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Notes: Nixon in lineup vs. Clemens

Notes: Nixon in lineup vs. Clemens

NEW YORK -- Experience against Roger Clemens isn't exactly the Indians' specialty.

The club has just eight players who have faced the Rocket in their careers, and only four of those -- left fielder Kenny Lofton (14-for-62), right fielder Trot Nixon (13-for-35), utilityman Chris Gomez (6-for-21) and third baseman Casey Blake (3-for-9) -- have more than five at-bats off him.

So when Clemens took the mound against the Tribe in Sunday's Game 3 of the ALDS, manager Eric Wedge opted to make use of what little experience he had at his disposal. He penciled Nixon into the eight hole.

"He has the most experience here at this ballpark against this team, and he's had some success [against Clemens] in the past," Wedge said, "so it's a good time to get him in there and give him the opportunity to do something for us."

Nixon hasn't done much for the Indians in recent months. He lost his starting job to Franklin Gutierrez in August, and had just 14 at-bats in September. Nine of those at-bats came after the Indians clinched the AL Central title.

For the season, Nixon, whose body was slowed considerably after offseason back surgery, hit just .251 with three homers and 31 RBIs.

But the 13 hits, three homers, four doubles, one triple, seven walks and 10 RBIs in the past against Clemens were the numbers Wedge was concerned with. And the manager seemed to view this start as a reward, of sorts.

"I think he deserves to be in there," Wedge said. "He's a guy that really kicked things off for us, leadership-wise, earlier this year. He's had some big hits for us. He's meant so much to us on and off the field."

The Shoppach shuffle: If this series does go to a Game 4 in New York, Wedge will stick to his season-long standard of starting backup catcher Kelly Shoppach with Paul Byrd on the mound.

That means first baseman Ryan Garko's bat will likely be taken out of the lineup, as Victor Martinez would shift to first.

Wedge said keeping Byrd in his comfort zone is more important than having a more potent lineup.

"There's nobody more important than your starting pitcher," Wedge said. "You want to make sure you put your starting pitcher in the best position to give you a chance to win the ballgame, and the guy who's been catching him all year long would catch him [Monday]."

Always on edge: General managers are groomed to never feel particularly comfortable. It stood to reason, then, that Mark Shapiro didn't want to say he was breathing sighs of relief before Sunday's game.

"I feel better than if [the series] was 1-1 or we were down 2-0," he said. "That's the only way I can quantify how I feel. But I definitely can't say I feel good in this place against a club that tough."

Speaking of "that club," Yankees GM Brian Cashman had some kind words for Shapiro.

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"I certainly admire the artwork that Mark Shapiro is doing putting that team together over the years," Cashman said, "and having it grow into something special right now."

When told of those remarks, particularly the "artwork" comment, Shapiro smiled and said, "He's a great wordsmith. He's got a little John Hart in him."

Harsh words, kind words: The buzz around the ballpark before Sunday's game was, of course, about the ultimatum Yankees owner George Steinbrenner essentially issued to skipper Joe Torre.

Steinbrenner told The Bergen Record of Hackensack, N.J., that Torre's "job is on the line" if the Yankees don't win this series.

Wedge was asked if he's ever thought about what it would be like to work in such an environment. Obviously, Indians owner Paul Dolan doesn't have Steinbrenner's penchant for publicity.

"I don't waste time and energy on it," Wedge said.

But Wedge was effusive in his praise of Torre.

"I think he's a fantastic human being, and I've got nothing but respect for him," Wedge said. "When you talk about the game of baseball right now, I think sometimes we lose sight of the fact that we've got some tremendous, historic Major League managers that are still in this game. And Joe Torre's right up there at the top of the list."

Tribe tidbits: Closer Joe Borowski hasn't pitched since the Sept. 30 season finale in Kansas City, but Wedge said he threw a strong bullpen session during Saturday's workout. "I'd love to have him in there [Sunday]," Wedge said, "for all the right reasons." ... Wedge said he pinch-hit right-hander Gutierrez for right-hander Jason Michaels against left-hander Andy Pettitte in Friday's game because he was planning on using Gutierrez as a defensive replacement later in the game, anyway. "I didn't want it to be a two-player move in that type of ballgame," Wedge said. "It allows us to use one player and still have him on defense." Gutierrez struck out on three breaking balls. ... Lofton is batting .714 (5-for-7) with four RBIs in this series. He now has 41 career postseason hits with Cleveland, which ranks fourth all-time on the Indians' postseason list. Only Omar Vizquel (57), Jim Thome (43) and Manny Ramirez (42) have more.

Nice crowd: The Indians expected 14,000 fans at Jacobs Field for a jumbotron broadcast of Sunday night's game. All tickets offered in the lower bowl and club sections sold out. Lower bowl tickets were free, while club seats were $25 and included unlimited food. Those tickets are available for the potential Game 4.

Should the Indians advance to the ALCS, the club might also open up the upper deck of the ballpark for broadcasts of road games.

On deck: Game 4, if necessary, would take place at 7:30 p.m. ET Monday at Yankee Stadium. Byrd would start for the Indians, and the Yankees would either start Chien-Ming Wang on three days' rest or go with veteran Mike Mussina.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["division_series" ] }
{"content":["division_series" ] }