NEW YORK -- Kevin Brown crouched in the corner of the
interview room beneath Yankee Stadium, his hands cupped together,
listening intently as Joe Torre spoke. Then, as the New York
manager walked out, he spotted the pitcher he had just picked to
start Game 3 against Minnesota.
"Hey, Brownie, I didn't know you were here," Torre said. "I
wouldn't have said that."
Just a month after breaking his left hand while punching a
clubhouse wall in frustration, the right-hander was selected over
Orlando Hernandez and Javier Vazquez to pitch Friday at the
Metrodome against Carlos Silva.
Such is the status of the Yankees' pitching staff that a
39-year-old with an ailing back is the best option in the
best-of-five series, tied at 1 after New York's 7-6, 12-inning win
"It's a great honor," Brown said, his voice filling with
emotion. "I think a lot of people in the clubhouse know now what
I've been through this year that may not have known beforehand, but
things kind of came to light. And I appreciate the opportunity. It
was a while there I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get out
of bed to get back on the field."
Brown has been surly for much of the season, pitching in pain,
and he said Wednesday he wasn't sure whether his back would need an
operation for the second time in 2½ years. He's pitched just twice
since Sept. 3, the night he shocked the Yankees by trying to punch
out a wall during a 3-1 loss to Baltimore.
With Brown looking on, Torre described the team's feeling about
Brown, an intense and often unsociable competitor who apologized to
his teammates for his bizarre behavior.
"We were all angry for a short period of time. Kevin talked to
the club a few days later," Torre said. "Just like you dismiss a
loss yesterday, you just dismiss it. I know everybody listens a lot
to what Gary Sheffield said, and they were teammates in Miami when
they won the World Series in '97, and you could not have anybody
talking in more glowing terms than Gary did about Brownie as far as
competitiveness, and that's probably part of the reason why he did
what he did."
Hernandez, coming off shoulder surgery in May 2003, won his
first eight decisions after rejoining the Yankees at midseason, but
he lost his final two and has been bothered by what he calls a
"dead arm." El Duque threw a bullpen session before Game 2 and
sounded hopeful about pitching in Game 4 Saturday.
"Initially, I was a little scared, but as the bullpen went
along, I felt a little better," Hernandez said through a
translator. "I feel better now. I'm happier because I'm
Torre hasn't decided whether his fourth game starter will be
Hernandez or Vazquez, who is struggling with his mechanics and has
one win in nine starts since Aug. 6. Torre didn't make a decision
on Game 3 until Wednesday.
In his first start back, Brown got just two outs at Boston on
Sept. 26, allowing four runs and six hits to the Red Sox. Last
Saturday at Toronto, he looked far sharper, giving up only one hit
and an unearned run in five innings.
"We really liked what we saw Saturday," Torre said, adding
that Brown has felt good all week and his 10 previous postseason
starts were a big factor.
For Brown, dealing with his back has become part of life,
perhaps even motivation. In June 2002, he had an operation to
repair a herniated disc and disc fragments that pressed on a nerve.
Expected to be the Yankees' ace after New York acquired him from
Los Angeles last December, he went 10-6 with a 4.09 ERA and was on
the disabled list from June 10 to July 29 because of his back. He
wouldn't describe how the back feels.
"No one has to deal with the pain but me. It's my
responsibility and my burden to bear," he said. "The big thing
is, despite whatever you're feeling, being able to go out and throw
the ball. And I've done it in the past, and I've done it quite
well. I've had some really good years when my back really bothered
He made it sound as if he won't know for a while whether more
surgery would help.
"It will be, I'm sure, a series of tests to see exactly where
things stand," he said. "Once you have back surgery, your
diagnostic tests aren't necessarily as easy to read. You have scar
tissue, you have that kind of stuff going on, so it's not as easy