CWS Notebook: The Return of Reba?

by - Correspondent -
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OMAHA, Neb. - Depending on the driving route one takes from Clemson to Omaha, invariably you end up commuting through both St. Louis and Kansas City.

In those cities, stretches of Interstate 70 have been renamed for a pair of baseball players who starred for its teams: Mark McGwire of the Cardinals, and George Brett of the Royals.

Given his unprecedented success as a Clemson Tiger, perhaps a similar honor should be bestowed at Clemson by renaming the service road leading to Doug Kingsmore Stadium "Khalil Greene Drive."

After all, Greene only has enough school records to fill a jukebox, and Friday celebrated winning the Dick Howser Trophy and the American Baseball Coaches Association honors for the nation's best player by going 3-for-5 with five RBI in the 11-10 win over Nebraska, including a dramatic three-run homer that gave the Tigers a short-lived 10-8 lead late in the game.

As ESPN's Mike Patrick exclaimed when the ball reached the stands, "What else can you expect of Khalil Greene?"

Head coach Jack Leggett expects more of the same.

"When they gave him the Dick Howser Trophy Thursday, one of the guys who voted on it said something like 'Boy, wouldn't it be great if he did something dramatic out here to show we made the right choice?,'" said Leggett. "When he came up there with runners on first and third I thought the same thing. If ever there was a time, that was it."

Of course Greene obliged with the aforementioned homer.

But the litany of awards and individual success do not appear to have affected Greene at all. He remains the same focused, low-key individual he was when the season began.

"It's not something I think about too much," he said Saturday."Now that we're on a bigger stage, I just try to keep doing what I've been doing all year. People come up to you a little bit more and you get a little more press coverage, but it's not something I look at too much because I'm not really watching the TV or reading the newspapers.

"It's pretty much been the same for me all year. I'm just trying to keep on par."

Return of Reba?

Pitching coach Kevin O'Sullivan thinks he knows why No. 1 starter Steve Reba has been so bad in his last two starts.

Reba lasted just 1 2/3 innings in a loss to Arkansas in the Super Regionals, then Friday was pulled after just 1 1/3 innings against Nebraska in Omaha.

O'Sullivan said Saturday the problem was mechanical, not mental.

"I think he's been out of rhythm and out of synch," O'Sullivan said Saturday. "He's been pulling off his pitches, which obviously has made his arm slot drop a little bit and that's why the ball is sailing outside on him.

"We'll probably try to simplify his delivery a little. You don't want to do anything major this late in the year, but there will be a couple of little things I'll suggest to him."

Reba, a 13-game winner so far this season, has shown a competitive fire that leads O'Sullivan to believe given another opportunity, the senior will respond in a big way here in Omaha.

What won't happen, he said, is what took place here in 2000.

Scott Berney, who transferred from UConn to play his senior season at Clemson, tailed off horribly after a great start to the year. By the time Clemson made it to the College World Series, Berney was along merely as a spectator. He saw no action in Omaha.

"No, no. Absolutely not," O'Sullivan said when asked if the same might happen to Reba. "Stevie's been our guy, and he'll continue to be our guy. That will not happen here."

Reba's next action could come out of the bullpen if needed, or if Clemson wins today's game with Georgia Tech he could find himself starting either a Wednesday or Friday game, if necessary.

Must be the name

Though spelled differently, something about his name must have inspired Zane Green to Khalil Greene-type heroics since the NCAA Tournament got underway.

Friday, Green's three-run homer off Shane Komine pulled Clemson within 7-6 and started the road back to the 11-10 victory at Rosenblatt Stadium. The blast was Green's fifth home run of the season, all of which have come since the Regionals got underway three weeks ago.

When asked about Green's sudden success Saturday, Leggett said he didn't want to think about it or try to analyze it to discover why. He just hoped it keeps happening.

Green felt the same way.

"I'm not thinking about it at all," he said. "As soon as the game is over, no matter what I do, I clear my head. I think about my at-bats during the game, but after the game it's over. I just try to stay in that zone."

Naturally, given the recent controversy over steroid use in the Major Leagues, Green is getting his share of kidding about using the drugs during this recent power surge.

But in reality, it's been exactly the opposite.

"If anything I've stopped lifting weights," he said. "I lifted real hard at the beginning of the spring, but I've stopped and I feel much looser."

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