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Wednesday, October 31, 2001
Brenly makes right decision to start Schilling

By Jayson Stark
ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- It is the biggest decision of his managerial life, all eight months of it.

But if Bob Brenly didn't want this aggravation, he would still have been sitting in the Fox TV booth Tuesday night, explaining to the world why Damian Miller forgot how to catch a pop-up.

Mr. Octobers
Curt Schilling is having one of the greatest postseason performances of all time, with a 4-0 record and 0.79 ERA in four starts. Including Schilling, here are 10 of the best since 1960:

Sandy Koufax, 1965 Dodgers
Went 2-1 in the World Series but allowed only one earned run for a 0.37 ERA. Pitched Game 7 on two days' rest and beat the Twins 2-0 with a 3-hitter.

Bob Gibson, 1967 Cardinals
Went 3-0, 1.00 with three complete games in World Series. In Game 7, was winning pitcher and hit a home run in 7-2 victory over Boston.

Mickey Lolich, 1968 Tigers
3-0, 1.67 with three complete games in World Series. Pitched Game 7 on two days' rest and beat Gibson 4-1 with a 5-hitter.

Orel Hershiser, 1988 Dodgers
Went 3-0 with one save and 1.05 ERA in six games. Beat A's twice in World Series.

Dave Stewart, 1989 A's
Started four games and went 4-0, 2.25 while averaging eight innings per start.

Jack Morris, 1991 Twins
Went 4-0 with 2.23 ERA in five starts. Won Game 7 of World Series, beating the Braves 1-0 in 10 innings.

John Smoltz, 1996 Braves
Went 4-1, 0.95 in five starts. Only loss was 1-0 to the Yankees in the World Series on an unearned run.

David Wells, 1998 Yankees
Won all four of his starts, compiling 2.93 ERA. Fanned 31 with just five walks in 30.2 innings.

Randy Johnson, 2001 Diamondbacks
Is 3-1, 1.36 in four starts, including two shutouts with 39 K's in 33 innings.
--David Schoenfield

So he wanted to be a manager, huh? Well, Bob Brenly is an official manager now. He has made the call that will define the first season of his managerial career, and may just define it for however many years that career lasts.

Bob Brenly has done what he had to do. He is bringing back Curt Schilling, a pitcher who just climbed out of a way-back machine from the 1960s, to pitch Game 4 of the World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks on three days' rest.

Some people will say manager Brenly panicked. Some people will say he got greedy. Some people will say he's spent too much time in the 112-degree desert sun with his dome unretracted.

If Curt Schilling loses Wednesday night, there will be so many second-guessers backed up on the always-open talk-show phone lines, the underground cables may sizzle into one giant coaxial quesadilla.

If the Diamondbacks lose this World Series, Bob Brenly won't stop hearing about this decision until Thanksgiving -- of the year 2083.

But Bob Brenly made the right decision -- whether it works or not. And if the second-guessers disagree, they can call us any time. Operators are standing by.

Even after Arizona's 2-1 loss Tuesday in Game 3, Brenly's team leads the World Series, 2 games to 1. If the Yankees are going to win it, they still need to win three of the next four games.

If Schilling and Randy Johnson were to stay on normal rest and come back just once more apiece in the Series, all the Yankees had to do was find a way to beat them once in those four games (assuming, of course, the Yankees also beat Arizona's more pedestrian starters).

Now -- with Schilling set up to become the first pitcher to start Games 1, 4 and 7 of a World Series since Jack Morris in 1991 -- the Yankees have to face the co-CEOs of Aces Inc. three times, and figure out a way to beat them twice.

What the heck is wrong with that plan?

"I don't care if Curt has three days' rest or one day's rest," said his buddy, Mark Grace. "It doesn't matter. I'll take him out there any time."

And so would we, because we know him too well.

For one thing, Schilling wouldn't let his manager make any other decision. Nothing new there. All of his managers have discovered he's impossible to take out of a game, impossible to keep from taking the ball, impossible to argue out of anything -- from starting Game 4 of the World Series to how they'll all draft their fantasy football teams.

So since he woke up Sunday, the day after throwing 102 pitches in Game 1, Schilling has spent enough time in Brenly's ear to qualify as ear wax.

He's been "coming into my office every day," Brenly confessed Tuesday, "and telling me that he can do it."

And by every day, he means every minute of every day. Schilling paraded into the manager's office again before Tuesday's game, all but bowling over Joe Buck and Tim McCarver -- who had arrived for the daily manager's TV briefing -- like a poor man's Jerome Bettis.

"I went to him today," Schilling said Tuesday night, "and told him that I had prepared the last two days and today as if I was pitching tomorrow -- and that I wanted the ball, if that would help him make his decision."

So he wanted the ball. He got the ball. We bet he'll know what to do with it, too.

"You guys," he told the media inquisitors afterward, "are the ones that are going to make the big deal out of the three days' rest. It doesn't matter to me, the way I feel right now, whether it's three days or four days."

We're talking about a man with a 0.79 postseason ERA this year, a man who has joined six other starters to win four games in one postseason, a man who has risen to meet every October moment he has ever been allowed to meet.

So why would this one be any different?

OK, we know all the arguments: Since 1999, other pitchers have made 15 starts on three days' rest and gone 1-9, with a 9.73 ERA. The lone win was by a changeup guy, Jamie Moyer, two weeks ago in Game 5 of the Division Series. And Moyer was pitching against another guy on three days' rest -- Chuck Finley.

Curt Schilling is no Jamie Moyer. But he isn't other pitchers, either.

"He's a workhorse," said catcher Damian Miller, "an absolute workhorse. Randy is, too. But Curt's one of those Bob Gibson-type guys. He just wants the baseball. Then he gets it, he rears back and he gets you out."

Gibson, as a matter, of fact, is the last pitcher to win Games 1, 4 and 7 of the same World Series -- all the way back in 1967. (Mickey Lolich is actually the last to win three starts, winning Games 2, 5 and 7 in 1968).

The second-guessers would say here that Gibson and Lolich did that after a lifetime of starting on three days' rest. And Schilling has spent a lifetime starting on four days' rest. But he is still a pitcher who comes right out of a '60s time warp. Heck, even his cap looks like he's been wearing it since the '60s.

"He's told me many times," said Arizona GM Joe Garagiola Jr., "that every time he takes the mound, he takes it with the idea of finishing what he starts, of pitching all nine innings. That's an attitude you just don't see much anymore. There are a lot of pitchers out there who think if they've gone six, they've done their job."

We know the other argument against this move is that Schilling, for all intents and purposes, has never started in the big leagues on short rest. The only time he did, this July 21, it came after a light tower short-circuited on him after two innings in San Diego three days earlier, causing Johnson to finish that game the next day in relief.

"So I guess that means he'll go out and pitch two (Wednesday)," the Unit joked, "and then I'll go in the next day and punch out 16 in relief."

Uh, we'd bet against that one. But Johnson has made enough career starts on three days' rest (10) that he understands that doing it this time of year is actually easier, in some ways, than doing it in May or August.

Curt Schilling
Curt Schilling is 4-0 with a 0.79 ERA in four postseason starts heading into Wednesday's Game 4.

"Obviously, the circumstances are a little different in a World Series," the Unit said. "And things you don't think you're really able to do during the regular season, you can do. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing if you know how to channel it. You can make it work for you.

"Curt only threw 102 pitches the other day. I don't think that's even an issue in whether he's effective. It's just something where he's had his mind set to pitch Game 4. I think he's prepared to do it -- and has been preparing to do it. ... And as long as that mind-set is there, sometimes you're able to do physical things you couldn't ordinarily because your mind-set allows you to do it."

Don't tell us power pitchers can't come back on short rest, because the last time Johnson did it, in the '97 Division Series, he struck out 13 Orioles in eight innings. John Smoltz beat the Pirates on three days' rest in the '92 playoffs.

Stewart blew away the Red Sox on three days' rest in the '90 playoffs. And Morris was pitching on three days' rest the night he pitched one of the great World Series games of modern times, throwing 10 shutout innings against the Braves to win Game 7 of the '91 World Series.

Those guys weren't exactly knuckleballers. And we're not talking about the '50s. All of those performances took place in the '90s. If they can do it, Curt Schilling can do it.

The other reason Schilling is capable of doing this is that he's not just a guy throwing 90 percent fastballs anymore. His repertoire is more diverse than ever. His understanding of how to use it is better than ever.

"Obviously, his fastball is so good, he's still a power pitcher," Miller said. "But he's a four-pitch pitcher now. He can finesse you. He can power you. He can do it all now. And that's why he's moved up into that elite class of pitchers. He can do it all."

Had Brenly gone the other direction and then seen this World Series stretch to a seventh game, who would he rather have out there in Game 7 -- Schilling or Brian Anderson? As well as Anderson pitched Tuesday, even he would rather see Schilling out there, under any scenario.

"The thing about Curt is, he's such a team guy," Grace said, "that we know he wouldn't take the baseball if he wasn't ready. He wouldn't put us in that predicament if he's not ready."

Oh, he's ready, all right. And he couldn't be more willing if he'd rented a billboard at Yankee Stadium to announce it. And he might be more able to outduel El Duque Hernandez on short rest than he would have to outpitch Mike Mussina on regular rest the next day.

So Bob Brenly has taken a chance well worth taking. And just by taking it, he's made this one of the most intriguing World Series in years.

They say the beauty of baseball is that it's so ripe for second-guessing. Well, if that's true, then what we have here right now is one beautiful World Series.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com.