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October 19, 2003

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: First question for Joe.

Q. Did you ever consider batting Jeter, Nick Johnson leadoff? Did you ever think the only problem with Soriano is he's kind of a little mis-cast, he's a great No. 5 hitter?

JOE TORRE: Who asked you to ask me that question? (Laughter) I have no clue. Soriano could probably hit eventually anywhere in the line-up. Jeter is an excellent leadoff hitter, especially in the World Series. Up against the Mets, he hit a home run on the first pitch to get us going. We've got a ballclub that, a line-up that can -- you can move them around any which way you want. The best part about it, this is probably the only club I've ever managed that nobody has come in and said, "I have trouble hitting in this spot," or "I need to hit here," or whatever. That, for a manager, makes just dealing with a lot of things easier.

Q. The Boston series was a very intense series. You ended it on an extreme emotional high. Do you think the loss yesterday helped ground your team again and bring things back into the immediate perspective?

JOE TORRE: We certainly were in a position to win yesterday. We had plenty of opportunities to hit with men in scoring position, but they just took care of it. They shut us down. We take nothing for granted. I mean, we watched. If you were ever gonna take something for granted, you watched the Cubs have a 3-1 lead on this team and go home. I mean, that, right away, nobody has to have a meeting to explain that to people. They saw this ballclub fight back against the Cubs' two best pitchers. So I think that, in itself, was a lesson that everybody learned. I don't know what happened yesterday other than the fact that we got men on base and we couldn't do anything with it. Boomer pitched a good game. You'd like to be able to win every game, but I guess it's not possible.

Q. In the postseason, Matsui is leading your team in RBIs, hits, batting average. What did you think you were gonna get when you got him? What did it turn out you did get as a ball player?

JOE TORRE: Well, before I saw him play with the number of home runs he's hit the last couple of years, I was a little concerned because it's tough to change not only leagues, but countries, and expect to be this big power hitter. I saw him in spring training and I saw a different person. He's more of a line-drive type hitter and I like that a whole lot better because that would fit with us a lot better. But by the time we left spring training, Don Zimmer and I both thought he'd hit .300 and drive 100 runs. He has a very solid swing, plus the fact he knows how to hit. What I mean by that, he knows how to hit in situations. To me, that's more important than a lot of ability maybe somebody else might have.

Q. Can you talk about Andy's performance tonight, coming through for you in a Game 2?

JOE TORRE: Somebody asked me if it amazes me or surprises me. I guess I'd have to say no. I've seen him grow. He had Major League experience when I took over this club in '96. I watched him pitch Game 1 of the World Series in '96 and get blown out of the tub. He got beat up pretty badly. We chatted after that outing. He felt he had to do something, because it was the World Series, he felt he had to change things. He learned on his own. He realized that he's a good pitcher and he can't be a power pitcher even though, at times, he tries to muscle up. He deals with the stress and the pressure very well. Not that he doesn't get nervous or not that he doesn't get excited, but he's still able to focus and stay locked in. I think that's so important. He's been huge for us. Three days' rest, I was a little concerned early. He got three-ball counts on people early. Once you get there, that three days is gonna come into play.

Q. What, if anything, did you have to say to Andy going into that ninth inning? Looking at these 1-1 splits at home, does it ever get old?

JOE TORRE: If you're gonna split at home, I guess the best way to do it is win the second game. Once you start winning in postseason or any time during the year, you really get greedy. You want to put a streak together. I don't talk to Andy during the game. Mel goes in and does it on a regular basis. The only thing, I think Mel did more talking to Posada than he did to Andy. Andy was getting a little tired, and he thought he had to really force it a little bit at the end. His pitch count was wonderful. He just reminded Jorge to let him come out of his hand instead of muscling it more so than talking to Andy. He just trying to calm Andy down between innings. He went out there and did more than we could have hoped for tonight.

Q. I think in the ALCS you said you couldn't get to Giambi because of the traffic, that you couldn't get to him to tell him you were dropping him. You said before this game, you and Soriano chatted. What kind of input do they have? Did Soriano say, "Leave me there, Skip," or did you make the decision? Did you ask him?

JOE TORRE: I told him I was thinking of dropping him down in the line-up. In the conversation, he said he enjoys hitting leadoff. I know he does. He likes to try to be the guy that gets things going. The only thing I wanted him to do was have a plan. Even if your plan is wrong, you just go to the plate, home plate, and have a plan, what you're gonna try to do. To me, being in between is worse than being wrong because when you're in between, you're never right. So that was basically the conversation. Probably what helped me leave him in leadoff was the fact it was a left-hander pitching against us tonight. I'm just glad that he walked the first time up and, you know, of course the home run was great for, hopefully, his confidence. It made him a little more patient, anyway.

Q. You obviously gave Matsui the green light on 3-0. Was that just your extreme faith in him? What inspired that decision?

JOE TORRE: Well, he's a good hitter, hitting fifth. We've done that with a lot of our players. You get in a situation and 3-0, if you're not gonna get a strike then, then you're gonna walk. He's pretty good at being able to detect a strike, as opposed to, "I'm gonna look for a fastball and swing at it no matter where it is." As I say, he's a good situational guy. It was similar to Cincinnati. I did the same thing in Cincinnati. I gave him a green light 3-0. He hit a home run over the centerfield fence. I think that's an indication of a real good hitter that knows his ability, because a lot of times - and I know in my personal experience, when I was a player, I was never a pull hitter. I pulled some balls, but I was never a pull hitter. When I got to 3-0, I tried to pull a ball and normally, hit a ground ball or popped up - but he knows where his strength is. He stayed within himself and didn't try to pull the ball. He wanted to hit the ball hard and he did what he did.

Q. Was this home run similar to the one he hit against Minnesota in terms of setting the early tone?

JOE TORRE: No question. We had been struggling for runs through that whole Boston series. To jump up there and get three runs, it really helped our personality. There's no question. Then to add one in the second inning, that's terrific for us. But it certainly, in my mind, takes a little of the pressure off the pitcher to try to make every pitch perfect.

Q. Have you decided who your first baseman will be?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, it's gonna be Jason. Jason will start at first.

Q. Did tonight's three hits from Nick Johnson play any role in any decision?

JOE TORRE: No, Jason is our experienced guy. Nick Johnson can do a lot of things. It just gives us a deeper bench. But Jason Giambi, I mean, he's the guy that really we need to have in the middle of the line-up whether he's getting a walk, whether he's getting a base hit. All those numbers, even though they're not showing up yet, are still pretty damn impressive. He's had plenty of experience in postseason. He'll be at first base on Tuesday.

Q. Was it even more impressive what Andy did on three days' rest? And is it time, given his winning percentage and postseason record, to start figuring where he belongs in this club's history of left-handed pitchers?

JOE TORRE: As I say, Andy has been under the radar in the eight years I've been here. There's always been somebody. David Cone was here, Clemens came aboard, Boomer. There's always been someone that probably was probably a little more high-profile than Andy. He sort of likes it that way. He's a very honest young man. I mean, this year, I don't know how many times I've been asked about the fact that he doesn't have a contract for next year, where will he be. And watching him perform in that environment and that situation just adds more to what he's all about. There's no question he will figure prominently, especially with the success we've had, the success they've had over the last nine years, and the fact that Andy has been a big part of it.

Q. When you and Mel were setting the rotation for this series, you said it came down to Andy and Mike for tonight's game. Did you at all factor in how good Andy has been in Game 2 of this postseason?

JOE TORRE: Well, more so I think the fact that he's had success at home. He's pitched well at home. With that short rightfield porch, of course this ballclub, they're not influenced that much by that because there's so many right-handers; they don't flip-flop a lot of people in their line-up. But I think the fact that Andy's pitched well at home this year was probably more a determining factor.

End of FastScripts...

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