Subway Series Gets a Little Spicier

Thursday, July 6th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — This weekend's Subway Series just got a whole lot juicer.

The Yankees called up former Mets ace Dwight Gooden to pitch Saturday in his first start as a visitor at Shea Stadium.

``I guess the Subway Series itself isn't exciting enough,'' said Yankees right-hander David Cone, who pitched with Gooden on the Yankees and Mets. ``It will be great for Doc. He deserves this chance. I know he'll be really psyched for the game.''

The series, the second between the teams this year, has enough attention on it normally. Throw in Gooden's return and a two-ballpark, day-night doubleheader on Saturday and there will be even more hoopla than normal, even for a Mets-Yankees' series.

``I'm not sure the players are looking forward to this weekend,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ``The weekend will be hard. But you know when you're playing the Mets that the fans will be all excited.''

Especially when Gooden walks to the mound for the first time since 1994. Gooden won the NL Rookie of the Year with the Mets in 1984, was the NL Cy Young winner the next year and won a World Series ring in 1986.

Known as Dr. K for his exploding fastball, Gooden is one of the most popular players in Mets history.

``It's a great story, especially with him back at Shea Stadium,'' Cone said. ``Doc has had some great moments in that stadium. It will be exciting to see.''

Gooden and Roger Clemens — perhaps the two most dominating New York pitchers in the '80s — will pitch Saturday's doubleheader for the Yankees. What would have been a marquee pitching lineup 15 years ago, is full of questions.

Clemens is 5-6 with a 4.48 ERA and has lost three starts to the Mets since joining the Yankees last season. Gooden was 2-3 with a 6.86 ERA for Houston and Tampa Bay this season.

But Yankees executives picked Gooden over Triple-A left-hander TedLilly and major league relievers Jason Grimsley and Ben Ford.

``That was the recommendation from down below,'' Torre said, referring to the team's minor league complex in Tampa, Fla. ``You have to go on the recommendations. We needed a starter and they said he'd be the best guy for it. He has experience. He has been down this road before.''

Gooden has added a splitter to his arsenal since signing a minor league deal with the Yankees last month. In two minor league starts, he has allowed four hits in eight shutout innings.

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner gave Gooden a chance before. The right-hander joined the Yankees in 1996 after missing the 1995 season because of a drug suspension. Gooden pitched a no-hitter in 1996 and helped the Yankees win the World Series.

``Obviously he did a lot of good for us a couple of years ago,'' Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. ``Hopefully he can do the same thing this time.''

Al Leiter (10-1) will start the opener on Friday night against Orlando Hernandez (7-6). The teams split two games last month at Yankee Stadium with the third game getting rained out, leading to Saturday's doubleheader.

The Yankees have an 8-6 edge overall in matchups with the Mets.

``It'll be exciting for both New York fans rooting for their team and hearing the chants all night long,'' Leiter said. ``It's still the regular season. The Yankees have won three of four World Series so to them it's a nuisance. They don't have anything to win.''

It's more than a nuisance for the Yankees this time. They also need the wins. The last two years, the Yankees have been in control of the AL East when they played the Mets.

They were tied for first with Toronto in the AL East entering Thursday night.

``We just need to win games and finish the first half on a good note,'' Torre said. ``We're fortunate with how much we've struggled to be this close to first place. We have to take advantage of that good fortune.''

The Yankees enter the series having won two straight. But pitching is still a question. Clemens and Hernandez are making their second starts back from injuries, Ramiro Mendoza is on the disabled list and Cone has one win since April 28.

Cone's struggles will cost him a chance to start against his former team for the first time. Torre will skip the struggling Cone in the rotation and pitch Andy Pettite on three days' rest Sunday.

``My pitching put Joe in that position,'' said Cone, who is available in relief. ``I feel awful about it.''

Mets manager Bobby Valentine will likely pitch Mike Hampton on three days' rest Sunday in place of left-hander Bobby M. Jones.

``I just want to get another start in before the All-Star break,'' Hampton said. ``The Yankees are a test in itself. It's what a pitcher looks for to find out how good you are when facing a team of that caliber.''