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Pirates

Notebook: Loiselle feels comfort in closer role

Joe Rutter
| Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2001

Rich Loiselle had been used in almost every kind of role this season except the one that was his specialty during the 1997 season. One thing he had not done was pitch in a save situation - and with good reason.

Relief pitchers with 13.20 ERAs rarely get the ball in the ninth inning.

Entrusted with a one-run lead Monday night, Loiselle retired three of four batters to preserve a 7-6 victory over the Chicago Cubs. It was his first save since Sept. 15, 1998.

'It felt wonderful,' Loiselle said Tuesday afternoon. 'When I got up in the pen, I was nervous. When I got out onto the mound, I let everything go and focused on (Jason Kendall's) glove. Everything went well. I was pretty happy about it.'

So was manager Lloyd McClendon, who realized he had gone against the grain by using Loiselle with the game on the line.

Loiselle, who has battled arm injuries since saving 29 games in 1997 and 19 in 1998, had been scored upon in 12 of his first 14 appearances. He had given up 24 hits and 12 walks in 15 innings.

After getting two ground-ball outs, Loiselle gave up a single to Sammy Sosa. Fred McGriff flied out to end the game. McClendon thought the return to the closer's role invigorated Loiselle.

'I'm sure it had something to do with it,' he said. 'It's tough to go out there in a 9-2 game when nothing's on the line.'

McClendon said he had nothing to lose by going with Loiselle even if he did open himself to second guessing.

'What kind of second guessing?' he said. '(The fans) weren't happy with (Omar) Olivares, They weren't happy with (Mike) Fetters, they weren't going to be happy with him. Who else is there• One thing about second guessing is you'll never be wrong because it's always after the fact.

'I can't operate that way. I'm trying to find out things about next year.'

The closer's job figures to be an open competition unless the Pirates acquire such a pitcher in the off-season. Loiselle, though, isn't thinking that far ahead. 'I'm grateful for Mac to give me the opportunity in that situation. Right now, I just want to be consistent in those situations. If I'm out there again, I want to convert the saves for the team and keep throwing the ball like I did (Monday) night.'

McClendon didn't discount the possibility of giving Loiselle the ball in future pressure situations.'We know his stuff is good enough. He has to keep being consistent in the strike zone.'

IN A PINCH

Craig Wilson didn't get a chance to break the major-league record for home runs by a pinch-hitter last night. That's because he started for the fourth time at catcher.

The start came one night after Wilson tied the major-league record for pinch-hit homers in a season, hitting No. 7 to ignite a five-run sixth inning. Dave Hansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers also hit seven pinch-hit homers last season.

Wilson has hit more pinch-hit homers this year than 27 major-league teams. He has 12 home runs overall.

McClendon cautions fans about not putting high expectations on Wilson.

'We're talking about a kid who is a rookie,' he said. 'We need to give him time to grow. He's not the second coming just yet.'

FAN SUPPORT

The Pirates began paying tribute to their fans Monday night with video tributes by McClendon and select players that were shown on the scoreboard. The gesture will be continued by front-office personnel today.

Members of the front office will display banners at eight locations throughout the area from 7-9 a.m. They also will hand out small American flags and t-shirts to fans during the morning rush hour.

Locations are: Route 65 South at McKees Rocks Bridge; I-279 South at the Milroy Street overpass; I-279 North at the Greentree overpass; I-376 West at the Greenfield/Homestead exit; the north end of the West End Bridge; Bigelow Boulevard east of Mellon Arena; Route 28 west near the Heinz plant; and the Smithfield Street Bridge at Carson Street on the South Side. General manager Dave Littlefield will be at the South Side location.

The Pirates, through Monday night, had attracted a club-record 2,392,145 in their first season at PNC Park.

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