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The numbers didn't add up -- 26 players for...

By JOE JULIANO, UPI Sports Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- The numbers didn't add up -- 26 players for a 25-man roster in the playoffs -- and Paul Owens agonized for weeks over whom he would cut if the Philadelphia Phillies made it that far.

But in the end, Tug McGraw made Owens' job easier.

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McGraw, the hero of the Phillies' 1980 World Series championship team with his clutch relief pitching, talked with the manager about a week ago and 'more or less volunteered,' according to Owens, to be the man that had to be cut.

The Phillies accepted that gesture Sunday and dropped the colorful 39-year-old left-hander from the roster of players who will eligible for the National League championship series beginning Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

'This was a very, very tough decision,' Owens said at a news conference before the Phillies' game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. 'No. 1, because I love Tug McGraw, and No. 2, because I was trying to be as objective as I could as to what we could do to make us a better ballclub, particularly in a short playoff series.

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'To show the class of the man, he talked to me a week ago and could see we were going to have to do something along the pitching line. Without really wanting to, I'm sure, he more or less volunteered. He thought our club would be stronger going into the series if he were off the roster instead of (Marty) Bystrom or (Kevin) Gross.'

The Phillies' 25-man roster as of midnight Aug. 31 was eligible for the playoffs as was Bystrom, who was on the disabled list at the time with a strained right elbow.

Since Owens had decided to go with a three-man starting rotation for the playoffs and World Series, the job of either Bystrom or Gross was believed to have been in jeopardy. Instead, Owens said he decided to keep both players to provide long relief against a predominantly right-handed hitting lineup.

McGraw, in his 18th major league season, was a player without a role during the Phillies' torrid September stretch drive. He did not pitch from Sept. 13 to Sunday, when he mopped up the final two innings in a 4-0 loss to the Pirates.

'My role during that period has been on the insignificant or less important side,' said McGraw, who was 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA and no saves in 34 games. 'I don't see what my role was going to be. If I have to pitch, we'll pretty much be in trouble anyway.

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'I agree with the ballclub. I think they made the right decision and I am in accord with their thinking.'

McGraw's 1983 season was a far cry from 1980 when he went 5-4 with a 1.47 ERA and 20 saves in the regular season and saved four more games in the post-season, including the deciding sixth game of the World Series against Kansas City.

'Certainly, it's a difficult time for me personally,' McGraw said. 'It's not the way you plan things out but again, we're not dealing with people's emotions or personalities. It's not a blow to my pride or to my ego.'

McGraw made the trip with the team to Los Angeles and will pitch batting practice before the first two games, helping his teammates get accustomed to the screwball they are sure to see from Dodger pitchers Jerry Reuss and Fernando Valenzuela.

McGraw already has signed a contract for next season and Owens said Sunday he still wants him on his team in 1984.

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