Furcal to be in court before Braves game


MARIETTA, Ga. -- Rafael Furcal's hearing on whether to revoke his probation was reset for Wednesday morning, hours before the Atlanta Braves open their first-round playoff series with the Houston Astros.

The shortstop's hearing was originally set for Friday. The
Braves travel to Houston on Friday, with Game 3 of the best-of-five
series to be held the following day.

The Cobb County Solicitor's Office released a statement Tuesday saying the probation revocation hearing had been rescheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. Game 1 of the division series is scheduled for
4:09 p.m.

Furcal was arrested Sept. 10 on drunken driving charges, his
second DUI arrest in four years. He was on probation in Cobb County
for a June 2000 arrest on similar charges.

The Angels managed to wrap up the AL West title without Jose Guillen. They're confident they'll be just as successful in the playoffs without their enigmatic left fielder.

Guillen was suspended for the final eight games of the regular
season and penalized two days' pay because of a tantrum he threw in
the dugout and clubhouse after being removed for a pinch-runner on
Sept. 25. He was left off Anaheim's roster for its playoff series
against Boston.

"I've been saying from day one that we have a team, and we're
supposed to make it work -- regardless of what happens," teammate
Darin Erstad said. "The front office makes moves during the
season, and whatever happens, happens. And this situation is no
different. We have to make it work."

The Red Sox are glad they don't have to face Guillen, who had 27 home runs and 104 RBIs this season, both career highs, and batted
.327 with runners in scoring position -- the eighth-best mark in the
AL. The Angels were 20-6 when he homered.

"That's going to hurt them a lot," Boston slugger David Ortiz
said. "Guillen is another player who you want to have in the
lineup. I mean, if you're talking about winning a World Series -- I
might punish him next year, or something like that. But you don't
get that many opportunities to win a World Series. I don't know
what he did, but it seems like what he did was really bad."

Thomson likely
The Braves are confident that John Thomson will be able to start Game 3 despite a strained oblique muscle.

Thomson (14-8, 3.72) threw in the bullpen Tuesday.

"He didn't throw 100 percent," manager Bobby Cox said. "I
would say he threw 75 percent. I think in a couple of more days,
he'll be able to start. Right now, unless he has a bad night, wakes
up and is really sore, he'll be starting Game 3."

Thomson was initially scheduled to start Game 2, but he hurt his
left side in his final start of the regular season. Cox bumped up
Mike Hampton to pitch on Thursday, giving Thomson an extra two days
of rest before the series resumes in Houston.

Pettitte sits
When Houston pitcher Andy Pettitte underwent season-ending elbow surgery in late August, the Astros appeared to be out of the playoff race.

Then, by winning 36 of their final 46 games, they managed to
claim the wild card.

So, would Pettitte have put off surgery if he had known his team
would make the playoffs?

"I was past the point of no return," Pettitte said. "I tried,
but I wouldn't have been able to help the team. All the things I
had to do just to get on the field to pitch, I exhausted every
option I had. To me, it was get it done and come back strong for
next year."

Though he has no regrets about having surgery, it's still going
to be hard for Pettitte to watch the playoffs. He took part in nine
straight postseasons with the New York Yankees, then signed with
the Astros because he wanted to pitch close to home.

"When I went to spring training, this is what the whole season
was for, right here," Pettitte said. "This is why I killed myself
in the offseason to try to get in shape. You feel like it's all for
a waste now. I'm not able to contribute."

Heavy heart
Jacque Jones will have his late father on his mind throughout the playoffs.

Jones' father died Friday, and the Minnesota outfielder
missed Monday's workout at Yankee Stadium. He flew all night to get
from California to New York, arriving at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Jones was in the starting lineup for Game 1 of the division
series, playing right field and batting second. He plans to play
the first two games at Yankee Stadium, then fly to California for
the funeral Thursday before rejoining the team for Game 3 in
Minnesota on Friday.

"This is what the team is for, we're there for him, it's not
just all about baseball," said Twins pitcher Brad Radke, who will
start Game 2. "He definitely has our support, and I know it's
tough for him. I think he'll end up dedicating his at-bats for the
games to his father."

Strong words
Before Game 1 of their first-round series, Cardinals reliever Ray King said he and teammate Steve Kline were the two best situational left-handers in the National League. Then he backed up those strong words.

In the eighth inning, King retired the heart of the Dodgers'
lineup in order. Steve Finley grounded out, Adrian Beltre popped
out and Shawn Green struck out.

Never mind that the Cardinals were leading 8-2. It was good

"I came in facing the guys I probably would face in a tight
situation," King said. "That's what made it good for me. You
challenge them and you put them on the defense."

King was 5-2 with a 2.61 ERA and Kline was 2-2 with a 1.79 ERA.

Mixed blessings
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire still is surprised over the fuss made last year when he said a long version "God Bless America" may have affected Twins pitcher Brad Radke in Game 2 of the playoff series against the New York Yankees.

With the score 1-all, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sang during the
seventh-inning stretch. The Yankees scored three runs in the bottom
half and won 4-1, then won the next two games to advance.

Gardenhire said then: "I never like those situations because it
takes a long time, and the pitcher has got to sit there for an
extra amount of time."

"Holy cow, I couldn't believe it," Gardenhire said Tuesday
before this year's opener. "It's nothing against, in this case,
but I'm just saying, it's takes a long time and I was worried about
my pitcher. He sat in the dugout for a while.

"I didn't know that I would be getting calls from the Third
Army Brigade saying that I wasn't American. Believe me, I grew up
an Army brat, lived on the Army bases with my dad and I'm as
patriotic as anybody in baseball. I always worry about my pitchers
when they sit, even in long innings when we are getting our brains
beat out and scoring a lot of runs.

"I'm still getting letters," Gardenhire said. "I'll be on the
top step, I guarantee."