Nelson wondering what all the fuss is about
The call went out in the eighth inning to one of two Yankees who may be asked to answer a summons today in district court on possible assault charges. Then, after Jeff Nelson threw his first pitch, out popped Red Sox manager Grady Little for a little chat with the umpires. Something sinister brewing?
One umpire summoned another, who summoned another. Then, they all turned and walked to the pitcher's mound, where they asked Nelson to show them his belt, his glove, everything but the secret to his breaking ball.
"They didn't tell me what they were looking for," Nelson said after his one-batter (and two-out) appearance in last night's 3-2 Red Sox victory in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. "They just said they wanted to see my belt, my glove. I've never, ever been checked like that. My ball has always moved. [Crew chief] Tim McClelland said, `Looks good to me. Let's go throw strikes.' I said, `OK, let's go do it.'
"I'm glad I don't do anything. It'd be a rough few days to be called an attacker and a cheater all at the same time -- two things I've never done in my life."
Nelson suspected it was a bit of gamesmanship, the Yankees having had Mike Timlin's grunge hat checked in Game 1. Little said, "We just got some indication that maybe we saw a little something out there." Yankees manager Joe Torre said he had no clue as to what the Red Sox might be looking for.
"I don't throw a splitter, so I don't have any Vaseline," Nelson said. "I don't use anything to cut the ball. A lot of times my ball moves so much anyway that if I get a scuffed ball, I throw it away. I don't know how to throw a scuffed ball, and it would move way too much. So, it doesn't bother me. That's fine."
Nelson and teammate Karim Garcia may have to answer a summons as early as today on charges they assaulted a Red Sox grounds crew employee in the Yankee bullpen Saturday night, in the ninth inning of Game 3. Nelson has vehemently proclaimed his innocence -- saying he'd take a lie detector test if necessary. But he has become a convenient target for the Red Sox fans, who booed him mercilessly last night.
Uh, fans? He's heard worse.
"It didn't bother me," Nelson said. "It's only 15,000 less boos than I heard in Yankee Stadium when I was a Mariner. They didn't appreciate it when I signed with Seattle and they let me know. So it wasn't like I wasn't used to it."
He said he detected no additional security in the Yankees bullpen. And the noise? Well, of course he heard it.
"Boston fans, New York fans, they're the best in the game," Nelson said. "They're going to let the other team know how they feel. You play in New York, you're used to it. You train yourself to be mentally tough and that's what you have to do."
Nelson got the call from Torre with one out in the eighth inning. Felix Heredia had just hit Todd Walker, and Nomar Garciaparra was at the plate. After a wild first pitch (and the ensuing visit from the umpires), Nelson threw a strike to Garciaparra. His next pitch resulted in a hard grounder to short, which the Yankees turned into an inning-ending double play.
Just getting out there was important to Nelson because this postseason has been hideous for him. His very first outing, in Game 1 of the Division Series against Minnesota, he faced one batter, Matthew LeCroy, and walked him. In his only other appearance, which came during Game 1 of the ALCS, he faced four Red Sox batters in the seventh. He yielded two hits and hit a batter, and thus entered last night's game with a series ERA of 27.00. (After last night, it's down to 9.00.)
"You go back and I've had so much success in the playoffs in the past. And the first two times [this year] were rough. I wanted to make an impact right away," he said. "And I wanted to get out there, especially after what's happened. Everything's been portrayed that I've been a bad guy, and everything as far as I can say is [that I've been] falsely accused. I'm glad I got the opportunity."
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