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November 1, 2001

Joe Torre


Q. How far were you prepared to go with Rivera last night and how much could you get out of him tonight?

JOE TORRE: He was probably going to pitch one more inning last night, and I certainly want to limit him to one inning tonight. His pitch count has been pretty good, even though he's pitched three innings in the last two games. But again, I think I'd like to just hopefully be in a position to just use him one inning.

Q. Tino does not necessarily get the marquis attention some of your other players do; can you speak to how much he has meant to the team and have you given any thought to his potential free agent status?

JOE TORRE: We keep being reminded about the free agent status, not only here, but I don't think anybody has gotten bigger hits or hit bigger home runs than Tino has for the six years I've been here. He's been terrific. He does not like the attention. There are a lot of guys on this club that really are more shy than you would imagine. But he certainly has been a huge, huge presence for us. You know, he and O'Neill, and I don't want to really single out these two guys, but they are as passionate as you get about the game. They hate losing, like most of the guys do.

Q. What were your overall impressions of Kim and what do you think specifically he did -- did he do so well in the eighth that gave him problems in the 9th and 10th?

JOE TORRE: Well, you know, it's tough to say. I think Jeter gave him a great at-bat. Derek just slipped one in the right field line. That's not a long way down there but he had a great at-bat, fouling off some pitches. But the thing is, he's dippsy-doodle -- he can get the submarine, he can throw the fastball -- he's got good giddy-yap on the fastball. Looked like he struck out Bernie on the fastball it looked like. I don't know what he did successfully in the eighth that he could not do in the 10th. He got the first two guys out in the 10th, but it's tough to say he did not do the job in the 10th -- he hit a ball the opposite way. Just watching TV and again last night, it looks like he's tough to pick up, because he's very deceptive.

Q. Could you talk about Shane Spencer's role in last night's game and his value to your club overall?

JOE TORRE: Well, Shane has had an opportunity -- I think last year was really his first opportunity to play every day and he blew out his knee at Shea Stadium and it was a sad night for him because he knew the opportunity may have slipped away, and spring training he was ready for us physically when we broke camp and we switched Knoblauch to left field so he did not have a big opportunity. But just recent days, you know, he's had good at-bats, and again, we have had nobody hitting so just to change things up just for the sake of changing things up and it looks like he's taking advantage of the situation. One thing about it, he has not played a great deal but he's played outfield real well for us and he's made two huge plays for us the last couple of days. I would like to believe that he could be a regular player even though he has not had an opportunity to play every day for a year, for one reason or another.

Q. Off the top of your head can you think of a more comparable post-season weapon in history than Rivera?

JOE TORRE: That's the first thing that came to my mind when Tino hit the ball out of the ballpark. I had said to Mel during that last inning, or thought it was supposed to be last inning, I said, if we tie this game, Mo will pitch the next inning and he started getting him up, and when Tino hit the home run, the first thing that came to my mind, we tied the game and he's in the game and I think it gave us the advantage at that point in time. Again if it goes past that, I'm not sure how effective he's going to be, but we didn't get a chance to find out. He's like a regular player. He's like a regular player.

Q. From what you've seen this year of Jeter day-in, day-out, he's been banged up pretty much since spring training, what is it within himself that even banged up, he hit .300 and now coming through in a key situation like that?

JOE TORRE: There's something to this kid that when you try to compare him and there's so many comparisons that have gone on here in the last five years or so with A-Rod and Nomar, they seem to be the three glamour guys at shortstop. He may not be able to hit for power with either one of those two guys, may not have as good an arm, may not do this, may not do that as well, but the whole package is pretty special. I mean, he plays in this town, which is not easy to do. He's had bad days and bounced back. He's durable, both emotionally and physically. As you say he has not been 100%. I'm not sure a lot of players play this game 100% anyway. If you play it every day, it's tough to shake an injury once you get one. He came up to me at 10:30 last night and he said "You only have an hour and a half left of your contract; what do you think?" Like he had nothing else on his mind. (Laughter.) He's a great stress reliever for everybody in that dugout and you look in his eyes and he's got that hunger and you don't teach that. That's something that you're born with.

Q. Are you attentive to the sound of the crowd for O'Neill, and it's almost like they are saying good-bye to him; what is your response to that?

JOE TORRE: It's pretty emotional. Again, even if he's 0-for-20, I think what they are saying to him is "thank you," more so than "good-bye." I think they are thanking him for what he has brought to this ballclub. It's really been a lot of humanity and you've got so many people sitting in the stands and if they are fans, they bang their pencil if somebody strikes out and Paul O'Neill, he wears it on his sleeve. He's going to kick a water cooler or do something, never aims it at anybody but himself. There's a lot of passion there and I think that the fans really appreciated the blue-collar nature of Paul O'Neill. Yes, I've been aware of what's been going on here.

Q. It seems like O'Neill thrived once he came over here from Cincinnati. Why was that?

JOE TORRE: I don't know. I wasn't here at the time he came over here. I know, I had a friend of mine ask me who was a Yankees fan, because they traded a pretty good player, Roberto Kelly for him but I know the little I've seen of Paul O'Neill, you are going to like what you see there. It just looked like he was going to be a home-run hitter, plus the fact that he could be a good hitter, and he proved that. I think he would rather be a good hitter than the home run hitter even though he's capable of hitting home runs, and he plays the outfield very well. He's a special guy, he really is. It doesn't -- again, he's one of those shy guys who really doesn't want a lot of attention and he's really only interested in winning. I had a meeting, I think it was in '98 and we were down 2-1 to Cleveland and I talked to him, and I said, "You are not having any fun" and everybody sat there and listened to my spiel and he got me in the corner and he said, "Skip, it's not fun unless you win." That's what drives him all the time, it really is.

Q. How have you had so much success against closers like Wohlers, Benitez and Hoffman?

JOE TORRE: I don't have an answer. Again, last night, it surprised me, but again, when you think about it, you know, they have done it so often that you should not be totally surprised. But we have, I think the fact that you've played in some world series games, guys seem to rise to the occasion. We know it takes a special player to play in New York emotionally, because it is not easy. When they get in the game they just seem to be able to focus. There's no practice that we give them to do this. It's just been a remarkable run that we've had, and I can't give you that answer.

Q. Not just specific to Game 6 and possibly 7, but what kind of a challenge is it to face a Schilling and a Johnson back-to-back and over a long haul and even maybe comparing them through history to other pairs like that?

JOE TORRE: Well, we don't allow ourselves to compare it to history because we have three games left in the season possibly. You just have to find a way to win. We have managed to face great pitching in the past, and again, it's not our goal to beat that pitcher, but win that game. So I think it's incumbent upon our pitcher to try to match that guy. I know you've heard that before, but that's the only way he can approach it because if you think in terms of trying to beat up on Randy Johnson or Curt Schilling, you get frustrated real quickly. We are not thinking about having to face both of them again. We want to think about tonight and if we win this game tonight, think about the day off tomorrow and see what we get. But we really do not -- at least, try not to think too much about the record or how good somebody is, as opposed to what we need to do to try to stay with them.

Q. We don't know for sure but this could be Paul's last game at Yankee Stadium. What are your thoughts on that?

JOE TORRE: He's been a very special person. When I first came over here, I heard all he's a selfish player, doesn't do this, doesn't do that. Some bad rumors followed me when I got traded. I said, let me check this out on my own, and noticed that the only selfish part about him is he wants to get a hit every time up, and that's all right with me. I realized, all his anger is, never blaming somebody else for his shortcomings. George Steinbrenner, I guess about three years ago, when he gave him an Award at the writer's dinner here in New York, called him a warrior and I think that's probably as good a description of Paul O'Neill; that he just loves the game. He's a great family man. At times, with some of his antics, I know he makes fun of himself about, you know his wife telling him, that's not the way you should be acting in front of the kids and stuff. But he is such a good human being, and players will laugh and giggle sometimes, does some things, and he'll laugh at himself. But what he has brought to the table here, in my team here, has been something, I will treasure.

End of FastScripts....

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