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October 10, 2001

Joe Torre


Q. People talk about the quality that Andy Pettitte shows in the post-season, and I believe a few years ago you came close to trading him; how close was that?

JOE TORRE: Andy made quite an impression on me in 1996, there's no question. For a guy who had never been to post-season play as a player -- myself, I'm talking about -- and to see what kind of game he pitches. Of course, he stumbled in Game 1; got ripped pretty good. Then in Game 5, I guess it was, he pitched a 1-0 game. That left a big impression on me. Even though he did struggle a couple of years later -- and yes, there was a lot of talk about Andy being traded, but I don't think Mel Stottlemyre or myself ever wavered in our support. Then that pitching he did down the stretch that year and in the World Series, as I say, made a lasting impression because I put a lot of weight on that. He's a tough kid. Again it doesn't guarantee he's going to win, but I know he has a big heart.

Q. Can you talk about putting Sojo on the roster, and what would you have done if you had to leave him off?

JOE TORRE: Well, the reason he's on the roster is because I could not think of a real good reason not to have him on the roster. I mean if someone -- and Nick Johnson is that someone, but he's limited experience-wise. He's done most of his playing in his career as a regular player, and it's just -- I felt more comfortable with a more experienced guy, especially someone who has been with us for six years and has participated in what we've accomplished. If I had to leave him off -- I talked to him yesterday while I was still haggling with this thing with myself. In fact, I called and left a message for him last night saying he had made the roster and I called the other two players who were considered also; that they were not on. But I had asked him to stay around, we wanted him to stay around, because even though he may not make the first go-around, if we were fortunate enough to get through it, he may be on the other one. I know he left me a message this morning saying it meant a lot to him to be added to the roster.

Q. When did you make the decision on ten pitchers?

JOE TORRE: We were always thinking ten pitchers. That 11th pitcher thing just came up in conversation when I had a meeting with my coaches, and I just, you know, thought about it a lot, but it was mainly ten pitchers. I didn't really talk myself out of 11 pitchers. It was something I was going to consider because it was brought up, and I just wasn't that -- I just wasn't ready to make the final decision yesterday in here because I wanted to give it more time. But it was to add the left-hander to our bullpen, because they are very left-handed and we just decided not to do that.

Q. Year after year you are here; is it different? Does it get easier? Is it more difficult the more you are here?

JOE TORRE: Yes, it is different. We're playing the Oakland A's this year; they are the same uniform, but they are different people and different players. They are more experienced and I think a lot deeper. It never gets old, no. It never gets old. I think if it was going to get old it would have happened a couple of years ago. But this ballclub seems to -- rise to the occasion, is a little strong. I think they are very businesslike. We played a lot of big series this year very, very well, and we had a chance all year long to pull away from Boston and never did it, and we kept being asked the questions, what happens when Boston gets healthy; you had a chance all this time. They are legitimate questions, and I was wondering the same thing. But when it came time head-to-head to play them, we played them well. I still have a great deal of confidence in this team, even though they have been together a long time -- a lot of them have -- and accomplished a lot of things, they just still seem to be very driven.

Q. Is the routine pretty much the same coming into the playoffs every year?

JOE TORRE: Pretty much. Again, you always remind them, little things, because we have to do little things. We can't go and ignore a lot of the ways to play this game because we are overly talented in any way like that. We can't do that. We have to pay attention to detail, and a lot of times if we don't do that, you open the door for the other team who may not give the reins up. The routine is the same and it's just more a reminder and take-nothing-for-granted type of approach.

Q. Whether it is a cliche or not, you put a new player at a position, it seems that the ball finds that person; what concerns do you have about Justice in right field?

JOE TORRE: I don't think I really do have any concerns. He seems to be healthy. Right field, to me -- he's probably more comfortable in left field because he started his career as a right fielder. Every chance I had when Paul O'Neill wasn't playing, I would always put him in right field. So I really don't. He showed me last year that he was maybe a better outfielder than I thought he was, as far as getting a jump on the ball and having the good hands. I really don't have any concern.

Q. Given Mussina's success down the stretch and Andy struggling a little, did you ever consider flip-flopping?

JOE TORRE: No. Not really. To me, Game 1, it's sort of like two series here, you have Game 1 in Yankee stadium and Game 1 in Oakland. My feeling, and I go back to 1996 in the World Series when I pitched David Cone in Game 3 of the World Series, because I felt that is a very important game, whether it's 2-0, 0-2, 1-1, it's a very important game and he's pitched well in that ballpark, also. That played into it, also.

Q. With Stanton as your only left-hander in the bullpen, would you be tempted to use Hitchcock?

JOE TORRE: I'm not saying it won't happen, but I don't foresee that happening. I really put a lot of confidence in my starting pitching, and normally they get us to the seventh, and any time you get into the seventh, it's Stanton. And even sometimes, it's been the sixth. So, you know, we weighed that, but I think another reason why we decided to go with the ten pitchers is because of the -- you know, the abilities of our starter, basically.

Q. Your cap certainly says you have in mind September 11. Do you think that the stadium is going to have a difficult feel, given what happened?

JOE TORRE: You know, when you see all of the American flags, and not only in this stadium, but each stadium we've gone, it gets very emotional. Seventh inning, God Bless America. I think for years we have taken our country for granted and not paid attention to it -- I think everyday life as a different feel since September 11. You know, it's very tough, but again, we need to move on and even though it's not easy to do, things are different. It certainly puts things in perspective that we are playing a game here.

Q. How do you feel about 7,8 and 9 this year versus last year?

JOE TORRE: You mean the innings, 7,8 and 9? Probably about the same. We had Nelson last year who could come out of the bullpen and strikeout a right-hander. We fiddled with it for awhile and I think that Witasick could be that guy for us, also. Nelson was a guy that did a great job here for five years. But as far as Rivera, I mean, he's our guy, and we have gone to him in the eighth inning. We don't like to do that, but if the situation tells us that's what we want to do, we'll do it. I mean, Stanton, did some things last year against this ballclub in Game 5 of that division series that was incredible. He went out there and just pitched his heart out and he did some things during the season to show you that, again, it doesn't guarantee he's going to do well, but you know one thing: He's going to go out there and not be timid about it. I'm confident. Mendoza is a big part of it. We didn't have him last year, so I think in a lot of ways we could be a little deeper, but we need Mendoza to pitch the way he pitched most of the year.

Q. Much was made about Art Howe's comments yesterday. Did you look at those as bulletin board fodder for your team or how did you view them?

JOE TORRE: First, I didn't know about the comments. I was coming in today in the car and a friend of mine mentioned them; it was in the newspaper. I said I didn't read it. And I still don't know except for I was asked earlier by our local guys about the comments, and I said, over the only thing in hearing comments that Art Howe makes, I know the fact that I know Art Howe and that's more important than anything. Would I like to believe that if I made a comment and said something and didn't mean it the way it came out or whatever it is, that, you know, I would like to believe someone who knew me better than that would put more weight in that end of it. Art Howe, I've known him a long, long time. We've played against each other. I have a lot of respect for him and I like him. I really don't pay attention to it, that's all I can say, because I know the man.

Q. So much has been made of the fact that Oakland has great starting pitching and it matches up with your starting pitching. When it's all said and done, do you have confidence because you know you have Rivera on your side; if you can just get to him?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, there's no question. We play teams that have great pitching, and Oakland is one of those teams. What we think about is you just want to hold them right there. We did the same thing in '96 with the Braves. You do the same thing when you play Boston with Pedro. You just want to match them so that you can get to late in the game so that you do have an advantage with Mo. There's no question we get to late in the game, we think we have an advantage because of who our closer is.

End of FastScripts....

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