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October 7, 2004

Joe Torre


Q. This place has been a home field advantage for so many years. Some other teams have had a lot of trouble playing here, but you guys have had good success here. Why do you think that is?

JOE TORRE: That's a good question. Certainly we are used to playing outdoors, you don't feel that comfortable playing indoors, but I don't have any answer for that. I think the fact that you won a few games, and then all of a sudden -- you know, the feeling is, even though you don't like it as well as outside, you are still comfortable that you can get the job done. So I don't think there is any one particular thing that -- other than the way we play, that gives us that feeling.

Q. Joe, looking back, how important do you think it was for Kevin to have that meeting with his teammates after he punched the wall in early September?

JOE TORRE: Well, I think that right from the day he did it, that you knew that had to be a day to sort of clear the air because when you are in the middle of a penant race, and to have Kevin do what he did, and the interesting part about it, the night he did it, you know, we thought he pitched well. So that's the scary part. But again, knowing him, I met him one time before, but never getting to know him until this spring, you knew what kind of a volatile person he is and -- but the competitiveness came out and he got very emotional, and it's just one of those things. But we knew that that had to take place as soon as possible because there were some players that were angry, and I was angry, and it wasn't going to do us any good just to stay that way. We had to live together and work together. So we just felt it was best to air it out.

Q. Joe, do you have any more news on Duque and do you have a Game 4 starter yet?

JOE TORRE: No, we are not at a point we are going it announce our Game 4 starters. Duque gave me a thumbs-up today, which is a good sign that he felt good after -- because he did a good bullpen yesterday, he threw 60, 70 pitches. It was a pretty good test for him. You know, it may not have been a normal bullpen as far as stuff, but I think just the fact that he felt well enough to do that is the right spot for us.

Q. Joe, when Kevin is healthy, how good is he when he is right?

JOE TORRE: Well, you just talk to Gary Sheffield, he loves him to death, when it comes to wanting to win, and Gary knows what winning is all about as far as the way he plays the game. But when Kevin doesn't try to over-do and over-manufacture and do some things, just lets the ball come out of his hands to go with, you know, his intensity, he is pretty tough. Even though you know what he is going to come with, it's just a matter of still trying to elevate the ball and getting him to make mistakes. He won't give in, he is very stubborn. And when he is right, which he was on Saturday, even though it was a small sampling, I think he threw 70 pitches, you know, the right spot for us is the fact that physically he has felt good from then to now, so that's why we are pretty optimistic about tomorrow.

Q. Joe, last year you came here to Minnesota 1-1, you won the next two. Same thing -- situation this year, but with very different starting pitchers. I know you have always been confident in your team, but how is the feeling different without having Roger and Wells and having Brown and a question mark?

JOE TORRE: Well, it's different, but we are different every year. The only one I think has been a constant through this whole thing, of course, Roger was here for five years, and David was here for a couple different stints, Andy Pettitte is the one guy you are used to seeing every year -- at least I was -- for the eight years I was here, but again, when you go in, and you have been with these guys from Spring Training, you know, you don't think of anybody else instead of these people, you basically schedule your pitchers. This has probably been, I guess, the toughest to try to figure because of the health of some of our pitchers as far as scheduling, so we haven't been this indecisive about our starting pitching in the whole time I have been here, and it's just based on health at this point in time.

Q. Joe, when you think of everything that's going on from the start of the season, could this be Derek Jeter's best season for you?

JOE TORRE: I don't think there is any question. I mean, every -- you watch him every day, and a lot of you guys who follow us around get a chance to, but Derek Jeter, you know, he just seems to take the responsibility and he knows what to do with it. But this could be his best season, considering where he started. Where his batting average was in May, how he struggled two different times with slumps early on. And to have finished the season over 290, 23 home runs, and just an incredibly productive year, and defensively I think he has probably had his best year. And last night was an indication. He wasn't going to be denied. He got to third base, and I am not sure any third-base coach would say "tag up and go" when that ball was hit, but he instinctively -- the thing that I found amazing is the fact that when that ball was hit, your normal reaction is to break, and for him to get back and tag and go is just an instinctive thing that you are born with. He just basically was going to go on any ball hit in the air, it looked like, but when that ball was hit, which is a base hit if you are playing normal depth, just your reflex tells you to go, but he managed to get back and break and force them to make a play.

Q. Joe, for those of us who haven't followed you every day, what was it like when Arod first arrived and the dynamics of how so many superstars, so many people in the clubhouse, strong personalities, how he assimilated, and how he has gotten to the point where it seemed like last night was really a major defining moment for him?

JOE TORRE: No question. When he first came on board he wanted to be a part of our team. Now, just saying that, and wanting to be a part of the team doesn't change what you are used to having in your life. And let's admit it, everywhere he has been, he started in Seattle, and Junior was there at the time, and he was young and growing and maturing, and then Junior left, and then he was the number 1. So he went from there to Texas, and he has been really the guy that everybody has looked to for leadership. And then he comes over to our ball club and you look around and there are people who are there for one purpose and that's to get to post-season, and he -- I don't want to say was uneasy with that, but he was, I think, more tentative in how he should assert himself. That's just my evaluation. And it took some time. It took some time. And again, I think, because he is so talented, that sometimes he takes it back to a level that I don't think anybody else does because he tries to -- probably to organize it or do more than he really should. Instead of letting his instincts just take over, which is what you saw last night, it was like he was going to hit the ball there, you know, for -- if they were holding the guy on, maybe I will hit it through this hole or that hole. Very few people can even fathom thinking about that, but as I say, I don't talk to him about that except that I have heard him talk about hitting, and it goes back to Stan Musial, when I asked Stan in the old days, "Tell me something about hitting," he says, "Well, it's easy. Ball outside I hit a line drive to left field, ball inside, I hit a line drive to right field," but Arod just feels that he has so much ability to do things like that. I mean, not in a cocky way, it's just that he has a lot of confidence in himself, but when he got here, he realized that there is more to it than just the mechanics of hitting. It took him a little time. Took him a little time to get used to the people around him, and maybe the goals being a little bit different.

Q. Joe, despite the question marks about your pitching and the home field advantage that the Twins will enjoy this weekend, do you think the manner in which you won last night's game, you took a game that they were two outs away from winning, do you think that could change the dynamic of this series?

JOE TORRE: Well, every game stands on its own, and you have heard me talk about Ron Gardenhire. I mean, I think he -- I would have done exactly the same thing he did last night. You have your closer out there for two innings, and you are not going to pitch him any longer, but then when you score a run, you are certainly going to -- you have to pitch another inning. I don't care if you are 50 or 60 managers, whatever it is, because you are still a person that's used to closing the game out. But these two teams, we are so different and yet, you know, I think the determination is the same. Both clubs come at you from a different way. They come at you from not striking out, putting the ball in play, I think evidenced by Koskie's at-bat last night. Certainly we really lost a lot of air out of our sails last night when they scored against Mariano in the eighth inning and it picked us up a little bit when he got out of that job in less than two outs, but they are not intimidated by anything. And, again, we obviously needed to win that game. Tanyon Sturtze, the last three or four weeks, has emerged as a real major pitcher out of our bullpen. But I think these next games are going to be pretty special because it's not a matter about where you play, it's just how -- who is going to wind up being left standing. I don't think it matters where you play, because both the way they played at our ballpark, and we have had some success here, I think it's just a matter of a bad hop or a line drive that's caught, or whatever it is. I think it's going to come down to that.

Q. So you don't think that you are in their heads, I guess is what I am asking?

JOE TORRE: No, I don't think so. I don't think so. I mean, I think they had the same amount of respect for us as we have for them. There is nothing safe at this point in time. We can't intimidate them. You know, come to Yankee Stadium, 55,000 people out there and we have a two-run lead and they do what they did last night, I think that question is answered.

Q. Joe, given that Derek Jeter started last night by landing one in the black and later on did some of the smaller things like a sacrifice bunt and walk and the tag-up. Do you think it sort of showed the full range of what he is about this time of year?

JOE TORRE: Yes. Just by his body language, I think is an indication -- and again, I don't want to do it in an egotistical kind of way, like this is what we are going to get done, we are going out there with this attitude that we have to take the game to them. And it's just his personality more so than the opposition that we are playing, and the signature thing with him is doing something the first time up. You know, he did it and it was game 4 of the World Series in 2000. Last night we certainly needed a lift, especially with Minnesota scoring a run in the top of the first. He hit a ball to Reggieland, and that's not really part of his signature, but he made a statement there, and then last night I think he covered a wide range of all the things that he does, not the least of which was a ball that was sort of a semi-chopper with a man on third base -- or second base, whatever it was, the ball Lieber sent. Last night I think you saw most of it.

Q. Joe, when will you decide on Game 4 and when will you have Sturtze back?

JOE TORRE: I don't know about Sturtze, but Game 4, you know, tomorrow at this press conference we will have that for you, I am sure, and that's basically it. Mel and I -- Javy Vazquez obviously is -- we are not going to pitch Mike Mussina, we are going to come up with another pitcher for Game 4, and if there happens to be a Game 5, that would be Mike Mussina.

Q. Joe, with the right-hander going again, will you use the same line-up as last night or are you thinking about using Lofton?

JOE TORRE: No, Lofton 8th, Cairo 9th, Posada -- give it the other way around this time, Zimmer taught me to start at the bottom, go up. Posada, Bernie, Matsui, Sheffield, Arod and Derek.

End of FastScripts...

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