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O'NEILL TAKES A SEAT FOR GAME ONE

Paul O'Neill is out, David Justice is in.

That was the big news Friday night from New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, who had to choose between one of his two left-handed hitting right fielders to face Arizona right-hander Curt Schilling tonight in Game One of the World Series.

Torre went with the numbers and chose Justice, leaving O'Neill on the sidelines in the opener because there is no designated hitter in the National League park. O'Neill has played every one of the Yankees' Series games the last three years but has been hobbled in recent weeks due to a stress fracture in his foot.

"I don't try to guess along with his decisions," said O'Neill, who is expected to retire after the season. "He made a decision; to say that I'm not disappointed, I'd be lying. If we win this World Series, that's what the important thing is. We're looking to do what the Yankees are trying to accomplish, not trying to make somebody happy.

"Either way, David or myself was going to be disappointed."

O'Neill is just 4 for 19 in his career against Schilling, with no homers or RBIs. Justice, on the other hand, is 10 for 28 with four homers and 12 RBIs.

"Obviously, I should have taken those at-bats off Schilling a little more seriously," O'Neill said with a laugh.

O'Neill hit .274 with 19 homers and 58 RBIs this year against right-handers, but he was just .244 with two homers and 12 RBIs vs. lefties. The decision was an agonizing one for Torre, who has long treated O'Neill as one of his favorite players and saw the 38-year-old hit .417 in the ALCS against Seattle.

"Numbers are all you have to go on at this juncture," Torre said. "For me, it's a coin toss, and the thing that swayed me were the matchups. I'm very loyal to him (O'Neill). But I think in all fairness to the 24 other guys, my first loyalty has to be to the team."

Torre's scouting meeting with his team prior to Friday's workout at Bank One Ballpark lasted nearly two hours. Before he revealed his lineup, he pulled O'Neill aside and gave him the bad news.

Torre has pinch hit for O'Neill in situations the last two years and sat him against left-handers. But never against a right-hander. And since Randy Johnson is going Sunday in Game Two, O'Neill doesn't figure to see the field until Game Three on Tuesday in New York; Torre said he'll likely start O'Neill in that game even though Arizona is throwing another lefty, Brian Anderson.

"David and I don't expect to play Game Two against Randy Johnson, and that's just the way it is," O'Neill said. "The only thing that came as a surprise is that it's against a right-hander. That's never really happened before."
Arizona first baseman Mark Grace, on making his first Series after 13 seasons of futility with the Chicago Cubs: "I really defy anybody to try to wipe this smile off my face. It's been a long time coming. I've waited a long time for this. . . . We can't be happy just being here. We have to kick the door in and go and win this thing because this opportunity, unless you are with the Yankees, may not present itself again."
Was Arizona manager Bob Brenly nervous on the eve of his first Series game as a manager? Hardly. He was planning to spend Friday night doing homework with his 15-year-old son, Michael, who is in the ninth grade.

"The deal was, he does all his work for next week this week, then he can travel with us to New York," Brenly said. "So I'll have not only my own homework to do tonight but some of his to do as well." . . . San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds, who set the major league record this year with 73 home runs, will throw out tonight's ceremonial first pitch.
e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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