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October 9, 2001

Joe Torre


Q. Do you have a lineup, Joe?

JOE TORRE: I do. I do. I do. As of right now -- things could change. Knoblauch, left field. Jeter, shortstop. Bernie Williams, centerfield. Tino Martinez, first base. Jorge Posada, the catcher, Paul O'Neill, DH, David Justice in right field. Scott Brosius, third base; and Alfonzo Soriano.

Q. Can you talk about why you decided to go with the lefties in the lineup?

JOE TORRE: Well, it goes back to what your game plan was, I guess, coming out of spring training. These are the players that we commit to, and to me, I think over and above that was the fact that nothing has really happened to change my mind, wanting these guys in the lineup. You know, the experience, David Justice, I know he has struggled, but it's really tough to overlook the fact that his record in post-season play is pretty impressive. And Paul O'Neill seems to be healthy enough to do what he needs to do at the DH.

Q. Would you agree that this is the first time you've gone into post-season facing a team whose starting pitching is as good as yours?

JOE TORRE: There's no question. I mentioned yesterday that this is probably the best team that we've played in the first rounds and somebody suggested it's maybe the best team we've ever played in post-season, and that's no question a possibility. They are impressive. They were good last year and they are better this year and we held on by our teeth last year. We know going in -- and again, we've had some practice at this. I think that's what's good. '96, when we had to face Smoltz and Glavine and Maddux, and every time you turn around this year, with the schedule the way it was, you look up and there's Pedro. So we have practice at this. It doesn't mean that you look forward having to face the staff that we are going to have to face, but again, they are one of the best teams here, and we are, too. We'll see what happens.

Q. Will Paul play in the outfield? Is he capable of playing in the outfield?

JOE TORRE: He probably is. But with David Justice being able to play the outfield, I didn't think there was any reason, in this round, and hopefully we have to make a decision after this. He said to me, "What should I do out there?" And I said, "Don't even bother," because I made up my mind I was going to DH, because he was going to go out and torture himself a little bit today, and I didn't think it was necessary.

Q. Your veterans, do they feel like it's their team for an experience?

JOE TORRE: I hope so. Again, the thing that makes me feel confident is the fact that, you know, we've managed to -- especially in the second half, play in the series we needed to play well, we've played them well. I don't think in the time I've been here we've played a tougher series than that weekend in Boston. The scores were all low, and they played in their ballpark. It's not very normal to play low-scoring games in Fenway, but we were able to come away the victors there. So, I think we are ready to play. Again, whether that means that we are going to win; no, I can't guarantee that. We're just going to go out there and be ready to go, and that's really all I expect here. But again, they are very calm today. Just very low key. We did our meetings, which a lot of times -- since they are rather extensive, you have to sort of poke guys to pay attention. I sense tomorrow that the butterflies will be there.

Q. Do you think the starts Roger had last year against Seattle and the Mets put to rest the questions about his performance in the post-season?

JOE TORRE: I don't think there's any question. When he started against the Braves in Game 4, everybody said he pitched a Game 4, but it was Game 4 and you had a 3-0 lead and it didn't prove anything. But last year from the middle of the season on, no question that game he pitched against Seattle was incredible, and, of course the eight innings he pitched against the Mets only detracted from the incident with the bat. But the pitching part of it was dynamite. Right now, the year he had this year, threw the ball really well the last game in Tampa, but I thought his stuff was a lot more lively. The first couple of games back, he was sluggish -- when I say "the break," I mean, the tragic break. He's felt good throwing on the sides since that last start.

Q. Can you give an update on where you think Mendoza's health is and how important he is to you?

JOE TORRE: I think his health is fine. I just roamed out to the outfield and talked to him. I didn't go out and watch him throw today, but he was very pleased with the way that session went. A lot of times with Mendoza it's a matter of arm slot and release. He has a flat sinker, as opposed to a diving sinker, and just to be from here to here. But he felt good about his work today, and I haven't talked to him since he's done it, but hopefully that report is as good as Mendoza's was. But he's very important to us. There's no question. You throw out the window the fact that somebody is left-handed or right-handed when he's ready to come out of the bullpen. I feel he's equally effective against both sides of the plate. But again, he needs to keep the ball down and he has had enough experience in post-season that I am very confident that he's not going to be -- he's going to be excited or nervous, fine, but I don't think it's going to affect what he does.

Q. Have you made decisions about the rest of your roster?

JOE TORRE: To be honest, I have not. I had another meeting this morning with my coaches and I mentioned to my players that I still have not come to a final decision on the roster. I asked them to take it as a compliment because there are a lot more people that are capable of being on that thing than maybe in other years. You know, there's still -- I'm leaning toward ten pitchers, but still, I'm just leaving that door slightly ajar at this point in time, to make the decision when I have to make the decision, but right now, for no other reason that I'm still considering everything people bring to the table. And since I don't have to make a decision, I really haven't -- and I've tried to let all of the players who are on that bubble in on it, I think I've talked to everyone but about one right now. So if it goes past the time they leave here, then hopefully I can call them on the phone tonight before they hear about it.

Q. What has it meant to you to manage Paul O'Neill? Is it hard for you to manage in not having him in the clubhouse?

JOE TORRE: He's one of the guys they'll go and talk to about the State of the team sometimes, and when we have meetings, I'll maybe ask him to ask -- ask what he thinks. George Steinbrenner gave him an award a few years ago, calling him the warrior. He's a guy that really -- he doesn't care what it looks like, as long as he's out there doing the best he can, and that's all you see from him. I am going to miss him. There's no question. He's been a special person here. When I got here I was warned that he was a selfish player, and I haven't found any sign of that.

Q. How effective are the A's pitchers at holding on runners and what impact will that have on your running game?

JOE TORRE: Their pitching game is outstanding. Every part of the fielding, every position, changing it up as far as things they do on the mound. You know, we are going to do what we do. We get in a position to run and do things, we're not going to, you know, hesitate. But again, we are going to have to do -- take what they give us and they have been tough. They have been tough. The name of their game is pitching, and it's really hard to say that when you realize how many guys on their club hit 30 home runs. But still, pitching is what makes you go. They are going to be tough. These meetings were long for a reason. There's a lot going on with their ballclub.

Q. When the Athletes have success as your team has had over the last half decade, they can go two ways; either their desire is muted because it is not as new or because they have tasted it before, they can want it even more. Is it your sense that players who have tasted it before want it that much more because they know how good it is?

JOE TORRE: I'd like to believe. We've won three in a row and I think if we were going to get bored we would have done it before now. We've been in the post-season all the time I've been here, and before I got here, they were in there. The fact that every year is different, and every year poses a new challenge. Earlier when I mentioned how well we've played against teams that we've had to beat, makes me feel confident. As I say, it doesn't guarantee anything, because the other team is confident, too. If we don't win this series, hopefully, it's the fact that they beat us and we don't lay down.

Q. Obviously, in line with that sort of questioning, you are going for something, four in five years, four in a row would be pretty unbelievable; have you thought about the perspective of trying to do something that has not been done very often?

JOE TORRE: No, I have not done that, because we have too much work to do before we get there. I think if we are lucky enough to get to the World Series -- and when I say lucky, there's a certain element of luck. Yeah, you're good, for sure, but to go through a five-game series, and then the next series against a team that's going to be coming off a win, you know, there's a lot of work ahead. We get to the World Series, I guess even at that point in time, you're sort of put off that type of mind set, but that would be probably a lot closer to reality than right now. It just feels like it's a million miles away right now.

Q. Is there more importance here on trying to work counts and get to their bullpen and have those starters throw a lot of pitches?

JOE TORRE: I think there's no question that they have -- their ballclub and their pitching staff has been very good at using both sides of the plate. We need to get our quality at-bats. Again, I think we can go back, and I mentioned Pedro and I mentioned the '96 World Series, I think it's the same type of mind set; you have to go out there and match them pitching-wise, and then just drain as much as you can from it. We didn't go out there thinking about swinging big against a pitching staff that's very stingy, so we have to really think in terms of being able to get some baserunners, and some of them walks, put the ball in play if we are running the runners, just do some things to make sure we get three legitimate outs every inning.

Q. From your viewpoint are you better off playing Oakland in three out of five, rather than later four out of seven; or Seattle three out of five?

JOE TORRE: I don't know, how do you want to get your hand burned? Put it under fire or some charcoal? We didn't really have a choice. The only reason we wanted to win and play Oakland was so we could be home. It wasn't that we wanted to play Oakland over Seattle. Neither one of them are obviously very easy to deal with. They both beat us six out of nine, if I am not mistaken, and that Oakland club -- they were like we were in '98, and more than that. To me, when you think of the Seattle club, you think of them as I guess like people have thought of us in '98, where they mention everybody, and that's more or less, you know, what their signature is. You look at Oakland and you talk about their young pitching. To me, you talk about their young pitching, you have to make sure you understand that they have some pop behind that pitching, but I think Oakland, you know, pitching-wise, because of their youth have really been an impressive ballclub, especially the second half.

Q. Obviously, you have some free agents who may or may not be back next season, either by their choice or the club's, any thought about if there is a substantial roster revamping next season that maybe it's sort of like the last go-around with this core group?

JOE TORRE: We feel that way every year. We are going to lose somebody major every year. The first year was Jimmy Key and John Wetteland, Chili Davis and Joe Girardi, David Cone. So we try to make the most out of the time we spend together. There's no question that this year, it's a little different, because you have Brosius and you have Tino and you have Paul O'Neill, and Tino and O'Neill -- I've been here six years and O'Neill has been here longer than that, but Tino and I came here together. I think this takes a little more significance, but we sort of feel that way every year, to make it special with the group we have at that particular time.

End of FastScripts....

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