By Joe Haakenson, AngelsWin.com Contributor -
OCT. 10, 2002
ANAHEIM -- Tim Salmon's right hamstring injury felt so much better Thursday that the Angels right fielder expects to be in the starting lineup for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Minnesota Twins.
``Right now, I don't feel there should be any reason why I couldn't play,'' said Salmon, who had therapy on the hamstring that included ultrasound and massage but no running.
Salmon said he had felt tightness in the hamstring for a few days before feeling it ``grab'' when he chased down a couple flyballs early in Wednesday's game. He came out in the third inning.
If it were a regular season game in the middle of the season, Salmon likely would be on the bench tonight. But considering the circumstances, Angels manager Mike Scioscia seemed optimistic Salmon will be in there.
``In the regular season you might not want to risk an injury that would set him back from getting to 100 percent for the long grind,'' Scioscia said. ``But now you can forget about the long term, as far as the next three or four weeks. I'd never put a guy out there if there's a high risk of injury, but the way the doctor explained it, it's probably just a minor strain or even a cramp.''
If Salmon does not play, Scioscia likely would opt for Alex Ochoa to get the start in right field.
Jarrod Washburn was the Angels' opening day starter. He started Game 1 of the Division Series against the Yankees and he was the winning pitcher in the series-clinching Game 4 against the Yankees.
His start in Game 3 could be pivotal in a series that is currently tied at one game apiece. But Washburn isn't quite ready to accept the tag of ``Big-game pitcher.'' Not yet, anyway.
``I don't know if I can have that label yet,'' he said. ``I don't think I've pitched enough big games. But it's something every pitcher would love to have.''
Washburn is still the only Angels starter to last at least six innings in the postseason. He went seven innings in Game 1 of the Division Series, but said the fact that the starters haven't pitched deep into games isn't necessarily a sign they are struggling.
``Guys have thrown well enough to go six or seven innings, but as good as our bullpen is, the first sign of trouble there's no reason to leave us in there and take a chance,'' he said. ``I'm not upset if I get pulled after five innings and we win the game. If Scioscia thinks it's the best thing to do, it's the best thing to do.''
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire seemed to be leaning toward a lineup change for Game 3, sitting down right fielder Michael Cuddyer, who started both Games 1 and 2, in favor of Dustan Mohr or Bobby Kielty.
``I was a little disappointed in the way (Cuddyer) attacked a couple balls, whether he lost them in the ceiling or whatever, I thought he looked a little tenative,'' Gardenhire said. ``This kid's played very well for us during the course of the playoffs and hit the ball very well for us. But like I said, I wasn't happy with the tentativeness that he chased those balls with.''
The Angels' rally monkey craze has a fan in Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz: ``The rally monkey's awesome. The homer-hanky isn't going to jump around on its own. That's why we want to have a lead in the seventh inning, so we can see it come out. Pay attention to what our infielders do when it comes out. It'll be bases-loaded, no outs and we'll all be smiling.
``(Second baseman) Luis Rivas is our rally monkey.''
Angels DH Shawn Wooten received a letter from a prison inmate who had batting tips for him and some of his teammates.
``He actually was right on the money with some of his suggestions,'' Wooten said. ``I think I'll show the letter to some of the guys.''
Center fielder Darin Erstad is the only Angel to hit safely in all six postseason games. ... The Angels bullpen has not allowed a run in the ALCS in 6 2/3 innings, giving up only one hit. ... Angels reliever Frankie Rodriguez has more strikeouts (11) than any other pitcher this postseason, despite only 7 1/3 innings of work.