Henderson incident apparently defused; Valentine denies star packed up, left after Game 4 outfield switch; NLCS notebook


NEW YORK -- Future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson was back in the New York Mets' starting lineup yesterday, a day after leaving Game 4 in a huff and sparking a clubhouse controversy.

Henderson was miffed Saturday night when manager Bobby Valentine pulled him for defensive replacement Melvin Mora at the start of the eighth inning.

His gripe: That Valentine -- caught up in plotting his pitching strategy -- embarrassed him by letting him take the field before removing him from the game.

The veteran outfielder reportedly told teammates, "I'm outta here" and headed for the clubhouse. He was not in the dugout for a tense eighth inning in which the Braves rallied from a run down and then the Mets recovered to remain alive in the National League Championship Series.

Relief pitcher Turk Wendell implied after the game that Henderson had quit on the team, and a couple of other unnamed teammates criticized his behavior in the local papers.

But Valentine disputed a New York Post report that Henderson had packed up his locker and left the stadium before his teammates returned to the clubhouse after the game.

"I dare say that should be clarified somehow," Valentine said. "I don't know if I can totally clarify it, but I can tell you this: There were no bags packed, without a doubt.

"I can tell you that he was in the clubhouse after I did an interview on the field, without a doubt. And there's a lot of talk about some things that were said, and I have no first-hand knowledge of any of them.

"I can tell you from first-hand knowledge, from what my coach told me when I saw him that [Henderson's] bags, which are things that he would put his equipment in were over his locker, just like everyone else's at the end of the game."

Valentine also conceded that he had handled the substitution poorly, explaining that, in the heat of the moment, he had neglected between innings to tell Mora that he was in and Henderson that he was out.

"I talked to my coaches about that today," he said, "and the timing of that was very bad -- in particular -- for a player of Rickey's stature.

"And I expressed those concerns yesterday to him, and I think to [the media], even though some people who quoted me didn't get the entire quote in where I said that I would not like anybody to think anything less of him than of the Hall of Famer that he is.

"So, some of my coaches thought that for a 20-year veteran it was improper to take him out at that time. I believe my job is to do what's proper to win the game, regardless of timing."

Strange play

In an afternoon of odd strategy, the strangest play of the game may have been the abortive squeeze-bunt attempt by Braves ace Greg Maddux with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

Maddux had fouled off four two-strike pitches when he suddenly squared to bunt. He missed the ball and hung up teammate Ryan Klesko between third and home for an inning-ending double play.

Hershiser still clutch

Veteran pitcher Orel Hershiser pulled starter Masato Yoshii out of a potentially disastrous situation in the fourth inning, then went on to pitch 3 1/3 innings of one-hit relief to remind everyone what a great postseason pitcher he has been throughout his major-league career.

The scoreless outing dropped Hershiser's ERA in Division Series and LCS competition to 1.92, and it's not a small sample.

Hershiser has pitched a total of 89 innings in those situations and is 5-0 in those games. Factor in World Series play and he's a combined 8-3 in the postseason, with a 2.61 ERA.

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