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NATIONAL LEAGUE NOTES : Pirates Misled Reds With Pitching Change, but Leyland Not Sorry

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was an unusual statement for a manager who had just misled his opponent and ordered his starting pitcher to lie to the national media.

“We’re not trying to trick anybody,” said Jim Leyland, Pittsburgh manager, while trying to explain the Pirates’ late pitching change for Game 6 of the National League championship series.

But the events involved in Leyland’s switch from left-handed Zane Smith to right-handed reliever Ted Power indicate otherwise.

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Even though Power pitched only 2 1/3 innings Friday night before being relieved by Smith, and Cincinnati Manager Lou Piniella made only one lineup change to counteract the pitching change, the episode remains one of the series’ most intriguing:

--Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, after the Pirates lost, 5-3, to fall behind three games to one, Leyland said coach Milt May suggested that Power should start instead of Smith, if the series went to Game 6.

The thinking was that Piniella might be caught by surprise and change his lineup, and then Smith could relieve Power as early as the first inning and force Piniella to make more changes, using up many of his players early.

Leyland agreed, and Power was made the starter providing he wasn’t used in Game 5.

--Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, the Pirates defeated the Reds in Game 5 and Powers was not used.

Leyland told reporters that Smith would “probably” be the starter in Game 6.

--On the Pirates’ flight to Cincinnati Thursday afternoon, Smith was informed that Power would be the starter. But Smith was told to attend the early evening news conference in Cincinnati and pretend that he was still starting.

Said Leyland: “Yes, I told him, ‘You’re supposed to be the starting pitcher, so just go over and tell everybody you are the starting pitcher.’ It was just easier that way. It was an off-day, and I didn’t want to start a whole bunch of distractions, and have people calling my players and bothering everybody.”

At that news conference, Smith said: “I feel kind of lucky that I’m going to get another chance to start.”

--On Friday afternoon, Piniella arrived at his office to discover that the Pirates had announced Power, not Smith, was starting.

“Well, he can do anything he wants with his lineup,” Piniella said. “I have no idea why he would do this, but I guess I could have done something like that, too.”

Piniella moved Mariano Duncan from first to seventh in the order and replaced Glenn Braggs with Paul O’Neill.

“I trust my players,” Piniella said.

Leyland was not apologetic for the deception. “We need to pull out all the stops, and we’re pulling out all the stops,” he said. “Besides, I don’t always place so much stock in the lefty-righty matchups anyway. I think if you are facing a guy like Rob Dibble, it doesn’t matter if you’re a lefty, a righty or a midget. He is still going to throw 100 m.p.h., and you’re still going to have to hit it.”

Before Friday night’s game, Piniella was still responding to criticism for double-switching and not changing the batting order between catcher Jeff Reed and pitcher Scott Scudder during Game 5.

Piniella pinch-hit Ron Oester for starting catcher Joe Oliver in the eighth, and then removed him from the game for Reed.

The maneuvers left Reed, a left-handed batter, facing left-hander Bob Patterson with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. Reed grounded into a double play, ending the game, and beginning the criticism.

“You know, I analyzed the situation in my mind all day Thursday, and it drove me crazy,” Piniella said. “But if I had to do it all over again, I would have left Oester in the game, and taken out (second baseman) Mariano Duncan. That was a mistake, and I’m being honest, I just didn’t think of it.

“But I disagree totally with batting a pitcher seventh, like (CBS-TV) Tim McCarver suggested. I never would have done that. I would have to use a pinch-hitter, and all I had left was (Rob) Dibble, (Norm) Charlton, and Jack Armstrong, and Armstrong’s only pitched 4 1/3 innings all month.”

The crowd of 56,079 was the second-largest for a baseball game at Riverfront Stadium. The largest was 56,397 for Game 5 of the 1975 World Series.

Times staff writer Bob Nightengale contributed to this story.


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