White Sox Manager Tony LaRussa, quoted in a Chicago Tribune story as saying he would order his players to lose if it would help them gain the playoffs, said last night he would forfeit a game before telling the team to take a dive.

In a copyright story from Boston, the Tribune reported an "overwhelming majority" of White Sox players questioned said they would throw a four-game series to Oakland if that's what it takes to get into the playoffs. LaRussa said not playing to win "would go against everything in my brain and my body" but that he would order his players to lose if it would get them in the playoffs.

Last night in Baltimore, LaRussa changed his tune: "Under no circumstances would the Chicago White Sox take the field and do anything not to win a baseball game. My answer to the dilemma is that faced with that situation, I would be in favor of not taking the field and accepting a forfeit, rather than being in a spot of needing to lose a game to make the playoffs."

Under the split-season system implemented because of the baseball strike, there will be a playoff for each division title, either between the winners of each half of the season or -- if one team wins both halves -- between the team that won both halves and the team with the next best overall record.

A possible second-half scenario could have Oakland, which won the first half, and Kansas City battling for the the second-half championship -- with the White Sox still comfortably ahead of Kansas City in overall record.

In such a case, the White Sox would be helping Kansas City win the second-half title by playing to beat Oakland in a four-game series starting Sept. 25. By throwing the series, Chicago could help Oakland to the second-half title and get a playoff berth as the team with the second-best overall record.

A spokesman for Commissioner Bowie Kuhn said steps would be taken to ensure that no team would be put in such a position. "It might be that these (schedule) adjustments would be made before the end of the season," said Bob Wirtz, the commissioner's director of information.