Now, Torre has advice on realism for Orioles With shoe on other foot, he pushes 'card' focus


NEW YORK -- New York Yankees manager Joe Torre has the same advice for the Orioles that he gave his own team at about this time last year.

Forget about it.

Focus on the wild-card race.

"I think the focus has to be a little different for them," Torre said. "They've got to concentrate on the Red Sox and then go from there."

These are not the arrogant meanderings of an overconfident manager, but the advice of someone who knows what it's like to be in a seemingly impossible situation -- the situation the Yankees faced last year when the Orioles got off to a great start and became only the sixth major-league team to spend every day of the regular season in first place.

"I got chewed out last year for saying that we were giving up on the division title -- which I didn't actually say -- but you have to be realistic," Torre said. "You aim for the wild card, and then you shoot for bigger things."

One year ago today, the Orioles completed a three-game sweep in Atlanta to move nine games ahead of the pack in the American League East. They had recently swept a pair of two-game series against the Yankees to solidify their early grip on the division race.

Torre turned his attention to the second playoff berth -- and took some heat from the New York media and owner George Steinbrenner.

The Yankees went on to win the AL wild-card berth, but lost an exciting series to the Cleveland Indians in the Division Series. This year, they are the dominant team in the regular season, as the Orioles found out when they lost all three games in the first series between the clubs in May.

"They are a better ballclub than that," Torre said. "We swept them, but we were sky-high and they were [struggling] at the time."

The Yankees still are on top of the baseball world. They lead the Red Sox by 10 games and hold a seemingly insurmountable, 18 1/2 -game advantage over the Orioles , but Torre won't be able to put his "A" lineup on the field for the three-game series that starts tonight at Camden Yards.

Center fielder Bernie Williams is hobbled by a sprained knee and shortstop Derek Jeter is sidelined with an abdominal strain. Those injuries should make things a little easier on the ailing Orioles pitching staff.

It is a tough time to be short-handed. The Yankees just began a long run against some of the toughest teams in either league, including the Indians, Orioles, Braves and Mets.

Pub Date: 6/15/98

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