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September 29, 2003

Russ Ortiz


THE MODERATOR: All right, we're ready with Russ Ortiz.

Q. How much pressure does it take off you when you know you can feel confident your team is going to score some runs for you?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think it allows you to just feel like I can just go out and pitch my game and not worry about the offensive side of the ball. So, it's just one of those things where the confidence level, not only in yourself, but in your team is so high, I think it makes you a better pitcher. It makes you focus on your job, concentrate a little bit. You're worrying only about what you need to accomplish and that's pretty much it. You know these guys are going to score some runs. You know if you keep the other team at bay, and if they do score a couple runs and you keep it right there, you know there is a good chance you will win the ball game. That's obviously a good feeling to have. It's game in and game out and it's not just every once in a while. I think every pitcher knows that the opportunity is there to win every ball game.

Q. Do you have a feeling you don't have to be perfect?

RUSS ORTIZ: Well, I mean your whole main objective is to hit every spot and make every pitch and obviously that's not something that's going to happen. If you do happen to make a couple misses here and there, you know that your offense still can catch up if you need to. That's happened, unfortunately, too many times when I pitch, but it's a good feeling knowing that if you keep them right there, you can win a ball game.

Q. What special feelings do you have for Dusty Baker and are you surprised that the Cubs are in this position?

RUSS ORTIZ: I'm happy for Dusty and his ball club because of the type of person I know he is; the type of manager I know he is. You know, I feel like he made these players a little bit better. He made them be able to do certain things that they weren't able to do. You know, he kind of -- with us, he's always kind of gotten the best out of us. I've got to believe he did the same thing with them. So, I'm happy for him. I have been watching how they have been doing the whole year long and I talked to him a couple times and told him I'm happy for him, his success. It's a great thing to see, you know, and to be able to compete against him this first series, it's pretty exciting.

Q. Would you talk about the team chemistry with the Braves. There is been a lot said that they have really good chemistry?

RUSS ORTIZ: Yeah, I think we have great chemistry, not necessarily to where everybody is everybody's best friends or hanging out all the time, but, you know, that's off the field stuff, but when we're in the club house, everybody from the time you walk in until the time you leave knows that we're all -- we all have like minds. Our main objective is to go out and do everything we can to win a ball game. I think when you have that, that everybody is going to get along, because everybody knows they're role, what piece of the puzzle, you know, they are, and I think our club house is just filled with guys that just are there to relax, enjoy themselves, and when it's time to play, they play. I think everybody respects that most importantly. It's easy to get along, and it's easy to battle along side with that guy next to you because everybody has the same mind-set.

Q. Assess the Cubs lineup.

RUSS ORTIZ: Well, I think -- well, with the guys they picked up, you know, guys like Kenny Lofton, he's always been one of the better lead off guys in the game since he's been playing. I think the most important thing is realizing there is guys in front of Sammy and I guess I believe those guys, all their power guys, you know, they're capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but their main thing is keeping the guys in front of them. You have guys like Mark Grudzielanek and Alex Gonzalez and now they have Ramirez, who obviously has a lot of power numbers. When you have the guys up the middle those are guys that get on base and those are guys that get frustrating to you so they have a lot of elements throughout their lineup, you know, with some speed and guys that are contact hitters and guys that are power hitters. I mean, with that, your game plan has to be making sure that if you get to those power guys, that the at least amount of people are on base, if you can help it, and not allow them to get to a situation to where their contact guys are moving guys over or creating havoc. Obviously they've gotten this far because they're a good team and you can't give them an inch.

Q. Could you identify two similarities and two differences between Dusty and Bobby Cox?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think the way they're similar is that they respect the players and they -- the way they treat the players, the way they go about their business I think they're very similar in that. I think they're very similar in what they get out of the players. I think the players want to play for them. The players want to go all out for them. As far as any differences, I think it's just, you know, Dusty was always the type of guy that you know, he would want to come hang out with you and talk to you about normal stuff not just baseball, but anything. So, he liked to do that more so than Bobby, which was always kind of fun to watch, because he was just like one of the guys. But there is not really too much different about Dusty and Bobby. I think they're very quality guys and obviously they've gotten the best out of their players and they have been successful.

Q. Changing teams, how early in the season did you find a comfort level, and did you ever find were there ever any differences?

RUSS ORTIZ: Actually I felt comfortable from the first day I walked into the club house. Because when I walked in, guys greeted me and I didn't know how that was all going to play out, but guys were happy to see me. They welcomed me, you know, with open arms and said they're glad to have me on the team. Right then that made me feel comfortable. Just see how the guys did things, how they went about their business of what I have always been used to. There was really no big mind-blowing thing that I saw that just totally made me feel uncomfortable, but -- so, it's just easy to get into that comfort zone right away and it's been like that pretty much the whole year.

Q. A moment in last year's World Series when Dusty came out and gave you the baseball. What did you do with it?

RUSS ORTIZ: Right now, it's in a box with all of my other World Series memorabilia. We just moved into a new house. I haven't had a chance to put it up. I'll put it in a little display for myself. It meant a lot to me because it meant that Dusty was thinking about me in having something special because we had a couple guys that never made it to the World Series throughout their careers. He was thinking about me and thinking about, hey, this could be the only chance you may ever get back. So he wanted me to have some type of memento, and a ball that I actually threw in the World Series, I think is pretty much the best thing you can have for a pitcher and so it was very special to me to be able to have something when your manager, at that heat of the moment, at that point in time in the year, was thinking about he wanted you to have something to keep.

Q. The Braves long history of post-season play and the players have had the experience, does that give the Braves an edge in this series with Chicago?

RUSS ORTIZ: I've got to believe it gives us a little edge just because everyone here is used to the whole environment of the playoffs. I think that's something like last year when we got to the league championship and the World Series, it was a little overwhelming, I think, and I see where it's easy to get caught up in all that. I think that would be one of the big advantages that a lot of us have is having that experience, but, you know, I think that can be said, but at the same time, when you ask those other guys on the other side, they may say it's not going to be distracting for us. It may. I think that's why, maybe, we might feel comfortable in this position that we're in and feel like we can just go out and play the type of baseball we've always played throughout the whole season and not feel like we have to do anything extra.

Q. This is new for you being here with the Braves, but the Braves history of being in the playoffs so often without winning a World Series, is that something players in the club house are aware of and think about?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think they're definitely aware of the fact that making it to the playoffs every year and -- well, first of all, everybody is confident every year from when I talk to them that they're confident about going to the World Series every year. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. The one thing I realized last year is not only to make it to the playoffs, but get to the first round of the World Series. I know how great this organization has been for so long, but it's fairly tough to make it as far as you expect to every year, but I know that there is -- there has been some frustration in the past, because they fully expected themselves to go past the first round or go to the World Series or even win the World Series, and it's no different this year. If anything less than a World Series, yes, is going to be disappointing. But, that's something between the players and the coaches that, it's disappointing, because they all felt confident in what they thought they were able to achieve. Anything else said is really not listened to. Believe me, the players are not happy unless they're winning World Series. They go to playoffs year after year. This year is no different. I think we fully expect to win a World Series. Anything less is not going to be good enough.

THE MODERATOR: One or two more for Russ.

Q. When you talk about how tough it is to get into the playoffs and then go through them, is it physical, mental, combination?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think it's everything. It's the way you do things in the playoffs, because a lot of guys put pressure on themselves in the playoffs, but then sometimes you get a team that's gotten hot at the right point in time and they just can't be beat. Sometimes you run into teams like that. That's a combination of a lot of things. The physical part, I mean, some guys are tired, but I got to believe that everybody -- it's a universal thing everybody is a little tired, but I think the hardest part is just getting through the -- I mean, there is a lot of -- everybody is focused on you, so there is more media. There is more expectation. There is a lot of little things that go on during the playoffs, especially the first series. It's so short, during the year if you play one game, and you say well, we'll win the next one. You can't do that in the playoffs. You're here to win every game. It's a lot tougher atmosphere. That's the great thing about this game. You want it to be like that. You don't want it to be any different. You realize it's tough to make it year in and year out. Teams that are doing that, it makes it even more special. It means they're a little better than some teams and some people may realize.

Q. You came in with good credentials obviously. Would you talk about the motivation of coming into a team that has had along history of that?

RUSS ORTIZ: I was excited, because to get started, I was really anxious to get started, because this is the kind of team you want to be on, that's going to compete for a World Championship every single year and knowing who was on this team and the potential that was there, I mean, yeah, it did motivate me to feel like I need to improve on what I did last year and take what I've learned for the last five years and apply it to this year and just do as well as I can to help this ball club, because I felt from the beginning that this was going to be a good year all around. That's exactly what it's turned into. The motivation was there from the very beginning. I guess once I got over the initial shock of getting traded, then I was really excited, and I think being motivated is a great way to explain it to get the season started, to do well, to see where we can end up.

THE MODERATOR: Last question for Russ.

Q. Your perception of Dusty Baker and how he prepares his team?

RUSS ORTIZ: Dusty is the kind of guy that is going to say the right thing, not only the team as a whole but to each individual player. He's going to tell you the things that you need to hear that's going to get the best out of you. That's the one thing he's so good at is knowing you, and what's going to make you perform at your highest level; not try to exceed that highest level, but to make you perform and knowing full well that, you know, are he's going to be behind you, and he just is the type of guy that doesn't have to say a whole lot, doesn't have to be a "rah rah" guy or get in your face. Like I was telling people earlier, he comes and hang out with you and knows you as a person. I think that's important when he comes and talks to you or has to say a three word sentence or talk to you for five minutes. You know, he knows you personally and on the field, and so he's going to use that to his advantage. I think that's what makes him such a great manager and great motivator. He tries to get to know you as a person and not just as a player and that's it. He's going to prepare -- he's a real stickler for preparation. He's going to prepare them for on field stuff and also for the mental stuff. His whole thing is just relax, have fun, go out there and play hard. That's it. He's not telling them a whole lot more than that I imagine. FastScripts by ASAP...

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