or as the designated hitter, a Chicago television station was reporting that Thomas was about to become baseball's highest salaried player. Reportedly, the White Sox are close to making a six-year deal that will pay Thomas $44 million.

Barry Bonds is currently baseball's highest-salaried performer, having signed a $43.75 million, six-year contract with the San Francisco Giants last year. The White Sox have said they would not be conducting any negotiations during postseason play and declined to comment on the report.

Thomas was clear choice

Lamont's decision to use Thomas as DH may have been made easier by his other options. Neither Bo Jackson nor George Bell, the other DH candidates, has performed well against the Blue Jays.

Bell hit .065 (2-for-31) against his former team this year and has only a .129 average (9-for-70) for his career. Jackson hit .048 (1-for-21) this season and has hit only .199 (45-for-161) over the past seven years.

Guzman on the wild side

Juan Guzman tied a couple of dubious AL Championship Series records in the first inning last night. After walking Thomas, the Blue Jays right-hander threw three wild pitches, matching a record for one playoff game.

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