Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Eckersley Finds a Protector

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Eckersley Finds a Protector

Article excerpt

Until Tom Henke decides whether he can come back to the Cardinals - and reports from his Taos, Mo., farm indicate that is unlikely - the Cardinals' bullpen will have to make do. But, if the Cards' 4-2 win Sunday over the New York Mets is any indication, that prospect might not be all bad.

Cory Bailey (seven), Tony Fossas (one) and Dennis Eckersley got the last nine outs while facing only nine hitters. Fossas fanned Todd Hundley and then Eckersley did the same to Butch Huskey to preserve Mike Morgan's fourth win.

Eckersley got the save because he was the last pitcher, although manager Tony La Russa, in theory, could have let Fossas pitch with a two-run lead to Huskey. But La Russa said, "Why would I let Fossas pitch to Huskey? I don't care if we're one run ahead. Eckersley has got a better chance to get Huskey out.

"What cushion is there? If Huskey gets on base and somebody hits one out, we're tied."

Eckersley, who has been struggling, suggested La Russa was "protecting" him bringing him in only when there were two out and nobody on.

"I think he was taking it easy on me," Eckersley said. "He knows I was in a funk."

Eckersley had been pulled from his last two save opportunities.

Bailey, the Marion, Ill., product who has been up and down three times this season, has given up no runs in eight innings over six games since he rejoined the team 10 days ago.

Before the last time he was sent out, Bailey had been scored on in only one of seven games.

"Most of the time he's been here, that's the way he's pitched," La Russa said. "It was tough to send him out."

Fossas' stint was his 11th in a row without allowing an earned run. He has given up only one earned run in his last 18 appearances, covering 10 1/3 innings.

Since June 9, Fossas has lowered his earned-run average from 3.74 to 2.81.

Fossas said that he had tinkered with his mechanics with the help of lefthander Rick Honeycutt and pitching coach Dave Duncan.

"But it was always the mental part," Fossas said. …

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