10/10/2003 8:04 PM ET
Notes: Karros back in lineup
Alou visits Dominican Republic but back for game
MIAMI -- Who's on first? It doesn't seem to matter for the Chicago Cubs.
On Friday, Eric Karros got his first start in the National League Championship Series for the Cubs. Randall Simon started the first two games in Chicago against the Florida Marlins.
Karros and Simon have created a solid platoon. So far in the NLCS, they are 5-for-10 (Karros was 1-for-1 in a pinch-hit at-bat) and were a combined 9-for-23 in the NL Division Series. In the postseason, the duo is batting .424 (14-for-33).
"It's worked out great," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said of his left-right combo. "They're both the kind of guys that I don't necessarily have to pinch-hit a lefty for a righty or a righty for a lefty, depending on who that person is that they may be facing. I'm glad we have both of them."
Start me up: Matt Clement is on tap to start Game 4 on Saturday while Carlos Zambrano, who started Game 1, will get the call Sunday in Game 5. That would leave Mark Prior and Kerry Wood good to go in Games 6 and 7 at Wrigley on normal rest, if needed.
Top skipper: Baker will be a leading candidate for Manager of the Year after leading the Cubs to the NL Central Division in his first season in Chicago. Baker also votes for the award. What characteristics does he think are key?
"What he did with his club, the things he went through to get the most out of his club," Baker said Friday.
Other candidates include some elder statesmen in the game -- Atlanta's Bobby Cox, San Francisco's Felipe Alou and Florida's Jack McKeon.
"The way I look at it, I think my best days as a manager are still to come," Baker said. "Felipe and Bobby and Jack are older than me. My chances of winning one or two more before I retire are still pretty good."
But Baker isn't saying one's age is the first criteria.
"Age has nothing to do with it," he said. "I talked to Tony La Russa a long time ago and he said there were times when he won when he didn't think he was [deserving] and there were times when he didn't and he thought he did a better job. At this point, personal things don't matter to me."
Santo update: Ron Santo's surgery has been delayed indefinitely. A WGN Radio spokesman said Santo flunked a stress test Friday and doctors decided to postpone his surgery. The WGN Radio color commentator and former Cubs third baseman has bladder cancer. Tumors were discovered during a routine physical. Santo is home in Arizona and missing the NLCS. However, the Cubs players have his jersey hanging in the dugout.
Extra guys: Josh Paul, Hee Seop Choi, Augie Ojeda, Felix Sanchez and Todd Wellemeyer will not get into the playoff games this fall. They're not on the Cubs roster but they are part of the traveling party. Baker wanted to expose the young players to the postseason.
Paul is probably busier than most. He's down in the bullpen, warming up the relievers.
"Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of my contribution is catching bullpens," Paul said.
But he does more than that. Cubs reliever Mike Remlinger credited Paul with helping him settle down in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.
"In that first game in Atlanta, Remmy looked a little tight," Paul said. "After a few pitches, he seemed like he was still in a hurry and I said, 'Hey man, slow down a little bit.' I'm down in the bullpen helping out, watching and talking to guys. We talk about the hitters who are up, share what we're seeing."
Do they talk about how hard it is to get tickets?
"Yes -- it's very tough," Paul said. "We talk about everything. It's the bullpen. We just chat."
Paul was on the Chicago White Sox team that played in the postseason in 2000. He can see a big difference between the Sox and the Cubs.
"This team is loose. Nice and loose," Paul said. "It feels like a regular-season game almost. It's amazing how loose this team is and relaxed. They just go about their business. I don't sense any playoff tension -- 'Oh, we have to win.' Instead it's 'All right, let's go. We're still playing. Let's keep playing.' It's nice. It's really nice."
Family first: Moises Alou flew home to the Dominican Republic on Thursday to be with his son Kirby on his sixth birthday and to see his grandmother, who was ill. Alou was back in Miami on Friday morning, took a nap and reported to work for Game 3.
"To me, family comes before anybody," Baker said. "Plus, Mo at this stage in his career knows himself better than anybody. I wasn't worried about him tiring himself out. At this point, I think practice is overrated anyway. We've played 170 games. If you don't have it by now, it's going to be tough to get it."
Cooperstown bound: Former Cub outfielder Andre Dawson is on the Marlins staff as a special assistant and has been in uniform to help. Dawson missed on his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame voting in January. He also wants Chicagoans to know his loyalities. If he made it to Cooperstown, Dawson said he wants to wear a Cubs hat.
"Absolutely," he said.
Hero or goat: Baker is not happy about FOX constantly bringing up the alleged billy-goat curse placed on the Cubs. A goat scampers across the TV screen each time the network promotes one of the Cubs' playoff games.
Baker admitted he didn't even know the story about the goat. If you're like Baker, here it is:
Legend has it that in the 1945 World Series, tavern owner William Sianis tried to bring a billy goat into Wrigley Field -- he was promoting his establishment -- but was denied entry. He supposedly put a curse on the Cubs and they have not been to the World Series since.
Numbers game: Ivan Rodriguez is 5-for-14 lifetime against Clement, Luis Castillo is 6-for-24, Miguel Cabrera 2-for-6, Juan Pierre 3-for-15 and Florida's Alex Gonzalez 5-for-14.
The Marlins will start rookie Dontrelle Willis in Game 4. Alou, Mark Grudzielanek, Karros and Sammy Sosa each went 2-for-4 against him. The Cubs beat Willis on July 20, scoring six times on six consecutive hits.
All sold: Tickets for a possible seventh game of the National League Championship Series sold in 13 minutes Friday. If a Game 7 is necessary, it would be played Wednesday at Wrigley Field. Tickets went on sale Friday at 8 a.m. CT.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com