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October 5, 2002

Joe Torre


THE MODERATOR: Questions for Joe Torre.

Q. Joe, just curious if you've sent your Game 5 starter home early or...?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, Roger left yesterday, I think. So he's not available today, obviously, neither is Mussina. Otherwise, that bullpen's gonna be crowded.

Q. Joe, what is the story with Mussina's health? How is he feeling? How does it seem?

JOE TORRE: Well, it wasn't a blowout. He was doing some light exercise this morning. It's the right groin. You know, the question still remains if he will be available, if we go on. But it doesn't seem like it's something that, you know, is real bad. I mean, for a pitcher, when you have a groin problem, push-off leg, which it is for him, it is a problem. But, again, I think the next day or so will tell us more.

Q. Joe, in your view has this been a case more of shaking pitching so far or are they just hitting unbelievably?

JOE TORRE: Well, you know, you hate to -- you know, we got to take our share of the blame. We haven't pitched as well as we're capable, but that doesn't mean that they're not very good in what they do and what they've done to us with their approach. I think it's a combination of the two. They've certainly been able to seize the moment when they've been given opportunities. When we've been in a position to shut them down, they've been reluctant to let us do that. In other words, their at-bats have been very, very good. They've fouled off some tough pitches. They don't strike out. They're very aggressive. Right now, they're playing with a lot of confidence. They've been aggressive, and we haven't been able to really enjoy our strength, which is our pitching, especially in the starting rotation. So hopefully Boomer will get us on the right track.

Q. You guys take great pride in your scouting. Are the reports -- are they not pitching to the reports, or are they somehow negating the reports?

JOE TORRE: Our scouts are fine, our reports are fine. The trick is to be able to exercise it. It's not like we're not trying. We're trying not to hang breaking balls and stuff (laughing). But, you know, we just need to do a better job. Simple as that. You try to find reasons, but, I mean, the one thing about it, and it doesn't disturb me because I base my opinion of players on preparation and effort. Sometimes you just aren't as good as you should be. But it doesn't mean we're not trying. So that's why if you think my patience level is fairly high here, it's because I don't see anybody backing off or taking anything for granted.

Q. Did you get any kind of impressions about how Roger was feeling about coming out of that Game 1 start and what his sort of mindset was about a possible start in Game 5?

JOE TORRE: Well, Roger probably is the most analytical of all our pitchers, probably, the nuts and bolts. He'll discuss different situations, different pitches, strike zones. But, again, he felt, you know, he was disappointed in himself coming out of Game 1. I know Pettitte -- both Pettitte and Roger beat up on each other when it comes to agitating each other on how bad they were. It's nothing that they take to heart, but they're very proud of what they do and they know they need to improve in that area. I think Roger understands what kind of pitcher he is. He needs to go into tomorrow night's start with -- I don't want to stay with a different plan -- but be a little more successful about not worrying about striking people out. I think that sometimes, when you've had a career like Roger, it's tempting to do all the time, especially when you get somebody two strikes. But in his case, he's got the wherewithal to make you hit the ball, too.

Q. I heard only twice in the history of the Yankees' franchise, that the team blew off a five-run lead in the postseason history.

JOE TORRE: Is that twice including yesterday? Okay, I'm glad I'm part of history then (laughter). I don't know what to say about that. I know last year, what was it, we lost two games at home to Oakland in the first round. Nobody has ever won when they were down, losing two games at home. I remember telling my players, I said, "Just because nobody's ever done it before, doesn't mean it can't be done." And we were fortunate enough to get through there. I certainly don't want it to happen again, and hopefully today we can get a lead and hold it.

Q. There's been a lot of talk about the X-factor, being this is a new group and you don't know how they're going to respond in these situations. What's your read, being around them last night, this morning, not having a guy like O'Neill who busts up a water cooler?

JOE TORRE: Now that he's gone, we miss that stuff. When he was here, everybody was critical of the fact that he was hitting things. Yeah, you miss O'Neill, no question. You miss the passion he brings to the table. But I still feel even though things were different, I still think they have the right approach and the right temperament and the right motivation and hunger and all that stuff. I mean, Derek Jeter is still here, he's been a big part of what happened here in my time here. I think what's not necessarily baffled us but what's been frustrating for us, going in, even after signing Jason Giambi, I keep contending our strength is our pitching and so far it hasn't been. As far as the resolve of this club, they understand when you get in a short series, whether it's five or seven games, one game turns the tide and we need to make that change today. So we're out to win a ball game, and that's our motivation right now. You know, sure, is it easy? No, hell no, it's not easy. Is there pressure? Yeah, there's pressure. You come into this, wear this uniform, get in the postseason, there's plenty of pressure. But dealing with it and being able to work in spite of it is what makes you a good team.

Q. You alluded to a little while ago about the 0-2 situation with Oakland a year ago, almost to the day. You're faced on the brink of elimination as you were then, Joe. The mindset, the mood psychologically for the team right now, you lost the World Series in a Game 7, so that team has gone through that. But you also came back earlier on by winning the last three games. Where do you think the psychological mindset of your team is right now faced with what's about to happen at one o'clock?

JOE TORRE: I think psychologically we're fine. To me, I sense no tension. You know, that's the one thing you want to eliminate. Pressure exists. Tension, you want to eliminate, if you feel there is. I think when I say relaxed, they seem normal to me right now. They're all in the clubhouse, they're watching the baseball game like you were, here before I got up. But, again, it comes down to execution. I think our preparation and our attitude and our insides are all ready to play. As I say, when you play in New York -- when we go to Fenway Park and we're a couple games out of first place and having to win there, I mean, we're used to that type of pressure and commitment. Sure, the postseason is more important, but the pressure is the same. So I sense that we're ready to play. You know, hopefully that's good news for us.

Q. Joe, had you ever experienced anything like the Edison Field of last night in all the years you were here?

JOE TORRE: No, no. I remember being here in '86, the broadcaster, it was exciting. But last night the noise was deafening. You know, knowing and being a part here for six years and knowing that some good teams have come and gone here and they've been to some postseasons, it was nice, especially knowing some of the people that are still here that were here when I was here. But I don't remember it as loud as it was last night. I mean, they were into the game. I know the rap that the Southern California fans get in the seventh inning, they're off on the Freeway somewhere, but you didn't see that last night.

Q. If David Wells struggles in the early going, are you prepared to go to the bullpen?

JOE TORRE: I'm prepared to do whatever I have to be prepared for. We have plenty of people down there. Duque came up to me last night and said he was ready to pitch last night. I chose not to use him because he hadn't pitched four plus innings since two days before. A lot of it depends on what I see. With Pettitte the other night, I wasn't comfortable because it really looked like he was struggling. Moose wasn't struggling last night, then he got hurt, even though he had given up some runs. A lot of it depends on how comfortable I am with what he's doing. If I have to make a change, I will, if I feel it's necessary.

Q. What are your thoughts on Francisco Rodriguez? Some people have compared him to Mariano Rivera. Do you see similarities?

JOE TORRE: Well, he's a little different. He's got a big slider. You could see he's young, confident. He's got that inner conceit that you need to be a pitcher, like, "I dare you to hit me." But he certainly, you know, stature-wise, looks similar to Mo. And, again, he doesn't look like he has any fear in him. You know, he was the surprise guy, because we hadn't seen him before. He hadn't been here for very long. He certainly hasn't been affected by what's going on around him. I think it was a good choice for them, a bad one for us so far.

Q. Just looking at this Angels team, the way they approach their at-bats and everything, are they kind of a mirror image of your early Yankees teams?

JOE TORRE: Mainly '96, the underdog team that we were going to show people that we're pretty good. I know the Yankees always get a lot of attention, but, again, we weren't expected to go very far. But we had a very resilient group, even though we didn't have any of the -- sort of the marquee names. We still felt that we were good. I sense that confidence in them. But, yeah, I see a lot of similarities with the aggressiveness and the little ball. You know, last night, what killed us, they out-scored us by three runs but it seemed worse than that because they scored six out of eight innings. That is alarming for me. As I say, I'm proud of my pitching, and we haven't done a good job in that regard. But they do remind me of our clubs.

Q. Has the defense that your team has played measured up to what you expected?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, I think defensively we've been fine. We were terrible statistically this year, considering winning 100 games. Last night, we had just moved Jason over the line, he was in position to catch the ball, the ball seemed to hop on him. He has good hands. He's limited in range, but when he gets near a ball, he catches it. The ball in rightfield, Mondesi has caught so many of those, it seemed like he tried to do it with two hands instead of one. That may have been the difference there. I think overall our defense has been fine. I think we're playing better defense now than we did for the bulk of the season.

End of FastScripts�.

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