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Drawing an ace not in the cards

Oakland A's shortstop Miguel Tejada sat in a corner of the visitor's clubhouse at Fenway Park before last night's game against the Red Sox, pulling on a pair of green stirrups as he dressed for batting practice. As he went about his pregame routine, though, Tejada was unaware of the news of the day: Pedro Martinez had called in sick and was scratched from last night's scheduled start.

"Really?" Tejada said, taken aback. "I didn't know he wasn't pitching. This is the first time I've heard anything about it."

Tejada, evidently, was in the minority in the A's clubhouse, because everyone else seemed to buzz with the news that lefthander Casey Fossum had drawn the emergency start in relief of Martinez.

For a team that entered last night's game looking to extend its two-game lead over the Sox in the American League wild-card race, despite contending with injuries to two of its own starters, not having to face Boston's ace in the finale of this three-game series certainly came as a fortuitous turn of events.

"Anytime you don't have to face Pedro, man, you know that brings a smile to everybody's face," said Terrence Long, who batted leadoff in the first two games of this series but was given the night off by manager Ken Macha in lieu of Mark Ellis, who was 2 for 2 career against Martinez. "It may give us a little more confidence, but still, if Fossum wasn't a good pitcher, he wouldn't be in the big leagues. You still got to go out and play. You just can't say, `Well, Pedro's not pitching, so we're going to win.' You can't say that."

Long, though, understood how the news must have struck a demoralizing blow to the Sox.

"Yeah, I understand what they're feeling because I know how I felt when [Tim] Hudson took one off the [right] hand the other night in Oakland and [Mark] Mulder had to the leave the game [Tuesday night at Fenway]," Long said. "So I could imagine how they're feeling right now. I don't know Pedro well enough to say, but I'm sure if he was well enough to go, he'd be out there.

"So, obviously, there's got to be something wrong for him not to be taking the mound in this situation, I know that. I think it's a positive for the opposing team if he's not on the mound, I'll tell you that. You don't want to up and say, `Well, I want to face Pedro.' That's not something that's going to happen, not by me. You won't hear that from T-Long."

None of the A's, though, seemed to bemoan the fact they were going to face Fossum instead of Martinez.

"You got the best pitcher in baseball not pitching," said Scott Hatteberg, who caught Martinez countless times when he was with the Sox. "I mean, we knew we were going to have to come in here having to scratch out whatever we could, and now that he's not going . . . well, that helps.

"We got a kid going [Rich Harden] who's throwing as good as anybody, and our chances just got better. It doesn't mean we've done anything yet, but to not have Pedro on the mound, that's great. It means we have a chance of winning another one."

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