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October 11, 2002

Russ Ortiz


Q. Is it different being up 2-0 or being 1-1 or down, what are the dynamics of that?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think coming in here with a lot more confidence in the ballclub, I think for me, it's just been a lot more of a fun atmosphere, as opposed to being that first series, being a little more intense. But at the same time, you've got to feel good with where we're at.

Q. That pressure mentally like you had in Game 5 and Game 1 in the Division Series, how do you recapture that tomorrow when you are already up in the series?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think just having the mentality not to let up, not to give St. Louis an inch, because they are a very good team and they are very capable of taking that inch and taking even more. So I think I can just go in there with the attitude that I'm going to do everything possible to make the series 3-0.

Q. Dusty has been sacrificing, squeeze bunting in this series; does he seem to you to be managing differently in this series than he does during the season?

RUSS ORTIZ: I don't think as far as in general how he's managing -- it's been pretty much the same. I mean, everybody has been playing well. Everybody is pitching well. Everybody is playing great defense. We're scoring runs with two outs. Guys are kind of doing the job for him, I think, and he's kind of just been the same. He threw out that squeeze; I think that was a little surprise to their side. That's one of the aspects, one of the things that you have at your disposal that everybody can use, and you've just got to find the right time, and that was the perfect time and it worked out great.

Q. Two years ago, right after the All-Star Break, you reached a critical point in your career, being sent to the bullpen for all of one inning. How have you changed in the last two years and how have you matured as a pitcher?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think just mental makeup, how I approach each start, how I approach each inning. And realizing that -- I had to realize that I'm up here because I have the ability to pitch in the big leagues. But I had to get that through to myself and really believe in myself, and just go out there and just know that I can. Everybody was telling me, you know, you can do it, just go out there and throw more strikes and this and that, and I knew that, but it was actually going out and doing it. That was just the one thing, I made myself just go out and do it and not think about any other things besides just throwing strikes, hitting the glove, making my pitches. And from that point on, that was pretty much the only thing I've been thinking. It's been a lot easier for me to focus throughout a ballgame and make sure that I was prepared for each start, and feel confident with my ability and everything. That made a huge impact on the way I improved as a pitcher. I think all in all, it helped me be a bigger asset to this ballclub, which is the whole purpose.

Q. You've been throwing the baseball since February. Are you getting arm weary?

RUSS ORTIZ: No. From day one when I started playing catch, that was probably in December, from then on, I knew my arm was going to feel pretty good from start to finish. Now it feels just as good as it did in July.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the impact that Benito Santiago has had in handling this pitching staff?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think he's done a great job over the last two years of getting to know each pitcher. He just brings so much energy to each ballgame, that I think a pitcher can kind of see he's going to do whatever he can do to try to win a ballgame, to try to get you to stay in a game and try to get you to do your job. And he's going to go out there and do his job, so I think everybody, in a sense, can kind of follow his lead. There's a couple of guys like that on our team, and he happens to be one of them that really has helped the pitching staff, because there are a couple of guys that -- like me, I still consider myself fairly inexperienced, especially compared to him or compared to some other guys around the League. And so he brings that experience to the table. I think guys are able to feed off of that.

Q. How is he different than other catches you've worked with; is he more talkative, or how is he unique in the way he handles pitchers?

RUSS ORTIZ: At first he didn't say too much to me. I mean, obviously I can't speak for other guys, but to me, he didn't say too much at the beginning, because I believe he was trying to figure me out. When he first got here, I think Bobby Estallela was still catching me. I had a great rapport with Bobby I should say, and we knew each other so well, going out there was so much fun throwing to Bobby. Once he left and I was throwing to Benito, I was kind of almost searching, wondering if this guy was going to say anything to me. But I think he was just trying to figure me out and getting to know what kind of person I am on the mound and what I like to do and everything. After a little while, everything started to click a little better. He knows how to push my buttons now and he knows the right things to say. He knows the right time to say it. I think that's helped throughout the duration of the season.

Q. What do you consider the key to you enjoying success against this Cardinals lineup?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think, obviously, keeping Fernando Vina off the basepaths, just like a couple of other -- just like I was saying in the Atlanta series, keeping Furcal off the basepaths. Those guys can create so much havoc when they are on first base. I think just trying to keep him off the bases, and not letting the guys in the middle of the lineup end up either hitting a home run -- you want to try to keep the innings to be all zeros. If you put guys up in front of Edmonds and Pujols, guys like J.D. Drew and stuff like that, there's potential for big innings. So as long as you keep those guys off the basepaths in front of them, I think you have a pretty good chance of doing pretty well. Obviously, they not only hit for power, but they hit for average. So they are going to get their base hits, but I think just eliminating the big inning is going to be huge.

Q. There was a lot of talk before the playoffs of this staff not having an obvious ace. Now that you have pitched Game 1 and Game 5 and you are in line to pitch Game 7, do you feel like you are that guy?

RUSS ORTIZ: I don't know. I think there's potential for, right now, four out of our five starters that can be considered aces maybe on other teams. I think Ryan could be one of those guys in the next few years if he continues to throw the way he has thrown this year. I don't really look at those labels and say, well, I'm this guy or I have to be that guy. I've told Dusty, hey, just let me know when you want me to pitch and I'll be there. My main concern is just to show him that I can win ballgames, and if he feels confident enough to put me in certain spots, then I'll be ready to throw, and I want to throw. Yeah, I did want to throw Game 1 and have an opportunity to throw Game 5 in the last series. This time it worked out that I'm throwing Game 3 and possibly Game 7. I want to be in those spots, yes. But do you have to be? Not necessarily, because that's not my decision. That's kind of one thing, going back to the other question, all of the stuff, distractions or things that I can't control, I don't really worry about. I think that's why that has helped me to be in the position that I am in right now.

Q. How did your success in the Division Series, how is that going to help you in this round now, having pitched two excellent games in the post season?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think that brings more confidence, a lot more confidence, knowing that I can pitch in the post-season. I know it was great to be able to pitch both games on the road in Atlanta in that type of atmosphere, and I think that just helped me as a pitcher to learn more about what it takes to not only beat a great team at their ballpark, but do it in the playoffs. So I think I come into this series just a little more relaxed and a lot more confident.

Q. You guys have won the last four games. Can you explain your success, and do you feel like the hottest team in baseball right now?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think everyone is just doing their job. I think from the beginning of spring training everyone knew that if all 25 guys did their jobs that we would do very well. And I think right now, everybody is just doing their job. We are scoring runs with two outs which is huge. We are getting those timely hits, playing great defense, and we are getting the pitching that we need. So, everybody is just doing what they were paid to do. I think we do feel like we are the hottest team, but I don't think anyone is surprised with the way we are playing. I think everyone is just, hey, this is the way we should be playing. We've been playing like that pretty much for two-and-a-half months, pretty much, two-and-a-half, three months. I think you can see during the stretch drive that day-in and day-out, we played very intense ballgames, and we did our jobs and we ended up winning a lot of ballgames. I think it's just carrying over to now to where everyone is just doing the same thing. I think we feel pretty relaxed. I think that's the key is that we feel pretty relaxed. We know that just doing our jobs is the biggest key to winning ballgames.

Q. Early in the year, I know you knew Aurilia very well and he struggled because he had the surgery. Do you see a different Aurilia now in the last few weeks, and does he seem to be appreciating and enjoying it a little more?

RUSS ORTIZ: Yeah, I mean, I think he's definitely enjoying it now. Right now, he's swinging like everyone is used to seeing him swing the bat. I know it was frustrating for him to where he couldn't do certain things because he had the surgery. I can't really say whether or not it took him this long to be normal, to be able to do the things when he swings the bat that he can normally do. But all I can say, if that's true, then, you know -- well, I'm sure all of us are glad that he feels that way. But he seems to be having a lot of fun. I think the one thing is that when he was not hitting the way that he would like to, he was playing outstanding defense. I think that was a really big key to his contribution to us winning, is his defense, because it helped out a lot of the pitchers. I know that he was not real happy with the way he was swinging the bat, but he's got to feel really good about his defense.

End of FastScripts�.

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