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October 31, 2001

Joe Torre


Q. What did you think was the problem for Mussina in the first game? How has he lived up to the expectations?

JOE TORRE: I think Mike has lived up to expectations terrifically. He was big for us. I know he's had a couple of games early in the season that he did not pitch well, but again, I think he's under the microscope. As far as I'm concerned, as far as his signature game this year with that Game 3 against Oakland where we needed to win, he went out there and pitched like Roger did last night. His first game of the series, it was one of those days. He just could not put the ball where he wanted to, he was missing his spots. His stuff was fine but he could not put people away and they got ahead in the count. Just one of those days where you chalk it up to doing better next time.

Q. Talk about Knoblauch and the switches for today?

JOE TORRE: I wish I could put my finger on it and maybe I could fix it. I'm just fiddling with it to see if we can stimulate some offense here. But I think the one thing that Knobby has been doing, he's hitting a lot of balls in the air and that's not a good sign for someone who relies on his speed and he's normally a line drive/down guy. Believe me, I did not know when I left here last night he was not going to play. I was just trying to figure out what to do, to do anything different, and even though Justice pinch-hit last night, it looked like he was comfortable and I wanted to give him another shot today. When you take Knobby out of the lineup that's when you rearrange things, with Jeter in the lineup.

Q. Did you feel Mussina that the repetoire was lacking that night?

JOE TORRE: It was just his command. He threw all of the stuff but he was not able to put the ball where he wanted to. Normally he can -- he can pinpoint pretty well, but he was not -- I'll give you an example. The home run that Gonzo hit, he was trying had get that pitch away, but he got it down and in. He missed it by the whole width of the plate. And that could be just a rhythm thing, it could be the mound -- not that the mound was, you know, anything wrong with it but just maybe it just wasn't working for him that day.

Q. Can you talk about Jeter, what he's been working through the last few games?

JOE TORRE: Well, he's in the 1 spot because Knoblauch is not playing. It's usually Jeter or Soriano one or the two, and I decided to go with Derek. I don't want to say he's fighting it, he's the same guy whether he's 5-for-5 or 0-for-5,0- for-20, or 20-for-20, he goes up there with the same aggressiveness, he's not going to leave the bat on his shoulder. Right now, he's just not clicking right now. I've been asked several times about his physical well being; I'm sure he's not 100%, but he would be the last one to use that as an excuse. We all remember a few years ago when Kirk Gibson got up there on one leg and hit a home run. When you get to the World Series post-season play, you go on fumes, you go on emotion, and it would be nice if he had a big game, but again, it's -- you know, he spoiled all of us.

Q. Shane has missed the last two World Series, do you get a sense of how much fun he is having and is the knee bothering him at all? Has he talked about needing some rest over the off-season?

JOE TORRE: He missed last year, and he was late, being ready for us because he was not quite rehabbed enough to start the season with us. He's played in streaks. We've played him a lot and then, you know, recently, obviously he has not played a great deal. He's back to 100% for me. I don't see any hesitation in his running or the way he's played defense and last night, obviously, was the big play for us in that situation, he took one away from Matt Williams. But I'm sure, after the surgery he did have, that it probably will feel good to rest it but I know he doesn't want to rest it any time soon.

Q. All of the incredible ceremony of last night, does any of that have any negative effect in terms of concentration?

JOE TORRE: No. I think we are used to it by now, unfortunately, the moment of silence -- it started -- the one emotional, a couple of emotional things happened when we started playing baseball again, and one was how articulate Jack Buck was in the game in St. Louis, their first game back. And I remember watching the Mets' opening ceremony, because that was the first game in New York and that was pretty moving. We pretty much know what goes with what we do. We certainly put everything in perspective; that this is just a game and 0 for 4 or 0 for 5 really is not that important when people are out there putting their life on the line. I think once, initially, it was probably tough to get back up emotionally, but I think since we have come back playing baseball, we have sort of become used to this and are able to move it aside and get on with the entertainment.


Q. With the recent talk of contraction, do you look at it all as a step in the right direction or would it be a shame if it came to that and you'd have to lose that many jobs?

JOE TORRE: Well, Major League Baseball, it's tough, especially when you know how much it takes to put a ballclub on the field. You need to draw people and the talk about Montreal and how many times they have talked about, instead of 40,000 or 50,000 people there are just 5,000 people there and it's tough to try to survive in that situation. You know, just what I've heard from rumors, I guess, about the contraction, but it would not surprise me if this happened. Again, you talk about the unbalance of the abilities, where we won 114 games a few years ago and Seattle won 116 games this year, certain clubs maybe against certain teams that cannot win; maybe this will shore up those teams. I don't know, I really don't. It's sad, it's sad because you realize how baseball is growing and growing and now you realize you have to manipulate a little bit to make sure that everybody is whole.

Q. Speaking of the events of the outside world, do you finds it sometimes a relief to come to the ballpark and worry about your pitching, your defense, your hitting and just be able to put all of that stuff away for a while?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, I think it is. It gives us a chance to hide out it really does. Because once you get to start playing baseball, and we were wondering at first how important baseball would be. You know, I came back from my illness a couple of years ago. I had that same feeling and you get in that dugout and you realize you'd sell your soul for a base hit with the bases loaded. It's the competition and you realize when you hear the cheers of the crowd, not only here but in other cities that I think we all need this, we really do. It makes us feel good that we are finally able to provide some satisfaction to people because during that time right after the incident, the September 11th tragedy, it was a helpless feeling sitting at home and being of no use whatsoever. At least we feel like we are doing something.

Q. What for you as been most striking or satisfying about Rivera's development into dominating status and what goes through your mind when you call him into a game?

JOE TORRE: That I no longer manage and he's out there win, lose or draw. It's a good feeling for me to have a lead in the eighth or ninth inning, preferably the ninth, because I don't like to string him along in the eighth often even though we have used him there a number of times. Just to watch him grow. I remember seeing him on TV in the '95 playoffs and then in spring training of '96, got to know him a little bit and found out he was a starter and realized what his stuff was all about, and what he did for us in '96, setting up John Wetteland pitching the seventh and eighth inning just about every day it seemed like. He had trouble being a closer in '97, but learned and then the home run by Sandy Alomar. And I think right there, you talk about growing. You have a choice of going one way or the other and you either feel you let everybody down or you realize this is just part of the experience; you've got to fight your way through and he's been unbelievable. Again, he's not necessarily like a lot of the relievers who have stomped into the middle of the field. I'm not only talking about a Rocker type, but when you realize Lee Smith comes out there or Goose Gossage and these guys who would dominate, he just sort of sneaks in and puts you away. He's a great guy to be around. He's got a great deal of confidence. You look in that eye and in spite of his wiry frame he's pretty durable.

Q. This whole run, do you think you guys are digging deeper to try to win games?

JOE TORRE: Well, we have to. Again, we certainly have not wasted any offense. We have scored three runs in three games and we are 1-2; I guess we are fortunate to have that happen. We won a series in Boston with the same type of offensive output; we won all three games. There are times and I think we are used to it, not that we look forward to doing it or we plan on having a one-run lead in the fifth or sixth inning. Our hitters are obviously a lot better than we have been hitting and I just -- every time I write the names in there, whichever order I put them in, I still have confidence that we'll put numbers up on the board. But again, when it doesn't happen, it's reassuring to know that we have been able to have a bullpen that makes a run hold up. We did it last year in the World Series to get the game -- I think it was Game 4, and, you know, I took my starter out in the fifth inning, not something I wanted to do but I realized at that point in time I was starting matchups and realizing that if we can get to Rivera, we have a chance to win this game. It's a goal for us, when you have a guy like Rivera, to sort of try to find a way to get the outs to get him in the game.

Q. Before the playoffs started, you said you were looking forward to the possibility of getting to October 31 and people were talking about your contract expiring and now you are here; do you foresee any resolution in the next 24 hours and what's the possibility of Don Zimmer being the interim manager?

JOE TORRE: I don't think his contract runs past today either. No, we are connected at the hip so I don't think that's going to happen. I'm not sure this is going to be resolved. I don't think it's going to be any big deal. I think the fact that it won't be resolved is because there are more important things right now at hand. The last thing I want to do is distract what we need to be paying attention to right now and it's baseball. Because we only have, you know, possibly four games left in this season until wintertime, and that's right around the corner. I don't think it's going to be an issue. George and I have talked enough and I think we are both sort of in agreement that we both want to keep this thing going on.

End of FastScripts....

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