Wow - a World Series game starting early

Are Major League Baseball and the networks finally getting the message about dwindling viewership for late games?

Game 3 of the World Series, hosted by the American League champ, is scheduled to begin before 7 p.m. on the East Coast - the earliest start since 1987.

"The changes we made with Fox last year to start the World Series games earlier helped increase viewership, including more young fans, and we are optimistic that the earlier start time for Saturday's Game 3 will keep us moving in the same direction," commissioner Bud Selig said in a release.

MLB and Fox said Thursday that the Oct. 30 game will have a first pitch at 6:57 p.m., an hour earlier than last year. The others will be the same as 2009, with 7:57 starts except for Game 4, which begins after the Sunday NFL games about 8:20.

Twins' Morneau will miss first round

It was a good-news/bad-news day for Minnesota.

Joe Mauer returned to the Twins' lineup for the first time since hurting his left knee 11 days ago, but slugger Justin Morneau ruled himself out of the first round of the playoffs.

Mauer batted third as the designated hitter in Thursday's game against Toronto. DH Jim Thome is still out because of a bad back.

Morneau has been out since he suffered a concussion on July 7, when he was kneed in the head inadvertently by Toronto's John McDonald.

Double duty for Detroit

Rain hasn't helped the Detroit Tigers in their bid to finish with a winning record.

Thursday night's game in Baltimore was postponed, so the Tigers will be forced to play their second doubleheader in three days. They will face the Orioles on Friday at 4:30 p.m., with the nightcap starting 20 minutes afterward. Detroit dropped both games at Cleveland on Wednesday.

The Tigers (80-78) need to win two more to wind up with a winning record.

Gaston noncommital about successor

Outgoing Toronto manager Cito Gaston said he's pleased that Don Baylor will get a chance to interview for his job.

Gaston said he has respect for Baylor's career both as a player and a manager. Baylor managed the Colorado Rockies from 1993 to 1998 and the Chicago Cubs from 2000 to 2002.

At the same time, Gaston said he isn't sure who is the right man for the job. He said he has recommended that general manager Alex Anthopoulos speak to Juan Samuel, the former Phillie who was the interim manager in Baltimore this season after Dave Trembley was fired.

Mariners shut down Hernandez

Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik said that ace Felix Hernandez will not start Sunday's regular-season finale.

Hernandez leads the majors with a 2.27 ERA and 232 strikeouts, and tops the American League with 2492/3 innings - a career high. He is a leading candidate for the AL Cy Young Award with a 13-12 record.

The Mariners said it was in the best interests of the 24-year-old righthander to not pitch again this season.

The Phillies' Roy Halladay leads the majors with 2502/3 innings - and looks forward to pitching many more.

Longoria out again

Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria missed a seventh consecutive game because of a strained left quadriceps.

Contact staff writer Robin Smith at
This article contains information from the Associated Press.