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Now that they've found Brown, Marlins say he'll pitch

The Florida Marlins insist Kevin Brown is all set to start tonight. Then again, they've had trouble keeping track of their ailing ace lately.

In the latest bit of intrigue during the NL championship series, both general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland said Monday that the pitcher traveled on the team charter Sunday night."Yes, yes, he did," Dombrowski said.

"He did come in with us last night," Leyland said. "So unless the airline had bad food, I guess he'll be ready tomorrow."

Except that it wasn't so.

Brown was not on the Marlins' plane as they headed to Atlanta, where they hold a 3-2 lead over the Braves heading into Game 6.

Instead, he did not leave Florida until 9:05 a.m. EDT Monday on Delta flight 1168 from Fort Lauderdale. It was an easy trip, aside from Brown finding someone else sitting in his assigned seat.

"Another night at home in my bed. A little more rest. I feel fine," said Brown, scratched twice because of a viral infection. "I'm throwing unless lightning strikes me."

But wouldn't the Marlins have noticed if their No. 1 starter was missing going into the most important game in franchise history?

"They thought he was on the plane," Marlins spokesman Ron Colangelo announced. "They didn't know he wasn't."

Whatever, the Marlins said it was now certain that Brown would start at Turner Field against Tom Glavine, the Game 2 winner. A win will put the Marlins in the World Series, a loss will force Game 7 on Wednesday night.

"It's not about me. It's about the team winning," Brown said. "The fact I have the chance is just the circumstance."

Then again, what seems to be with Brown in this series is not necessarily so.

Twice the Marlins said he would start the next day, and both times he was held back because of illness. Last Friday, the Marlins said Brown was in the trainer's room and would soon be in the interview area at Pro Player Stadium. It turned out he was home all day.

There have been times in the past when teams have not wanted a pitcher's condition to be fully known. In the 1982 World Series, for example, the Milwaukee Brewers continued to insist reliever Rollie Fingers was available against St. Louis, even though he wasn't.

Brown, who won the opener, was scheduled to pitch Games 1, 4 and 7 in Leyland's original rotation.

"Sure, I was disappointed," said Brown, appearing more gaunt than usual. "I was supposed to pitch Game 4 and I was pushed back to Game 5, and then pushed back again."

Having seen the Marlins juggle their rotation on nearly no notice - Florida coach Rich Donnelly called Braves manager Bobby Cox four hours before gametime Sunday to tell him Livan Hernandez would replace Brown - the Braves weren't sure who to expect tonight.

"Everybody says Brown, but you never know, do you?" Atlanta hitting coach Clarence Jones said.

"I'm not using it as an excuse, but when the guys go home, they want to know who's going to be pitching," he said. "They like to know who they'll be facing."

If Brown does not pitch, the Marlins would likely turn to Tony Saunders. The rookie was 3-0 against Atlanta in the regular season and got a no-decision in Game 3.

"You just tell yourself it could be one of those two guys," Braves leadoff man Kenny Lofton said. "We've faced both of them before."

*****

Additional Information

Braves vs. Marlins

NLCS Game 6, today

Start: 6:07 MDT. TV: NBC (Ch. 5). Radio: KSL-1160.

Pitching matchup: Florida (Brown 16-8) at Atlanta (Glavine 14-7).

Series: Marlins lead 3-2.