Yankees pitching coordinator Billy Connors said early today

By Tim Puet Associated Press Writer Published:

Yankees pitching coordinator Billy Connors said early today after Irabu's latest outing with the Columbus Clippers that he would talk with team owner George Steinbrenner and manager Joe Torre later in the day to decide whether Irabu would be called up for a weekend series with the Minnesota Twins.

Irabu struck out 11 batters in eight innings, but did not earn a decision Wednesday night for the Clippers against the Richmond Braves in the International League.

The Clippers won 4-3 in 18 innings. The game took 5 hours 38 minutes, one minute longer than any previous game in the team's 21 seasons.

Irabu gave up three runs, two of them earned, on six hits, including the first home run he has allowed in the IL. He also walked three batters, all in the sixth inning, after allowing just two walks in his three previous IL appearances.

The game was his second since being sent back to Columbus after going 2-2 with a 7.37 earned run average for the Yankees. He is 2-0 with the Clippers.

"He pitched very well," Connors said. "He came down and worked hard to get back and he's on the right track. He pitched a consistent 96 miles per hour at times and averaged 93."

"There were a lot of variations I had to work on, but I was more satisfied that I was able to grasp things than I had been in previous games," Irabu said through an interpreter after the game. "I grade myself at 70 percent (on a scale of 100)."

The Japanese right-hander has struck out 28 in four starts with the Class Triple-A Clippers, allowing seven runs, five of them earned, on 19 hits with five walks.

"The strikeouts were very good," said Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

"One thing I didn't see overall tonight for the first time was domination, but he reached back and got it when he had to have it."

Irabu had an 18-inning scoreless streak end in the second as T.R. Lewis scored from second on a single by Robert Smith.

He walked the bases loaded in the sixth, but got out of the jam when Randall Simon hit into an inning-ending double play.

Tim Spehr walked to open the inning and Marty Malloy grounded out. Mike Mordecai then got on base when home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor called ball four on Irabu for going to his mouth on a 3-and-2 pitch. Irabu then threw four straight balls to Ed Giovanola to fill the bases.

"I didn't have any physical or mental problems" during the inning, Irabu said. 'I was pitching very aggressively, but the ball was just missing the corners of the strike zone."

Irabu struck out three batters in the seventh, but two runs scored, one of them on an unusual play.

Brad Tyler, the second batter of the inning, hit a first-pitch home run, his 13th of the season. Smith singled and stole second, then with two out, stole third on a third-strike pitch to Spehr and scored when the pitch got by catcher Marc Ronan for a passed ball. Despite Ronan's misplay, the pitch was a strike, ending the inning.

Irabu struck out Giovanola, the last batter he faced in the eighth. He left trailing 3-1 and was replaced by Dale Polley at the start of the ninth after throwing 113 pitches.

The game drew 10,883 fans, the smallest crowd to see Irabu pitch in three games at Columbus and one in Rochester. Games in which he has pitched in Columbus have drawn 43,708 fans for an average of 14,569 fans, more than double the Clippers' average attendance this season.

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