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October 14, 2003

John Burkett


Q. Andy Pettitte went back to New York a little early to prepare for tomorrow. Were you given that option and if so why have you decided not to?

JOHN BURKETT: I think I'll get in in plenty of time. I'm usually up to midnight or 1 o'clock every day anyway. So it's not impossible for me. I really didn't think about it. I wanted to be here to watch the game today. You know, everybody has their different feeling on that. There's no right way or wrong way to do it. He chooses to do it that way and I'm choosing to stay here.

Q. What do you do to compensate for the long layoff between starts?

JOHN BURKETT: It's fairly simple for me. I just throw more, make sure I get my throwing in, and I did that yesterday. I had a good side session. Went real well. My arm feels good. I was throwing the ball where I wanted to, and that's the key with me. I mixed in some breaking balls and I'm ready to go. I feel good today and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Q. Obviously win or lose today it's going to be a completely different scenario for you pitching Game 6. Would you talk about the mindset of both scenarios and how the pressure is different and how the adrenaline will be flowing either way for you?

JOHN BURKETT: Well, I think I'm going to be -- I always say this. I think I'm able to treat every game the same whether we are up 3-2 or down 2-3; for me it's going to be the same, with the only difference being, of having the comfort of being able to lose. But you don't want to lose. You're seeing in this series, all of these series, every day, every game, changes the momentum. Even if we are up 3-2, I feel like it's going to be a must-win situation. Regardless of how today goes, I still feel like that we have to win tomorrow and that's kind of how I look at it.

Q. I know you got passed over for yesterday's start because of the rainout. Did you have any concerns that Grady might go with Pedro on three days' rest or somebody else to pitch Game 6 or were you pretty confident all along that you would get the start?

JOHN BURKETT: When I'm told what's going to happen, Grady is an honest scout, I feel like whenever he tells me I'm going to pitch a game, that's the way it's going to go. Oakland he stayed with what he said. The Oakland series he had me scheduled for Game 4, Pedro could have came back on short rest and he ended up going with me. So I expected this would be no different. The rainout changes things, which is understandable, when you have a rainout; the Yankees changed their rotation, also. It just gives you the ability to do that. We brought Wake back. He pitched an outstanding game last night, again, as y'all saw and got us back to even. And now we have Derek Lowe going here at home, which he's been incredible here at home all season long. So I thought that was a no-brainer decision. And now I'll get the opportunity to pitch Game 6, which is a great decision and I'm looking forward to it.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about Jason, it seems at the end of the season and post-season he's been standing up a lot behind the plate to receive balls, baseball-wise; what advantages does that give him?

JOHN BURKETT: I think that nowadays, I think the way that hitters approach the ball now, they more or less dive into the plate. I think most guys are lowball hitters overall, and especially with two strikes, when you're throwing a lot of pitches down in the zone they get used to that ball being down and changing levels is a big advantage for a pitcher. Jason and Doug Mirabelli does the same thing, even though he catches Wake; it seems late in the game he'll do the same thing with relievers. It just gives you a target to shoot at. I'll usually do it mechanically; I've never had catchers that stood up like that. Mechanically I lay back on my back leg a little longer and cut it loose high. That definitely helps having that target out there.

Q. We get handed all kind of statistical data about all of the guys who are playing in the games and their record in daytime against this team and whatever. Do you think that the statistical numbers are worth anything?

JOHN BURKETT: (Plugging ears) Are you going to throw some numbers at me that I don't want to here.

Q. Is it worth anything?

JOHN BURKETT: What was it again? (Laughter.) I was closing my ears so you don't tell me something I didn't want to hear. Something negative about how I've done against the Yankees right.

Q. Are statistical numbers worth anything?

JOHN BURKETT: I don't think so. I mean, I think you're totally capable of going 0-10 against a team and beating them the next time out. I think you're capable of being 10-0 against a team and losing the next time out or pitching bad. For me, I really don't put any weight on it. It's going to be a situation where to me every time you go out there, you have a chance to pitch a great game, that's how I look at it.

Q. Is your mindset any different going into a game knowing the bullpen has been pitching great as opposed to a struggling bullpen?

JOHN BURKETT: It definitely gives you confidence I think as a whole team. Our guys have been lights-out here in the playoffs and it's been great to see. I think it brings a situation where the manager will maybe take the starter out a little bit earlier because the bullpen is doing so well. I mean, those guys have just been fantastic. But again, as a starting pitcher, I'm trying to get as deep in the game as I possibly can. If you can keep your pitch count down, you can go deeper in the game. If you don't, then you are probably going to get taken out early and if you don't give up runs you are probably going to go deeper in the game and if you don't, if you give up too many runs you're going to be out of the game early. So I don't think the bullpen really dictates it all that much, but it is definitely a comfortable feeling knowing that those guys are doing a great job down there and they are giving us a really good chance to win, and that's what we are here to do.

Q. You joked earlier about working on a knuckleball; have you ever tried to add that to your repetoire and what do you think of that?

JOHN BURKETT: I was just joking around. I threw it in high school but I think it would be kind of a gamble to bring back a pitch that I threw 20 years ago. I'll just go with what got me here so far. He's been outstanding and I think a lot of people don't respect knuckleball guys, and I think you're seeing somebody step up and it's a good feeling to see Tim Wakefield do that. He's a great teammate and it's fun to see him get off the way he's been the last two starts and through the playoffs.

Q. Twice during this series, we've seen managers ask umpires to examine a pitcher's uniform and gear. In your experience, how do pitchers react when something like that happens, and do you think that it affects them at all?

JOHN BURKETT: I can't speak for anybody else. I mean, I've been checked, this year, in fact. In fact, I had to pull my pockets out, I don't know why these guys didn't have to do that. (Laughter.) I don't think it affects you. I think if anything, you feel like maybe you are in the other team's head a little bit, you are throwing the ball good and I think that it's a compliment to have somebody check it and see if you're cheating, because obviously they think from the hitter's reactions or whatever, they think you are doing something with the ball.

Q. When did you get checked?

JOHN BURKETT: In Anaheim this year. It was early in the season, wasn't it? About June probably -- or April. It was that early.

Q. Admittedly, you are toward the end of your career; I'm just wondering what it means to you to be able to pitch now in such a meaningful game?

JOHN BURKETT: Well, I mean I think that especially from where I came from earlier in the season, I was getting to the point earlier in the season, everybody here knows that there's a game in Chicago this year where I gave up four consecutive doubles at the beginning of the game. He was actually on the mound kind of thinking, if I don't get this next guy out, my career could be over. And I ended up retiring the next 18 straight and here we are today. I just wanted to have the opportunity to pitch in important games and by fighting and scratching and having people believe in me, it's gotten to this point. It's definitely gratifying and I've pitched these games in the past, but this definitely is going to rank up there, pitching in Yankee Stadium in an important game like this. It will be exciting.

Q. It's a universal media assumption the rainout benefitted the Red Sox every way, especially in regards to the fun and games the other day; do you buy that the rainout affected the Red Sox positively in every way?

JOHN BURKETT: I think that first of all, it's easy to say who it benefitted after the game is over. If they would have won 3-2 or 2-1, Mike Mussina pitched a great game and they bumped him up, also. I think the fact that we won, I think people are going to say it benefitted us more. Now that it's over, definitely. Tim Wakefield has gotten us back even, just by his pitching performance. He shut down the Yankee bats and gave us a chance to win a game by scoring three runs. We have not really done that all that much this year, scored three runs or less and won a game. We are back to even, and we have Derek Lowe pitching here at home, which I think is probably an advantage. Now that it's said and done, hopefully it is, we'll finish this thing off and that will be everybody's reasoning.

End of FastScripts...

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