2001 MLB Postseason - Indians vs. Mariners

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M's brace for first C.C. encounter

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Posted: Saturday October 13, 2001 12:07 AM
Updated: Saturday October 13, 2001 2:36 AM
  C.C. Sabathia Manager Charlie Manuel hopes C.C. Sabathia can maintain his poise for his first postseason start. Tom Pigeon/Allsport

CLEVELAND (AP) -- As a service to the Seattle Mariners, who didn't face C.C. Sabathia this season, here's a brief scouting report on the Cleveland Indians' rookie pitcher:

He's big. Real big.

He throws hard. Real hard.

Sabathia won 17 games this season and stabilized Cleveland's shaky staff, and Saturday he'll get a chance to show the Mariners what he's got as he starts Game 3 of the AL playoffs.

It will be the biggest test so far for the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Sabathia, who a year ago was facing teams like the Harrisburg Senators while pitching Class AA ball for Cleveland's Akron affiliate.

"We've seen some film and he's certainly got a good arm," said Mariners manager Lou Piniella, who was reminded that his team hasn't done well when facing a pitcher for the first time. "Well, let's hope that's not the case on Saturday."

No Jitters at the Jake
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Aaron Sele and C.C. Sabathia look forward to Saturday. Start
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After being shut out in the series opener, the Mariners bounced back to win Game 2 and tie the best-of-five series 1-1 as Jamie Moyer pitched six strong innings and Seattle scored four runs in the first off Chuck Finley en route to a 5-1 win.

The teams were unable to work out on Friday at Jacobs Field because of rain, forcing players to take batting practice in the ballpark's indoor hitting facilities.

Some of the Mariners watched movies -- of Sabathia, who will oppose Seattle's Aaron Sele.

"We looked at his tape for a half hour, 45 minutes," said Mariners manager Lou Piniella. "Just so our hitters could get as familiar with him as possible. But we know he has good stuff."

Piniella's film review?

"He's got a good changeup and a real nice breaking ball," he said. "You just have to lay off it. I saw where he throws a lot of balls out of the strike zone."

That wasn't the case most of the season as Sabathia, who will be the youngest pitcher to start an AL division series game, led all rookies in wins (17), starts (33) and strikeouts (177).

Sabathia has been everything the Indians could have hoped for this season.

He was a long shot to make the roster during spring training as many in the Indians' organization wanted to have the 21-year-old pitcher start the season at Class AAA Buffalo before coming to Cleveland.

But Indians manager Charlie Manuel didn't want to wait. He knew Sabathia was special from the moment he saw the former first-round draft pick blow his 95 mph fastball past big-league hitters.

Manuel, too, saw a first-year pitcher with the composure of a 10-year veteran.

"I started noticing it in spring training, and that's one of the reasons why I fought to keep him on the team," Manuel said. "I felt like watching him during the season, he only got better and he stayed focus on what he's doing. He does keep his composure real well."

The easy-going Sabathia will find out just how cool he is on Saturday in the biggest game of his young life.

He expects to be a little nervous.

"I haven't had any jitters yet," he said. "But I'm pretty sure I will. Hopefully, I can get them out of the way early and settle down into the game. I don't think I'll get out of whack."

Indians reliever Paul Shuey thinks Sabathia will have an advantage over the Mariners, and not only because they haven't faced him.

With first pitch scheduled for 4:20 p.m., if it's a sunny day, shadows creeping across the Jake's infield will make it tough for hitters to pick up the ball.

Game 3 of the 1997 ALCS between Cleveland and Baltimore also started at 4:05 and hitters were clueless as the teams combined for 33 strikeouts. Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina set a series record with 15 Ks.

"Those guys don't know what they're getting into," Shuey said. "No matter how much film you watch, there's nothing like being out there against live pitching. The shadows will make it even tougher. I like C.C's chances."

Notes: Sele is 0-3 in four postseason starts, but his teams have scored just four runs for him. He got a no-decision in a 2-1 win to Chicago in the Division Series last year, lost 8-2 to New York in the 2000 ALCS, and his Texas teams were shut out by New York in 1998 and '99. ... Police and bomb-sniffing dogs combed every corner of Jacobs Field, even going into the shower stalls in both clubhouses. ... The Mariners are 4-1 in Game 3s, including 3-0 in the Division Series. ... Sabathia picked up his mother, Margie, at the airport Friday morning. She flew in with family members and friends to see her son's first playoff start. "She's more nervous than I am," he said.

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