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October 14, 2000

Joe Torre


Q. How is Mel Stottlemyre doing, and how often have you been able to speak with him?

JOE TORRE: I spoke to him about 20 minutes ago. I talk to him every day, and he's doing very well. The doctors still won't let him hang out with our guys yet, but that's expected. But everything is going very well, and he sounds great. He's getting antsy. He would love to be back. Hopefully, if we go a little further in this thing, we'll see him. We don't know that, but he certainly feels good.

Q. Do you have a Game 5 starter?

JOE TORRE: Yeah. Denny Neagle.

Q. Did you consider anybody else?

JOE TORRE: Yeah, I did. I really did. To me, in evaluating everything, and, of course, I talked to my two pitching coaches, my feeling was that I would rather have -- if there is a Game 6 and a Game 7, I would rather have El Duque and Pettitte at full strength in those two games. I don't know. And the reason I was hesitant about naming a Game 5 starter, I'm not sure what I would have done if we were down 3-1. I'm not saying it would not have been Neagle, but I can't tell you for sure. With our winning last night, that is when I made the decision.

Q. When did the concept change of using relief pitchers almost exclusively to start an inning, with some exceptions, and shortening the game?

JOE TORRE: I know you remember, Steve, but it started probably in the '70s when -- I'm thinking of Bruce Sutter. It was the seventh, eighth, and ninth at one time. The short reliever was seventh, eighth, and ninth. Now, if the short reliever comes in in the eighth, it's unusual, because then all of a sudden the setup man became prominent. But I remember a screaming match that I heard on the radio one time in New York. Wasn't it Gossage? When Gossage came in with very little breathing room or whatever happened. Something about "let me start an inning." I could be wrong, but that sort of stuck with me a little bit.

Q. He talks about that a little bit: I wish I had the luxury of coming in to start an inning?

JOE TORRE: He probably said it when he was asked after a game about, you know, he gave up a base hit. You talk about no safety net. You bring in those closers with the tying run at second or third, you don't have room for breathing. But right now, you'd like to give your closer a little bit of a cushion. That is when I remember it. I don't remember when, you know, the more recent starters started the eighth or ninth, but I remember when I was still a player, it was the seventh inning. You had to beat the Cubs before the seventh inning. It was Bruce Sutter.

Q. How would you characterize the mood of the team today?

JOE TORRE: Obviously, we are very confident. We won two games in a row, even though that doesn't guarantee you are going to win today. We have Roger Clemens, who for the second half of the year has been terrific for us. He had a little leg problem at home against Detroit. Got hit in the hamstring with a line drive or a hard-hit ball. And I have the sense that it affected a couple of starts where he really didn't have the power to push off. So I was happy that I was able to give him maybe a couple of extra days, and I think he is at full strength. Last time out, he got hurt with a three-run home run in the first inning, and we were never able to catch up from that. But he's throwing good. His stuff is good. And I'd like to believe that we have a chance to win this game because of that.

Q. Piniella a few minutes ago acknowledged that they are up against the ball, basically. Do you feel that way?

JOE TORRE: No. And I can understand it. I've been on Lou Piniella's side. And you certainly don't want to get into a situation where you lose three games in a row. You don't like to lose three games in a row during the course of a 162-game schedule. But during the source of a 7-game schedule, I don't want to say it becomes frightening, but it is a bigger challenge for you. Obviously, on my side, we are very cautious, sure. I'm optimistic, sure, because that is my nature. But for sure, you take nothing for granted. What they have done this year and what Lou has done organizing his pitching staff and trying to go through the middle of that lineup, and he's got a tough team to pitch against only because he has got good balance and he can bring left-handers off the bench or he can bring right-handers off the bench, depending on what the situation calls for. But for certain, it is not easy going through the middle of that lineup.

Q. When they think of 1998 they think of it as a perfect season. Do you consider it ironic that you are in a better position in the LCS after three games?

JOE TORRE: You're right. When you think and you put everything in perspective -- and I remember after we lost the first game to Oakland, everybody -- especially when we had gone so badly at the end of the season, everybody was predicting doom. And then you start thinking, because you get caught up in that, there's no question. You get in here, and people ask you questions, and they are of a negative nature. But you start thinking, now, if we win today, now we're going home. And we have two games at home and one, one -- all of the sudden we have an advantage. So for sure, it is perspective. If there's ever been a time to believe in the one-game-at-a-time concept, it is in post-season play, because that can swing momentum a great deal, there's no question. You never want to lose the momentum on your side in post-season. I remember when we had won two or three games in -- I guess three games in a row against San Diego in the World Series, and people in New York were saying: "Oh, I was hoping there was a Game 6." That's the furthest thing from my mind, because you never want to lose that edge.

Q. In 1997, when the Indians beat you in the Division Series, was there any question in the organization at that time that there would not be a dominant closer in Rivera?

JOE TORRE: No. In fact, after that season -- and John Wetteland did such a great job and won the MVP in the World Series. The reason we allowed John to leave was because of Mo. And he did a great job that year as a set-up guy in the seventh and eighth inning. But the job that he wanted, not outwardly -- he never said it. But it just seemed that it would be healthier for him, instead of pitching two innings a day than to try to pitch one, would be that job. So you made a commitment to him. He was learning. You sensed it right from April on through the Division Series that he was going to be fine because of what he was made of. He pitched in very, very tough situations and never rattled at all.

Q. Do you think the Mariners have lost the momentum?

JOE TORRE: Well, I don't think so, because you start this thing in February, and you're going to play with everything you have until somebody tells you it is over with. So again, momentum is going that can be turned around very quickly. They are home. They are a confident team, because again, they came through the month of September and won some huge games when not too many people figured they were going to get there. And I know they were hot during the middle of the season. But they went through that terrific slump that they were able to survive that, which I think is an indication of the kind of club that they are.

Q. Do you ever think back to 1996, the very first post-season series you won, you lost the first game, seems that you were trailing in every game, the team's resilience?

JOE TORRE: What was interesting was the fact that we won the division. We're not sure we were the best team, but we won the division. And then when we lost that first game, and then we were trailing in the second game, you could sort of sense everybody, not my players, but it was the fact that, well, nobody expected them to go this far, blah, blah, blah. And all of a sudden that second game turned, and I just sensed in the dugout even that day that these guys have come too far to stop working hard. And we took advantage. We made the most out of situations. We had people come out of that bullpen, Bellinger got a big out for us with Dean Palmer -- stuff you would never like to go through again. I never watched the video in post-season because it would scare me to watch that again, to go back and think about it. But we bounce back, lose two to Atlanta. We had no off-day. And we come down to Atlanta, and David Cone was -- probably the best decision I made in five years was pitching David Cone in Game 3 of the 1996 World Series, and it stopped the bleeding and got us going in the other direction, and Jim Leyritz, with that big three-run homer.

Q. When you got the big lead in the ninth last night, did you think about saving Rivera?

JOE TORRE: I was asked that earlier, if I could have put him in left field, just in case something happened. That's the only thing that scares you when you take your closer out of the game is you can't get him back in. And you know baseball today. This club can score some runs. We scored seven the other day in the eighth inning. You need somebody to be able to stop the bleeding, and that's the only thing that would fight the enemy. Not that I would think somebody would come in and get three outs, but if somebody got hurt or something happened and walked a couple people, not having Mo to go to, I think not only would hurt us, but would help the opposition knowing he was out of the game.

Q. Herzog did that.

JOE TORRE: Like I said, that's the only consideration. He could probably play centerfield. If you watch him in pre-game practice, you see a good athlete.

End of FastScripts....

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