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Jones not sure he can play Thursday

10/7/2004

ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones aggravated an injury to his right hand in Game 1 of the NL division series and doesn't know if he can play Thursday.

Jones, the Braves third baseman and cleanup hitter,
said his hand began swelling during the game, making it difficult
for him to get his bat around against Houston's Roger Clemens in
the Astros' 9-3 win Wednesday.

Jones, who went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, said he was not
sure he would start in Game 2.

"I want to be out there, but if I'm doing more harm than good,
I don't want to be out there," Jones said.

Jones was struck on the hand by a pitch in the next-to-last game
of the regular season. On Monday, it was too sore to take any
swings during batting practice.

By Wednesday, Jones was ready to play the opener against the
Astros, but he aggravated the injury while diving for a ground ball
hit by Morgan Ensberg in the fifth inning.

Battery with a catch
Bartolo Colon turned around his first season with the Angels when Jose Molina was behind the plate.

So when it came to choosing between Jose and Benige Molina to be his catcher in Game 2 of the division Series against the Red
Sox, it was a no-brainer: Jose got the nod.

"Bartolo really doesn't have a preference. It's just a comfort
level that's extraordinary, with what Jose has done with Bartolo,"
manager Mike Scioscia said. "Those guys have done very well down
the stretch in a lot of key games and we are going to stay with
it."

The younger Molina has been catching Colon through most of the second half of the season and has been credited with helping turn
the right-hander's season around. Colon is 12-4 since July 3, and
Jose Molina has started in 10 of those wins.

Colon finished 18-12 with a 5.01 ERA in 34 starts, after going
5-8 with a 6.57 ERA in his first 17 outings. Scioscia had Bengie
Molina behind the plate for two of Colon's starts in September
because he wanted his bat in the lineup as much as possible in the
postseason -- and wanted Colon to get reaccustomed to him. But those
plans changed when the Angels lost Game 1.

"Bartolo's been night and day from his first 15 starts, when he
was having trouble with his mechanics, to where he is now,"
Scioscia said. "If you look at him statistically, over his last 20
or so starts, I think he ranks right up there with anybody in
baseball."

Rocket science
Roger who?

As he tried to walk into the interview room after Wednesday's
game, Houston's Roger Clemens was stopped by a Turner Field
security guard, who asked the 300-game winner for his ID.

"Open the door," Clemens demanded.

Reporters standing nearby told the security guard Clemens was a
pitcher.

Clemens, trailed by his family, was not amused by the incident.

"You need to get some people here who know what they're
doing," he said.

Dance fever
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire loves to see New York's Ruben Sierra coming to bat at Yankee Stadium -- even though
he's a dangerous hitter.

"I like his song when he comes to the plate; I want to tell you
that, too," Gardenhire said. "We were trying to figure out who
sings that: 'I like the way she moves ...' We were trying to
figure that out, I'm telling my bench coach, 'Will you please shut
up, I'm trying to concentrate here.' That's a true story. Really
tense out there."

Celebrating his 39th birthday, Sierra was the designated hitter
for the second consecutive game Wednesday night, leaving Kenny Lofton on the bench again -- even with right-hander Brad Radke
pitching for Minnesota.

"It's just a call," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "I can't
say anything negative about Kenny because he's not playing. I think
Ruben is having some good at-bats now, he's a switch-hitter, and I
just feel comfortable playing him."

Lofton had a .346 on-base percentage and scored 51 runs this
season. He complained earlier in the year about his limited playing
time.

"I talked to Kenny about this today, because he was, I think, a
little surprised that he wasn't playing," Torre said. "I just
told him, 'Hopefully, it's going to be a long postseason and just
be ready to play.' But it's just a decision on how I feel, as
opposed to what you didn't do."

Lima time
Jose Lima, who'll start Game 3 of the Dodgers' first-round series against the Cardinals, said there's no easy way to pitch to St. Louis' powerful lineup.

"Don't try to trick them, don't try to be foolish, just go up
there and try to challenge them," Lima said. "You cannot go out
there and try to work the count on those guys because that's what
they want, they look for one pitch to hurt you."

Lima said there are no weak spots throughout that lineup, even
.247-hitting catcher Mike Matheny.

Lima relishes the opportunity to face St. Louis after fighting
his way back to the major leagues last season. He had to prove
himself with the independent Newark Bears before getting signed by
the Royals, and then going 13-5 for the Dodgers after coming to
camp as a non-roster invitee.

"You see the smile on my face every day?" Lima said. "Come
on. Being on the playoff roster and pitching on Saturday? Come on.
This is unbelievable. This is probably the most enjoyable year of
my career."

Just another start
Houston's Roy Oswalt will be making his first postseason start Thursday against the Braves. He believes it will feel like just another outing.

Oswalt said he's been following Roger Clemens' advice to treat
all starts down the stretch like he already was pitching in the
playoffs. The Astros had to win 36 of their last 46 games to
capture the wild card.

"For the last month, we've been approaching every game as a
postseason game just because they were depending on us to put up
innings for the team, as far as going deep into games," Oswalt
said. "We've been trying to do it every game. It's no different
from the regular season. We had to get here first."