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CRAIG WILL BE WATCHING ECKERSLEY

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When Dennis Eckersley strides in to make his first World Series appearance against San Francisco, Roger Craig is sure to be watching closely.

But the Giants manager will only hint playfully at whether he plans to raise the "foreign substance" issue that nearly created an international incident in the AL playoffs between Toronto and Oakland.The Series starts Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Oakland.

Athletics manager Tony La Russa said this week that a man of Craig's baseball stature "wouldn't pull something" like Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston did when he asked the umpires to search Eckersley during Game 5 of the playoffs last Sunday.

It's not that Craig can't take a compliment; he's just not sure La Russa's right.

"He don't know me that well," Craig said, his eyes twinkling, as the Giants held their first World Series workout at Candlestick Park. "If I think someone's cheating, whether it's a spring training game or whatever, I'm going to try to stop him."

Craig, after all, has been trying without success for years to stop Houston's Mike Scott, whom he accuses of scuffing balls.

After enjoying a day off after Monday's clinching of the National League pennant, the Giants focused seriously for the first time on the team located 10 miles across San Francisco Bay. Craig named Don Robinson as his Game 3 starter, following Scott Garrelts and Rick Reuschel, and said Mike LaCoss, Kelly Downs and Garrelts are being considered for Game 4. He said Ernest Riles will be his designated hitter for games played at Oakland.

But that news was overshadowed, even for the players, by the conspicious absence of Kevin Mitchell.

Mitchell, who's expected to be at practice this afternoon, incurred the wrath of Craig and his teammates over what the club described as a misunderstanding about the day of the first mandatory workout. The slugging outfielder had flown home to San Diego and was unable to make it back on time even though he apparently found out about the Wednesday practice from hitting coach Dusty Baker Tuesday night.

Craig said Mitchell faces a substantial fine.

"I feel bad about it," Craig said. "I feel bad for the ballclub. Some of the players were a little upset. I think they all expected me to do something, and I am going to do something."

Mitchell, who led the major leagues with 47 home runs, was the only no-show. One player who disapproved was Clark, who at first refused to comment on the matter, then said later, "Everybody keeps saying Clark and Mitchell, Clark and Mitchell, Clark and Mitchell. But it's a 24-man team. ... Everybody has to police himself."

Baker suggested that perhaps Mitchell couldn't catch a plane north Wednesday morning.

"I'm sure Kevin's working someplace," he said. "I know Kevin. I'd want to bet you anything on earth he's somewhere hitting right now."

If any Giants plan to accuse Eckersley of using a foreign substance on the baseball, they weren't tipping their hand Wednesday.

Pitcher Mike Krukow, who said he has known Eckersley for years, pooh-poohed Gaston's allegations.

"I have a lot of respect for Dennis Eckersley," Krukow said. "I've heard that stuff about everybody. I've even heard accusations about myself. Eck doesn't need to do that to be effective."

Brett Butler is likely to face Eckersley at some point in the series, but he seemed uninterested in the debate.

"Everybody gets on Scott, too, about scuffing," Butler said. "If somebody cheats, they cheat. That's something they have to deal with themselves. I can't be worried about that."