O'Neill doesn't know whether he'll play in the LCS
Posted: Monday October 11, 1999 11:52 PM
Paul O'Neill's fractured rib may keep him out of the beginning of the next series. Andy Lyons/Allsport
NEW YORK (AP) -- With the start of the AL championship series just two days away, the New York Yankees learned Monday that right fielder Paul O'Neill has a fractured rib and might not play.
O'Neill was injured Oct. 2 when he crashed into a low fence chasing a foul ball at Tampa Bay, then went 1-for-4 in each of the first two games of the AL playoffs against Texas.
Yankees manager Joe Torre benched him for the clincher, convinced the injury was hampering O'Neill. The team sent the 36-year-old outfielder to Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center on Monday for new X-rays and an MRI, which showed a small fracture of the 10th rib on his right side.
"Sometimes, I guess, it shows up later," O'Neill said in the players' parking lot outside Yankee Stadium after returning from the hospital.
Rosters for the championship series must be set by 10 a.m. ET Wednesday, and the Yankees won't make any decisions until then, general manager Brian Cashman said.
O'Neill, who hasn't played since Thursday, intended to take batting practice Tuesday along with running and outfield drills.
"I'll go out and see if it's possible to play," he said.
O'Neill, who hit .285 this season with 19 homers and 110s RBIs, is an intense competitor who plays through pain. In 1996, he hobbled on a torn hamstring for much of the season.
"I think Joe Torre and the medical staff will be able to see how debilitating it's going to be," Cashman said, adding the decision would be based on how O'Neill works out.
O'Neill admitted the injury was bothering him.
"It's just there," he said.
If O'Neill can't play for the start of the best-of-7 series Wednesday night, the Yankees probably will activate Shane Spencer, who wasn't on the roster for the first-round sweep of Texas.
"With him in there, we have a hitter capable of producing a lot of runs," Darryl Strawberry said.
To open a spot, New York probably would cut either Clay Bellinger, used mostly as a pinch runner, or pitcher Hideki Irabu, who didn't pitch against the Rangers.
A day after arriving home from Texas, the Yankees were given the day off Monday.
Still, a few players showed up at Yankee Stadium, including Strawberry, probable Game 1 starter Orlando 'El Duque' Hernandez and closer Mariano Rivera.
Rivera ran wind sprints in the outfield as a bright sun beat down on the nearly empty ballpark.
"I don't want to take too much time off," he said. "I want to be strong and sharp."
Before the Red Sox and Indians met in the decisive fifth game of their first-round playoff, the Yankees said they were just happy the other series went the maximum.
"I'm hoping for a 21-inning game tonight," Cashman said, "I'm hoping for an extra-inning, rain-delayed slugfest."
The defending World Series champions, seeking their third title in four seasons and 25th overall, project an aura of superiority, that they're above it all. And who can blame them? They've won 10 straight postseason games.
"We just have to keep the focus on what we do," Strawberry said.
New York was 7-3 against Cleveland, but just 4-8 against Boston, including three straight losses at Yankee Stadium from Sept. 10-12 that cut its AL East to 3 1/2 games. The only other teams to win their season series against the Yankees were Anaheim and Kansas City.
The Yankees are quite familiar with the Indians: They beat them 4-2 in last year's championship series and lost 3-2 in the first round in '97. They also know Boston, their most traditional rival.
"It doesn't make a difference," Rivera said.
Torre came to the ballpark, worked out, then spent some time in his office, but was uncharacteristically short with reporters, declining to answer questions.
Hernandez also wouldn't talk. He allowed two hits in eight shutout innings during the playoffs opener and is 3-0 with an 0.41 ERA in three postseason starts.
Torre must decide whether to follow his first-round rotation -- Andy Pettitte in Game 2 and Roger Clemens in Game 3 -- or try to insert David Cone, who didn't get to pitch against Texas because the series never got to a fourth game.
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