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BASEBALL DAILY REPORT : AROUND THE MAJOR LEAGUES : Braves Plan Three-Man Playoff Rotation

Associated Press

A decision by Atlanta Brave Manager Bobby Cox to go with a three-man rotation in the first round of the playoffs has the blessing of the two guys left out--Steve Avery and Kent Mercker.

The two left-handers, who were part of Atlanta’s five-man rotation during the regular season, will be used in the bullpen, while Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz will start.

“In the first round there’s only room for so many guys,” Cox said. “There’ll be more room later on.”

Cox said Maddux would start Game 1, followed by Glavine and Smoltz in the best-of-five series that begins Tuesday at Los Angeles, Colorado or Houston.

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“There’s not a guy in our bullpen who’d complain if he never pitched in the playoffs,” said Mercker. “I’d like our starter to go nine each time, but whatever happens, I’ll be ready to go.”

Avery said, “Whatever Bobby needs--long relief, one batter, setup--I’m here to help. The pressure on a reliever is different than on a starter. But I’m smart, I can adjust.”

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Yankee center fielder Bernie Williams missed his flight from Puerto Rico and wasn’t in the starting lineup when New York, leading the AL wild-card race, played the Milwaukee Brewers.

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Williams arrived at County Stadium in time to take center field in the bottom of the third inning with New York ahead, 4-0. New York won, 5-4.

He flew home to Bayamon, Puerto Rico, to visit his wife and newborn daughter, Bianca, after Sunday’s game against Detroit. Williams had been scheduled to arrive in Milwaukee in the afternoon.

“I got to the airport. I missed the plane. I got caught in traffic,” said Williams, who went 0 for 2 and was hit by a pitch Tuesday night.

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Major League Baseball shouldn’t enjoy its exemption from antitrust laws unless team owners can keep franchises in the nation’s smaller cities, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said.

Specter, a Republican presidential candidate and a member of the judiciary subcommittee that handles antitrust issues, has long opposed lifting the 73-year-old exemption on grounds it protects smaller cities such as Pittsburgh from losing their teams to more-profitable markets.

But Specter said his feelings would change if baseball owners fail to do what is necessary to protect such small-market teams and to keep the Pirates from being sold to out-of-town investors.


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