Saturday, October 27, 2001

Brenly ready to play aces more quickly




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        PHOENIX — Bob Brenly would prefer to be prudent. He is prepared to panic. The manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks wants to stick to routine in the World Series. He wants Curt Schilling to pitch rested, not rushed. He wants Randy Johnson's fastball, not his fatigue. He reserves the right, however, to toss his gameplan in the garbage.

        Brenly owns a pair of pitching aces, but Joe Torre holds a full house. If the Diamondbacks are to dethrone Torre's New York Yankees, desperate measures may be required. Brenly may have to ask more of his big guns because he's otherwise a little short on ammunition.

        “They both came into my office a few days ago and volunteered, if necessary, to come back on short rest,” Brenly said Friday afternoon. “As far as my feelings on that, I'm hoping we don't need to do that ...

        “I've maintained those guys are much better on regular rest and that I have a lot of confidence in the rest of our pitching staff to do what they are supposed to do. So, ideally, we will not have to do that, but if necessary, we are not ruling it out.”

Not much besides pair

        Schilling and Johnson combined for 43 wins and 665 strikeouts during the regular season. Arizona's scheduled Game 3 starter, Brian Anderson, was 4-9 with a 5.20 ERA. He replaces the lamentable Albie Lopez (two postseason starts, six innings, six earned runs).

        If the dropoff in Arizona's rotation were any more dramatic, people would be standing in line to bungee-jump from it.

        “All you hear about,” Yankees outfielder Paul O'Neill said, “is Randy John son, Curt Schilling and how they carry this team.”

        The top of Brenly's staff is of Cooperstown quality. The shallow end suggests Newark at low tide. The Yankees, by contrast, have four pedigreed starting pitchers (Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Orlando Hernandez) and the game's preeminent closer in Mariano Rivera. Disparity in pitching depth may not prove to be the decisive factor in the Fall Classic, but that would be the way to bet.

        Conventional wisdom says Schilling and Johnson will carry the Diamondbacks or they will collapse.

        “Conventional wisdom is wrong,” Schilling said. “It's not going to be (just) us winning the World Series. It has not been Randy and I winning this whole thing, anyway. It's been 25 guys, and it's going to take the entire roster to win four games from the New York Yankees.”

Made for an earlier era

        Not so long ago, two pitchers of Johnson and Schilling's stature would be more than enough to win a World Series. During the 1960s, when four-man rotations were commonplace, top pitchers frequently made three starts during seven-game series. St. Louis' Bob Gibson did it three times: in 1964, 1967 and 1968.

        Now that the five-day rotation is the industry standard, with three rounds of playoffs further taxing tired arms, with elite starters getting paid more than entire teams, fewer pitchers attempt to come back on short rest.

        Brenly's professed confidence in Anderson and Miguel Batista is perfectly appropriate before a series starts. One of a manager's chief responsibilities is to show confidence in players who may not merit it, on the theory that trust can always be earned and distrust is never forgotten. Whether Brenly is prepared to stake his season on his second-tier starters, however, is a question he doesn't really have to answer candidly unless the Yankees take a 2-1 or 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven.

        A shrewd manager never announces a personnel move before he is compelled to make it. Bob Brenly is new to the job, but he already appreciates the advantages of wiggle room.

        E-mail tsullivan@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/sullivan.

'We're not afraid,' D'backs proclaim
- SULLIVAN: Brenly ready to play aces more quickly
Justice gets nod over O'Neill today
Stinnett doesn't feel snakebit by Diamondbacks
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