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October 5, 2004

Joe Torre


Q. Do you have any theories on Lieber's home versus away disparity, and do you think he had to get over any doubts about his arm early on coming back from the elbow?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, I think so. And I think the doubt part was that, you know, after some starts, he felt better than other starts as far as strength-wise. Any time we had an opportunity to give him an extra day when it was possible we would do that with off-days. We would move him around in the rotation. But as far as the home/away stuff, Yankee Stadium, if you keep the ball in the middle of the field, you can get pretty comfortable as far as pitching here. You know, I don't want to say he doesn't put a whole lot of thought into what he does; he does. But he doesn't spend a lot of time thinking out there as far as wasting time. He goes out there, and just is very aggressive and goes after you. I don't know the home/road reason, other than the fact that, as I say, if you can keep the ball in middle of the field here, you can have a lot of success.

Q. After all of the years does this ever change, is it always the same coming into Game 1, the emotions, that type of thing?

JOE TORRE: I thought years ago before I was in post-season play that you did this once and that would be enough, you would really be satisfied with that. But you realize how every single year, and it doesn't matter how often you're in it, you still get the butterflies. You still get a little anxious to get the games going, and you're never satisfied with just getting there. But it never gets old. I think you have the same anxieties, at least I do, going into the baseball game. The best part of the post-season, are the games. Just everything leading up to it just builds up the emotion I think. But once the games start, you sort of get lost in what you're doing.

Q. Did Duque throw again today and do you know any more about Game 3 and 4 starters?

JOE TORRE: I don't. What I told our local media early, Games 3 and 4 starters, they are not going to depend on anything that happens the first two games. Mel and I are digesting obviously giving Duque every opportunity to be in the mix, and I do not know what he did today as far as throwing, because I just came right from batting practice here and I haven't had a chance to talk to Mel. But we are, you know, we don't think there's any reason to have to make a decision if you're going to change it. So we're just trying to get as much information as we can, and then either before tomorrow's game or after tomorrow's game, we'll obviously have to make a decision.

Q. There's no question about your team's consistency winning over a period of time. Now you're in a three-out-of-five series. Does this change your technique and managing of the way you bring players in and out of the game?

JOE TORRE: Well, normally - and Don Zimmer taught me this because I was happy to have him by my side for eight years - you realize, the post-season, don't make friends. The rope is a little shorter. You have to make decisions. But of course, you have to make rational decisions. You just don't go out there and take a pitcher out of a game unless you feel that the change is going to be something that's going to be worth doing. But you certainly go out there and try to win every single game like it's the last game. In that regard, where during the season, you sit there and what you're trying to do is gain as much confidence for everybody for the long run. In the post-season you're basically just trying to win a game and personalities really don't enter into it.

Q. Getting back to Lieber a little bit, tomorrow is obviously going to be the biggest game he's ever pitched. Can you talk about the intangibles he brings and the guts he's shown coming back from the elbow surgery?

JOE TORRE: I thought it was a great sign when we did this a year or so ago, and just his personality and his temperament, he's been under the radar with everything else that goes on around here. But he does, obviously, have a lot of courage, knows how to win. He does that in a pretty big stage in Chicago. But this is different. This is post-season. This is Yankee Stadium. He seems to be ready for the challenge. As I say, he's going to have plenty of support because I don't think there's a soul on this ballclub that doesn't pull for him or, you know, feel good about what he's done, because it's not easy coming back. It's a lonely existence. I remember Tommy John, when he had the Tommy John surgery, I was at Dodger Stadium and you watch him just jogging around the field before the gates are opened and nobody is paying a lot of attention to him. It's a lonely rehab and when you get back, I'm sure you have some doubts. But by about mid-season on, he just felt like he's been all the way back.

Q. These Division Series, Game 2 has been Andy Pettitte's game all the way through, is it strange at all not to have him there?

JOE TORRE: You know, you really don't think about those things. I certainly appreciated -- we never took Andy for granted when he was here. He was another one of those guys that I guess could you say similar to Lieber, where they were always talking about somebody else until the last couple of years. But Andy was able, for a young pitcher, was able to handle a great deal of pressure here and came out very, very well. But I miss Andy, but not in terms of filling out your rotation. When he left, you realize that, you know, your people, your rotation is made up of different people and you just go there. You know, I don't go back and think about that. I mean, I certainly appreciated him and still feel he's a friend.

Q. You've been briefed on the Sheffield situation with the steroid use that he took unknowingly and do you think it will be a distraction for him?

JOE TORRE: Well, if it is, it would surprise me. Sheff had to deal with this in spring training. He's all baseball as far as I'm concerned. The one thing about Sheff, he's going to be as open as he possibly can be. That's one thing I've learned in the short period of time we've been together. Everybody on this ballclub has come to admire what he stands for, and basically, it's out here to play baseball for his teammates. Do I think it will be a distraction? I hope not. Again, if it happens to be a distraction, then you just have to make sure that you push it off on the side. I guess if you're going to play in any town that gets you used to distractions, it's this one. So maybe he's had some practice, being able to focus on what he needs to focus on.

Q. Just wondering, does it feel any different to you this year? You're not perceived as having overwhelming pitching or being the favorite; does it feel like you're not the favorite and is that in some sense an advantage or is it a disadvantage?

JOE TORRE: I never want to allow the fact that maybe you're not as strong as you were or stronger in some areas -- any time you go into a series like this, whether you're the favorite or the underdog, I think playing in this uniform, you always feel the need to win. I don't think it's changed at all this year. We still feel it's necessary for us to go out there and do what we need to do. Again, this ballclub, I've learned during the course of this year, because at one time or another, we were without somebody. And I know a lot of ballclubs can talk about that and have the same problems. We never really, you know, concerned ourselves with it, other than hoping these people get back or get better. So I don't feel any different. It's an anxious time of year. I don't think I'm any less nervous or any more nervous because in some people's minds we're not as strong pitching-wise as we've been. But I still think the task is the same and I like the personality of our club so far.

Q. The Red Sox think that the scuffle between Varitek and A-Rod turned their season around; was there a moment like that or that one that got you guys rolling?

JOE TORRE: No, I'd like to believe our motivation is winning. I don't think we need to get slapped around to think, to realize what's important for us to do. I think we've been tested several times. We had a ten-game lead. Actually, the Red Sox scuffed us around early in the year beating us six out of seven or seven out of eight, whatever it was. And we responded by going out and sweeping Oakland and doing some things that are not easy to do. So I think we've been tested a lot this year. I think we've responded well. But as far as any one particular game, I don't think so. I think probably the emergence of Sheffield, when he just sort of looked around and felt pretty comfortable with everybody around him and that he probably trusted everybody, I think that elevated our game a little bit.

Q. With Bernie batting clean-up, he's batted pretty much everywhere for you, do you have confidence in him, wherever you put him; and post-season has always been a good stage for him?

JOE TORRE: It's interesting, Bernie always wants to know -- not that he wants to know what his job is, but he thinks he has to be a different player every place he hits. If you hit him lead off, he tries to shorten up and bunt. Bernie is a special individual. You go back to '96, '97, he hit clean-up most of the time, even though he's not your prototypical power hitter, but this time of year he seems to do well. Matsui tomorrow will be in the clean-up basically because of the righty/lefty situation. But Bernie seems to respond to the responsibility that goes to -- actually wherever you hit in the post-season, when you're in the lineup in the post-season, there's a lot of responsibility that goes with that.

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