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September 29, 2003

Joe Torre


Q. Joe, how do you put aside, and the team put aside, the fact that you've beaten this club 13 straight times?

JOE TORRE: Well, to be perfectly honest with you, we haven't seen them in so long. It's like interleague play, really. We saw them in April and May, two years in a row the same thing. They are not the same thing. They are basically not the same team that we played. They had a lot of injuries and since we have not seen them in five months or whatever the heck it is, it's easy to put aside the fact that we beat them every game the past two years, it really is. And even if we had played them later in the year, you still can't allow that to interfere with what has to be your focus in post-season.

Q. Do you have a starting lineup?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, Soriano, in this case Johnson, Jeter, Giambi, Posada, Williams, Matsui, Boone and Juan Rivera and Giambi will DH.

Q. Giambi has not been playing much first base. Is there a physical reason that he has not been or that he won't?

JOE TORRE: The fact that he's played a lot and he's had some knee problems over the years, but obviously, there's been no routine we've gotten into. He either plays or doesn't play. Let's put it this way. There has not been a day he has not been able to play first base. This is a knee thing he had long before he came here. This is something that's a constant. As long as we have a guy like in this case Johnson who is in the lineup every day, and probably more important than that, Jason, who has no problems with the DH role, then we'll probably stay that way.

Q. Have you figured out your final roster?

JOE TORRE: No, we haven't. We're still dealing with it because Dellucci threw a curveball yesterday. In fact, when that ball was hit to right field, I wasn't happy because I thought we were going to have a problem scoring him. He just turned and had no problem. I just came out of the centerfield, I talked to him and he said he can do everything right now. I'm going to double-check with our trainers and see if there's anyway he can physically hurt himself. They can strap him pretty good where it will be like he's wearing a cast and it won't be a problem. Once we get all of that information, we'll probably make it later today.

Q. Going into this post-season where is your confidence level compared to past post-seasons?

JOE TORRE: It's really tough to gauge that. Last year we won 103 games and won every game down the stretch. However, I have a sense that I'm more comfortable with the way our starters have pitched this year, late, than I did last year. Again, we played a club last year we were uncomfortable playing. And knowing that they were -- basically the same kind of club this club is, they are not going to try to hit home runs. They are going to try to put the ball in play, they are going to try to run, they are going to do a lot of things. Last year, my uneasiness probably came from the fact that I didn't think our starters, you know, they won, but I didn't think they had pitched as well as they have this year.

Q. When you were talking to Mussina when he was a free agent making the decision where he was going to go, and you spoke to him, did you talk to him about, this was an opportunity for him to come and possibly win a championship playing the World Series, was that part of what you talked to him about?

JOE TORRE: You know, Mike Mussina is very aware that we were in the World Series a lot. I think that probably was more in his mind than for me to mention. The only thing I had heard was that Mike Mussina didn't like New York, and the main reason for the call was to let him know that there are other places other than midtown Manhattan to live and to be most of the time. So that was really the gist of my conversation with him. It had nothing to do with come over. That's too much pressure on me, try to deliver a championship, enticing guys to come over. It was basically about living in New York and basically spending the next several years here.

Q. What is the thing that you like best about your team going into the playoffs, and what is your biggest concern or biggest fear?

JOE TORRE: Well, my fear is five games. You play 162 games and you sit there in spring training, you look around and you say, we should be able to -- barring anything major happening, we should be able to get to the post-season. That's your thought in spring training, to play 162 games. But when you play five games, that's the fear, anything can happen. You go back to '96 when we played Texas, we lost Game 1 and then we were losing Game 2. We came back in Game 2, had some lucky breaks, somebody threw a ball away, we won a ballgame and all of a sudden we win and we win the World Series. And then last year, we win Game 1, Bernie hits a three-run home run. We have a one-run lead going into the eighth inning of Game 2. We win that game, who knows what happens. But that's how fragile that five-game series is. So you understand that. I think that's the fear. I'm not, if, we don't play well, we don't deserve to win. You go to that but you can't worry about not playing well. I think it's more the number of games. I feel good because I think the temperature of our ballclub is fine. I think we are in good spirits. I have a good sense that we understand how important these games are, and I say that because we played a very tough series up in Boston. We played a very tough series down here with Boston. And following that second series, where we won Game 3, after getting beaten up in two games, we played teams that supposedly, quote unquote, we were supposed to beat, and we didn't let down. We had a good streak going out there, ready to play every day. That's why I feel good about this club right now. I think we are ready to play post-season. I feel we're going to be focused and hopefully we play well.

Q. Do you feel more on the spot or under pressure this year than previous years, because it's been a couple of years since you won and Mr. Steinbrenner seems even more active this year and you've said that it has not been as much fun for you, I assume that's part of what you're saying now, but do you feel more pressure on you or anybody else?

JOE TORRE: I don't think I could feel more pressure than I feel every time I put on a uniform here with the Yankees to be honest with you. I don't think anybody else could put more pressure on me than I put on myself. And yes, Mr. Steinbrenner has been more vocal. It has not been that he's said more this year; it's just been more public. I think it's taken a lot more time to respond, and then at times when I did respond, it didn't flow as well as I had hoped it would. So I got myself in trouble, too. But as far as the pressure, I feel intense pressure, but it has nothing to do with the fact that we didn't win last year.

Q. How will the extra off-day between these first couple of games affect the way you use your bullpen, specifically Rivera?

JOE TORRE: I think because the off-day on Wednesday and Friday, that, sure, I think if the situation calls for it, I think I would go to Rivera, if that's what I felt I wanted to do. And mainly because of the off-days. If we had played games one and two back-to-back, I would probably be a little more hesitant. Although I'm not sure I would be, because when you get to post-season, you pretty much have to win every game and if that's the way you feel you have to do that, you'll do it. I'm very confident with the people we have coming out of there, White and Heredia and Spike, even with his woes, he has the experience that usually pays off. And Contreras, I think he could be for us what Mendoza was for so many years here. He could give us somebody who pitches in the eighth or the sixth or the seventh and possibly take us to Rivera. Yeah, I think in using Rivera, the extra off-day could probably affect my decision.

Q. What are your thoughts on facing Santana and what were your thoughts when Gardenhire chose him even though he's much less experienced than other starters in these situations?

JOE TORRE: One thing I know and I knew this when I was a broadcaster for six years, when you start talking about the other people's teams, you realize the manager is the only one who knows the most about them. Since I have not seen this ballclub in so long and we have seen him out of the bullpen and we know he has a live arm, I'm sure Gardy felt comfortable making the decision because he had plenty of time to do something else if he wanted to. That only tells me that this young man is pitching well and that his manager has a lot of confidence in him.

Q. Just to make sure what you said earlier about Giambi, that he does not have a problem playing DH and you expect it to be that way, do you expect him to stay as a DH throughout the series?

JOE TORRE: Well, the attitude will be the same. I'm going to pretty much make up my mind as we go from day-to-day. But to me, once he had some days DHing and having good offensive days, I sort of put the hook in him; I've got you now, just like I did with Paul O'Neill. Even though he did not like DHing, he had some good days there, so it did not really affect him psychologically at all. As much as maybe Jason wanted to play first base, I think a younger player is so much used to playing every day where an older player can sort of psychologically prepare himself to sit between at-bats. Nick Johnson, even though he does not say much, he's a young player, that's something he had never done before he got here. The biggest concern was Jason and Jason says, "Whatever you want to do." He certainly will tell me if it was otherwise, because we've talked about similar things in the past.

Q. When Shannon Stewart came over, the Twins were not even a .500 club and they finished 25 over. Are you surprised that a guy like that could make that much difference on a ball club?

JOE TORRE: Shannon Stewart would fit what they like to do. He's a turf player. I mean, he did it in Toronto where he could give you some life, because he's a triples hitter. He's a good hitter. He's turned himself over the last few years into a good hitter. He doesn't necessarily try to pull the ball like he did earlier in his career and you certainly are aware of him on the base paths. He's a big threat for them. Again, making a big difference, I think was more than Shannon Stewart. In order to have the comeback that they have had, it had to be based on their pitching. Kenny Rogers did a good job for them, Radke, Santana, Lohse. The reason I believe they were able to put something together was because of their pitching, taking nothing away from Shannon Stewart because he's a quality player. I know that we certainly respected him when he was with Toronto.

Q. The fact that you have not seen them since April, does this really put more importance on your scouts than normally?

JOE TORRE: Yes. We always rely on our scouts a great deal. Basically because they are right in front of us, and they are with the team -- as actually this morning, we didn't get on the field for a while because we took -- made sure we took separate time. Sometimes or most of the time, we'll separate players, the pitchers and the players and have meetings simultaneously, but we did one after the other to make sure the scouts were in both meetings. So, yes, we rely on the scouts a great deal, especially with a club we have not seen for a while.

End of FastScripts...

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