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October 1, 2002

Russ Ortiz


Q. How much do you enjoy pitching a game on the road, in this kind of an atmosphere, similar to what you had in New York some time back?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think it's great. You kind of feed off of the visiting crowd a little bit, especially during this time; they are pretty juiced up, and I think it's something to feed off of. I think that helps me, just to concentrate on my job, because everything is kind of muffled, anyways. But you get the crowd going, and without sounding, I guess, too conceited or anything like that, you love to quiet the crowd and take them out of the ballgame.

Q. The Giants had to battle right almost to the end while the Braves won easily. Will that matter at all when the series starts?

RUSS ORTIZ: I don't think so. I think one thing this club has is veteran leadership and experience. One thing we did do down the stretch was to just do our jobs. We didn't really press too hard. We didn't, you know, get out of our element, and so I think that's one thing that didn't maybe wear us down during that time. And so coming into the playoffs, I think we are very confident with the fact that we did do our jobs and we did it right. I think that's why we ended up winning eight games in a row to finish off the season.

Q. How did you do during the regular season against the Braves, and what spots in the order give you the most concern?

RUSS ORTIZ: The time I pitched here, I was able to fair pretty well, which I was happy with because I haven't been able to do that well here at Turner Field before. Basically, I concern myself with everybody. Obviously, guys like Chipper and Sheffield and guys like Andruw Jones, they hit a lot of home runs and they are also big power guys, but anybody in their lineup is capable of doing that. And so, try to keep guys off the base paths in front of those guys and get the guys out in the bottom of the lineup so it doesn't roll over to where now you're getting back into those big power guys.

Q. How is Barry doing? How would you pitch to Barry?

RUSS ORTIZ: I would pitch him very carefully. (Laughter.)

Q. Really?

RUSS ORTIZ: It's hard to say. You really understand what the other pitcher feels when you watch the game and watching him kind of pick at the corners a little bit. Obviously, he's a guy that you don't want him to beat your team. It's just one of those things where if you make a mistake, he's proven that he's going to hit it. Even if you walk him three times during the game, that fourth at bat, you make that one mistake, it will come up and bite you.

Q. Late in the regular season, over the last three years, you've pitched very well and in the post-season. What is it about this time of year that gets you going?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think it's just mostly recognizing the mistakes that I've made in the first half and correcting those and making sure that -- because the second half is, you know, realistically, more important than the first half, and so I realize that I have to be a little bit better, and so I had to make adjustments and be able to come through with those. It's easy to say to myself what I need to do, but actually going out and doing it is a different story; that's just one thing that I actually try and concentrate on; actually, producing. What my whole thought process is before each game is to just go out and get ahead and throw strikes, keep the ball down, keep the ball in the park and not let the big guys beat me, try to eliminate big innings. I don't know, for whatever reason, I've been able to do that in the second half. I think it's because I've been able to learn from the first half. If I happen to make a lot of mistakes or not do as well.

Q. What percentage of hitters in the game today are able to do something with a pitcher's pitch, and who among the Braves falls into that category?

RUSS ORTIZ: Oh, boy. I'd say it's -- I mean, nowadays, you have younger hitters. There's a lot of, you know -- first-year to three-year guys, so I think they are still learning how to approach each pitcher. But the more -- the guys that are experienced, they have an idea of what they want to do up there. So I say it's a pretty high percentage of those guys to the veteran players that when they go up to the plate and face a certain guy, they know what that guy's best pitch is and they make sure to have an idea of what they are doing. I think guys, you know, like Sheffield and Chipper, and I think those two guys in the past have -- if I've made mistakes with certain pitches. And you can tell that they are either looking for them or just waiting for me to make a mistake with a certain pitch .

Q. If you make a pitch with the pitch you want, are those two guys that can still do something with it on a pretty consistent basis?

RUSS ORTIZ: Yeah, because you see on the highlights all the time, a guy throws a sinker down and away and Chipper hits it out in left field. Same thing with Sheffield. These guys do it year after year because they can hit to all fields. And I think the guys that can do that on a regular basis, I think that's why I was saying, you know, the percentage is pretty high because they learned throughout the years how to hit the ball to all fields. It's the guys that hit to one side of the field that -- may be a little bit more or a little bit easier to handle with your best pitch. And those type of guys you have to tip your cap to that can handle those pitches. The Braves, obviously, do have a couple of guys like that because they have been putting up some numbers year after year.

Q. Both teams are taking winning streaks into the post-season. Does that momentum mean anything or are you starting over?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think it means a great deal because you come in with a lot of confidence. But I do think that, yeah, it is kind of a new season. Everything that you've done during the regular season is kind of over with, and now you are -- guys just have to -- you know, the stats don't count any more on the back of your baseball card. And so all of that is kind of forgotten. Everybody is just trying to, I think, keep that momentum that we finished with. I think that's a real big boost for our team because we have been playing well for the past couple of months. Now that we realize that we have an opportunity to do a lot in the post-season, then we can feel like we can carry that from a season into the playoffs.

Q. How impressed have you been with what Benito has been able to do at his age, and how important is that in working with you?

RUSS ORTIZ: It's very impressive to watch. I mean, day-in and day-out, you see the type of player that he is, the type of energy that he has. He doesn't play at his age. He's playing -- I forget how old he is. He's about 37, 38. I'm 28 and he probably has more energy than I have. I just wish I could have the same type of energy. If you watch him during the game, how dirty he gets, how much he bounces around. He just goes after everything as hard as you can, and to do that for as many games as he's played this year and last year, it's pretty remarkable. But I think it just goes to show, if you put in the time, you put in the work like he has, you're able to play. In a tough position like catcher, you're able to play, if your knees are able to hold up. And, obviously, his knees have been able to hold up, and he's just a remarkable player. Having him back there, I think it's a big help to all of the pitchers and the staff, starters and relievers. Like I said, just with his energy -- and also, he's a leadership-type guy. So he helps everybody else on the team in his own way. By just having him back there, every day, I think it's just a real big boost of confidence for everybody because you see him grinding it out for the whole season at his age. You've got to tip your cap to him. You kind of feed off that.

Q. Given what this series means to Dusty and his contract situation, what may have been said, how do you handle this as a team?

RUSS ORTIZ: I think we've always been a team that just kind of handles everything day-to-day. Like today, we are just -- we are worried about just the workout today. We are not going to be losing sleep over what could possibly happen tomorrow. I think that's just the one thing that has really helped this ballclub is that to me, Dusty has seemed to be that type of person, also, just go day by day and not worry about what's going to happen in the off-season, what's going to happen next year. I think that really helps, if you can have a team and a manager and coach that concern themselves with today, I think that's a big help, especially now during this time when everything -- or even baseball in general, where everything is so unpredictable. And so we kind of just go along, just each day, just being concerned with that day and being happy to be able to do what we are doing.

End of FastScripts�.

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