Coppinger could be Game 4 starter Johnson is tinkering with rotation to give everyone four days' rest

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NEW YORK -- Orioles manager Davey Johnson said he'd like to rest his starting pitchers as much as possible in the American League Championship Series, and, to that end, he is leaning toward using four starters.

Scott Erickson starts Game 1 today, followed by Mike Mussina in Game 2 and David Wells in Game 3. Johnson said he will use rookie Rocky Coppinger, who has yet to pitch in the postseason, in Game 4, and then come back with Erickson on four days' rest in Game 5.

At one point, Johnson was considering starting Wells in Game 2, on three days' rest, but decided against it. The Orioles went to a four-man rotation in the second half, and Johnson said he believes that tired his staff out.

He wants no part of that in the playoffs.

"Right now, if I had to tell you, I'm probably leaning toward using four starters, because of the workload put on Mussina and some of my other starters, because we did work on three days' rest a lot this year," Johnson said. "I don't think it's the time of year right now for a couple of guys in the rotation to be going on short rest. But I hold the right to change that."

Pettitte gets the start

The Yankees also altered their rotation yesterday, and Andy Pettitte will start Game 1 tonight.

Right-hander David Cone was scheduled to start tonight, but he missed most of the season with an aneurysm in his upper arm and did not return until September. Cone has struggled in his past few starts, and had a no-decision in the Yankees' 14-11 loss to the Orioles on Sept. 19.

Yankees manager Joe Torre said he prefers to pitch Pettitte in Game 1 so that he can use him as many as three times in the seven-game series, if need be. Cone's arm is not up to such a task. Now, Cone will start Game 2, pitching on an unusually high seven days' rest.

Pettitte is a left-hander, and Torre said that also factored into his decision because the Orioles were just 24-25 against left-handers this year. Pettitte experienced elbow problems this year, although he pitched on three days' rest a few times in September, and said he believes he could make three starts in this series if need be.

"There's been times where I had to come back on three days' rest for big games, and I've been able to do it," Pettitte said. "My elbow feels a lot better. The last month and a half, I've felt a lot better. I want the ball. I want to go out there whenever they want me to pitch."

Surhoff questionable

B. J. Surhoff's availability could alter the Orioles' roster for the ALCS.

Johnson said there is a 50-50 chance that Surhoff, who has an inflamed right knee and sore left hamstring, could start in left field today. If Surhoff cannot start, Johnson said he would go with either Mike Devereaux, a good defensive outfielder, or Pete Incaviglia, a power hitter who does not cover as much ground.

Surhoff, known for pushing himself through injuries, took it easy yesterday to nurse his aches.

"I won't know until I get in the field," Surhoff said. "I'm just going to ice it down and rest. I'll try to use a little more intelligence. It's not important how I perform [in yesterday's workout] that matters; it's the game that counts."

Alexander might lose spot

If Surhoff cannot play the outfield, then Johnson said he would likely add outfielder Tony Tarasco to the playoff roster in place of little-used infielder Manny Alexander.

Alexander was used as a pinch runner in the Division Series, a role Tarasco also can fill. Tarasco, who had shoulder surgery June 24, worked his way through the minors during a late-season rehabilitation stint and can now throw and hit.

Alexander spent the entire season with the Orioles, but hit just .103 (7-for-68) with four RBIs in 68 at-bats. Tarasco hit .238 with nine RBIs in 84 at-bats.

Mills to throw off mound

Reliever Alan Mills, who has pitched just one-third of an inning in the past two weeks because of a groin injury, is scheduled to throw off a mound today.

Pitching coach Pat Dobson said the Orioles are counting on Mills to be available for this series. Mills aggravated his injury during the last week of the regular season and did not pitch in the Division Series against the Cleveland Indians.

"I played catch [Sunday], and I felt good," Mills said. "I definitely feel a lot better. Hopefully, everything will go good. I didn't feel like a part of the team celebration in Cleveland. I want to be a part of this series."

O'Neill has sore hamstring

Yankees right fielder Paul O'Neill is hobbled by a sore left hamstring, but Torre said he is reluctant to leave him out of the starting lineup.

O'Neill hit .302 with 19 homers and 91 RBIs this year. In four playoff games, he's hitting just .133 (2-for-15), with no RBIs.

"When you get to postseason play, you like to play the guys that have been playing all year," Torre said. "That's why Paul O'Neill is in there. He wants it.

"But that was good for me to know, how devoted he is right now, and how hard he's trying," Torre said. "If we find it's going to be physically impossible for him, we'll do something about it."

A fated matchup

Johnson and Cal Ripken agree that the mystique of the Orioles-Yankees rivalry, and playoff games at Yankee Stadium, are what baseball is all about.

"Having played here in the early '80s, I do recognize how exciting a series can be here," Ripken said. "Baseball doesn't get any more exciting than the playoffs -- period -- but the excitement level at Yankee Stadium is unbelievable."

Johnson got his taste as an Orioles second baseman in the 1960s.

"I think it was fate," Johnson said. "I think this was meant to be. There's always been a great rivalry between the Yankees and Orioles.

"I know when I was a player coming up, the Yankees were the team we had to beat if we wanted to win the American League. And we did. I think it only fitting for us to go head-to-head-again to decide the American League."

Torre asks fans to behave

No one doubts that Roberto Alomar will receive a nasty reception from the Bronx crowd after the incident in Toronto, where he spat on umpire John Hirschbeck. But Torre hopes Yankees fans don't endanger the players.

Alomar was booed heavily in Cleveland, and said he expects more of the same from the Yankee Stadium fans, who are known league-wide for their venom toward opposing players.

"Let them voice any opinion they want to voice, but leave it at that," Torre said. "Throwing any type of object on the field would be a disgrace to me."

Players have been pelted with batteries and other objects during Yankees games.

Miscellaneous

The Orioles set a major-league record with 257 homers this year, but hit just 12 against the Yankees, the fewest they hit off any team. Mussina is 0-3 with a 6.32 ERA against the Yankees this year. Of his three road losses, two came in New York. Yankees setup specialist Mariano Rivera had three losses this year, two of them to the Orioles. The Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro hit the only homer Rivera yielded this year. Rivera had a 5.79 ERA against the Orioles -- he had a 2.09 ERA overall. Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco pitched 6 2/3 innings against the Yankees in the regular season and did not give up a run.

Game D refunds

Orioles season-ticket holders with tickets marked "Game D" for the coming American League Championship Series should hold their tickets for a refund, because there will not be a fourth game in Baltimore.

Game D tickets would have been used if the Orioles had won the American League East title. Those holding Game D tickets can )) go to any NationsBank branch between Oct. 21 and Nov. 30 for a full refund.

Fans who have purchased tickets are reminded to use them in the following sequence: Game A tickets are for Friday at 8 p.m. That is the first game played in Baltimore and Game 3 of the ALCS. Game B tickets are for Saturday, and Game C tickets are for Sunday.

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Today's schedule

Orioles at New York

Starter ......... Line ..... W-L ......... 1996 ERA

Erickson (R) .... 8:07 ..... 13-12 ....... 4.99

Pettitte (L) .... -145 ..... 21-8 ........ 3.92

Pub Date: 10/08/96

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