<
>

Yanks' Vazquez to oppose Twins' Santana

MINNEAPOLIS -- Twins left-hander Johan Santana is ready to start against the Yankees on short rest. New York will send struggling right-hander Javier Vazquez to the mound.

Santana told Minnesota Twins pitching coach Rick
Anderson on Friday that his arm felt fine, which was all manager
Ron Gardenhire needed to hear.

Santana threw seven shutout innings in Minnesota's Game 1
victory Tuesday.

"You've got to throw your best at them, and if he wants the
ball, that's good enough for us," Gardenhire said Friday before
Game 3.

Santana, who went 13-0 in his last 15 regular-season starts, led
the league in ERA (2.61) and strikeouts (265). His durability has
been a concern for the Twins, who carefully watched his pitch
counts down the stretch. Santana has only one complete game in 75
major league starts and his 228 innings surpassed his career high
by nearly 70.

He's never thrown on three days' rest in the majors, either, but
this is the postseason -- when the adrenaline is always flowing.

"This time of year, it doesn't matter," Santana said. "I feel
pretty good, and that's the most important thing. ... You have to
make sure that you are ready, because if not the ball is going to
be out of the park."

The other option for Yankees manager Joe Torre was Orlando Hernandez,
but El Duque is bothered by a tired arm.

After making the All-Star team as an injury replacement, Vazquez
had a terrible second half -- going 4-5 with a 6.92 ERA. He won only
once in his last nine starts.

"I have to understand that I didn't do a good job in the second
half," Vazquez said Friday before Game 3. "You have to be your
own critic. I didn't do the best job. ... I'm just glad I'm getting
this opportunity."

For Torre, the biggest concern with Vazquez was not his
second-half struggles or his lack of postseason experience -- but
his tendency to put too much pressure on himself.

"Hopefully, he'll get through three or four innings and he'll
be comfortable," Torre said.

Last week in New York, Minnesota got seven hits and four runs
off Vazquez in 6 2/3 innings. Though he left open the possibility
of Hernandez starting, Torre said he informed Vazquez of his
decision Wednesday -- when he chose Kevin Brown as the Game 3
pitcher.

"The reason I don't think there's anything wrong is because his
warmup sessions have been very normal," Torre said. "He gets in
the game and tries to turn up the heat a little bit and has a
tendency to try to overdo things."