NEW YORK — After the Indians missed their opportunity to end the division series Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, they’ll call on veteran Paul Byrd in their second chance tonight.
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said Saturday that he would not consider starting C.C. Sabathia on short rest, which means Byrd will be in the House that Ruth Built with an opportunity to pitch the Indians to the ALCS.
“Paul was very consistent for us this year,” Wedge said of the right-hander, who produced the second-highest win total of his career (15), while posting a 4.59 ERA in 31 starts. “He’s a guy that we could count on. He’s a guy with experience and postseason experience, and a great understanding of what he needs to do to be successful. Really, that’s everything to us.”
Byrd, 36, made one regular-season start against the Yankees this year, and it did not go well. In his briefest outing of the year (two innings) —
Aug. 11 at Jacobs Field — Byrd allowed a season-high seven runs on seven hits, which included a home run.
In his career against New York, Byrd is 1-4 with a 4.44 ERA — 0-2 with a 3.46 ERA in four starts at Yankee Stadium.
If he makes the start, Byrd will have his personal catcher Kelly Shoppach with him. Wedge said that Shoppach would be behind the plate for all of Byrd’s postseason starts.
“There’s nobody more important than your starting pitcher,” Wedge said. “The guy’s been catching him all year long.”
New York manager Joe Torre is bringing back Game 1 starter Chien-Ming Wang to pitch in Game 4. Wang threw 94 pitches and allowed a career-high eight runs in Cleveland’s 12-3 win in the series opener. Mike Mussina was the other candidate to start in Game 4.
With most of his regulars having little experience against Game 3 starter Roger Clemens, Wedge started Trot Nixon in right field. Nixon, who entered the game batting .371 (13-for-35) with three homers and seven RBIs in his career against Clemens, is one of just three players on Cleveland’s playoff roster — the others Kenny Lofton and Chris Gomez — with double-digit career at-bats off Clemens.
“He has the most experience against Roger, probably the most experience in this ballpark against this team,” Wedge said. “It’s a good time to get him in there and see if he can do something for us.”
Three Indians starters — Grady Sizemore, Asdrubal Cabrera and Ryan Garko — had never faced Clemens, while Victor Martinez had faced Clemens twice and Travis Hafner three times.
Nixon, who struggled to a .251 batting average in his debut season in Cleveland, losing his starting job to Franklin Gutierrez, hadn’t played since last Saturday in Kansas City. He played in three postseason series against the Yankees as a member of the Red Sox, including the 2003 and ’04 ALCS.
New York’s roster had played in 595 postseason games to the Indians’ 157.
He's the boss
Though it has already been speculated, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner confirmed that Torre will not return as manager if New York doesn’t beat Cleveland and advance to the ALCS.
“His job is on the line,” Steinbrenner told the Bergen Record. “I think we’re paying him a lot of money. He’s the highest paid manager in baseball, so I don’t think we’d take him back if we don’t win this series.”
Torre, who has taken the Yankees to the postseason in each of his 12 years as manager, is making $7 million in the final year of his contract.
Wedge supports Torre.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Joe Torre. I think he’s one of the greatest managers in the game,” Wedge said. “I think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that we have some historic, great managers still in the game today.”
Steinbrenner, a former Bay Village resident, was also unhappy with umpire crew chief Bruce Froemming for not halting Game 2 in Cleveland when a swarm of midges invaded Jacobs Field in the eighth inning.
“The umpire was full of (expletive),” he said. “He won’t umpire our games anymore.”
There is a debate between MVP voters as to who on the Indians’ roster deserves the most attention. Wedge points to Martinez, who hit .301 with career highs in homers (25) and RBIs (114). His 22 homers and 94 RBIs as a catcher led all big league players at the position.
“Victor’s been our most consistent offensive player,” Wedge said. “I feel like we’ve got some great offensive players, but if you look at 162 games, and just what he has meant to us. I don’t just mean from the offensive side, because you talk about position players, you’ve got to talk about their entire game.”
Martinez, who threw out only 13.8 percent (16 of 116) of runners attempting to steal last year, improved that number to 30 percent (30 of 100) this season.
Signs of anger
New York fans were still sour over the midges that affected their setup man Joba Chamberlain on Friday. One sign at Yankee Stadium read “Exterminate the Indians,” while another said “Bug off Tribe.”
The Indians did not use closer Joe Borowski in the first two games of the series, but he stayed fresh by pitching a bullpen session Saturday at Yankee Stadium and pitching the eighth inning Sunday night. Borowski hadn’t pitched since he recorded his American League-leading 45th save last Sunday in the regular season finale in Kansas City.
• The majority of Cleveland’s front office is in attendance, including general manager Mark Shapiro, assistant general managers Chris Antonetti and John Mirabelli. Normally, the contingent would be smaller, but the Indians wanted front office personnel to experience the postseason atmosphere.
• Former Yankee first baseman Tino Martinez threw out the ceremonial first pitch.