NEW YORK -- Yankee Manager Joe Torre admonished the media Thursday for focusing so heavily on whether Roger Clemens would pitch in Shea Stadium, where the Yankee right-hander might be subject to retribution for his July 8 beaning of Met catcher Mike Piazza.
Clemens will start Game 2 Sunday night in Yankee Stadium, where teams will use the designated hitter, thus eliminating any chance of him pitching and batting in Games 3, 4 or 5 at Shea.
"I'm glad to avoid what has been a media-created question," Torre said. "I think it's a disservice to the people involved when every time you turn on the TV, all you see is Mike Piazza being hit in the head. I would like to think the World Series is about having fun, not about inciting fans to riot.
"I'm not saying the Mets have forgotten about it, but to make it the reason to watch the game, as opposed to who is going to win, is not right."
The Mets, though, won't let the issue die. Asked if Clemens' beaning of Piazza was ancient history, Met first baseman Todd Zeile said, "Like hell it is ... it's fresh." Some are disappointed Clemens won't bat in Shea.
"We actually like that (Yankee) team, or at least 24 of the guys," Met reserve catcher Todd Pratt said. "We all know what happened that evening, we all lost respect for Roger at that point, but that's been talked out the window. There are more important things to talk about than the beanball."
Clemens said Thursday that he "wouldn't have had a problem hitting in Shea," and both he and Torre said Clemens was starting Game 2 because that's how the rotation -- Andy Pettitte, Clemens, Orlando Hernandez -- fell this week.
"I don't want to revisit this, other than to say I'm glad Mike is OK," Clemens said. "I was as upset as anybody, but this World Series is not about us. ... I tried to pitch inside, and I'm sorry a ball got away, but this is my livelihood. I'll do what it takes, but I never want hit a guy in the head."
Met Manager Bobby Valentine tabbed Al Leiter to start Saturday's Series opener, followed by Mike Hampton, Rick Reed and Bobby J. Jones. Leiter's selection was something of a surprise, considering Hampton's domination of the St. Louis Cardinals in his pennant-clinching shutout on Monday.
Valentine said Leiter has followed Hampton all season and he wanted to keep that going. In addition, Hampton threw 115 pitches against the Cardinals and could benefit from an extra day's rest. Leiter, if held until Game 2, would have had nine days between starts, a possible detriment to his control. Leiter also has pitched well against the Yankees.
Torre hasn't named a Game 4 starter, but he is leaning toward right-hander David Cone, the veteran who struggled through an awful 4-14 season and has thrown only one inning in the playoffs.
The Yankees were not happy with Denny Neagle's American League Championship Series Game 5 start against Seattle, in which the left-hander walked four and gave up three runs in 4 1/3 innings, and they believe Cone might have more success against the Mets' predominantly right-handed lineup.
Torre was encouraged by the scoreless inning Cone threw in Seattle Sunday, saying he "showed looseness, he had an easy time warming up, and the ball came out of his hand real well." The fact that Cone is 2-0 with a 2.15 earned-run average in five World Series starts also weighs in his favor.
Cone relishes the chance to redeem himself for his disastrous season and was extremely excited about the prospect of pitching. Asked how much advance time he'd need to prepare for a Game 4 start, Cone said, "If Joe put the ball in my shoe five minutes before the game, it would be fine with me."
Both Torre and Yankee second baseman Chuck Knoblauch admitted Thursday that Knoblauch's elbow "is not 100 percent," but that apparently won't prevent Torre from starting Knoblauch, who is a defensive liability even with a sound arm, from playing second base in Shea Stadium.
"I'm not as confident in him defensively," Torre said of his leadoff batter, "but he is such a big part of our offensive scheme that I don't have a problem playing him at second."
Torre said he will consider starting Knoblauch at second in Game 2 in order to get some more power in the designated-hitter spot.
"I don't think it will be a big deal," Knoblauch said, downplaying the issue. "I've played thousands of games there, this will be no different."
Yankee owner George Steinbrenner is said to loathe the idea of losing a World Series to the Mets, but he wouldn't bite on reporters' questions about the topic Thursday. "It's nothing personal for me because we're playing the Mets," he said. "The stakes are not higher because it's the Mets. This is great for the city." ... Torre said he will activate slugger Jose Canseco for the World Series and drop a relief pitcher, either Jason Grimsley or Randy Choate, from the roster. ... Met left fielder Benny Agbayani predicted on a national radio show and a national morning television show Thursday that the Mets would win the series in five games. "It takes a lot of courage to make a prediction like that," Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter said. "I don't think anyone in here would do something like that."
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