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October 14, 1999

Joe Torre


Q. If you look back now that you have had a night to think, do you guys think you dodged a bullet last night?

JOE TORRE: Well, in regard to what first off?

Q. They get a play that the ump sees is not right, there was a very close play at the plate that went your way, they are up 3-0 and you are able to settle it back down.

JOE TORRE: What the whole postseason -- actually baseball is made up of breaks; good ones and bad ones. The play at the plate was one of those bang-bang jobs. I didn't know until the replay that Varitek really ever had the ball, the ball got there about the same time Scott did. The play at second base -- the unfortunate part about it is that you keep playing it back for yourself on slow motion and slow motion is like the check swing. You always swing. But you send it back in realtime and you have one shot at it and you tell people what you see. When I looked at it in the replay, Chuck's hand was here -- sure the ball dropped out before he got there -- but it wasn't as blatant as if it, you know, just hit off his glove and dropped out of his glove. But for sure, we were very fortunate to have the play at the plate and have that play -- no question, because Mel and I were sitting there about the third inning and we are saying, if we didn't allow ourselves to do this, we could be leading 5 to 1 right now. We make an error in the first inning, they get two runs. Nomar is playing the wrong sport, you know, he takes three runs away from us like that. But that is baseball. You don't dwell on that stuff. You just sort of think back and dream about it for 30 seconds. The whole thing that made it possible was El Duque pitching the second inning and gave up one run instead of what could have been three, four, five.

Q. In terms of Knoblauch's fielding and his struggles all year long, what can you say or do to help him? Is it a confidence thing? Physical things that you notice?

JOE TORRE: I think the biggest problem with Chuck Knoblauch, he had the throwing problem last year. He had the throwing problem earlier this year. I mean, Jeter made an error last night, nobody talks about his problems with his fielding. Knoblauch really hasn't had continuous problems with his fielding. He had that throwing thing for a while. But if you watch the throws that he has made when he has to make a quick throw like the double play last night, we turned the double play, or a relay play it is always right on the mark. He just has this one thing sometimes when he has a lot of time where he tries to make the throw too perfect. That is where that bad throwing stemmed from, but I am not going to talk to Chuck Knoblauch. That is part of the package. He is a dominant person on the bases, and getting on the base to begin with, you know, he is going to make an error or two or three. Whatever it is, I still think he is doing more stuff to help than to hurt. You are never going to make someone perfect. That is not going to happen. That is what has these rooms asking questions about what happens if this guy didn't make an error or that guy didn't strike out. That is all part of it.

Q. You have shown a tendency to go to Rivera for two innings in the postseason so far, is that a combination of rest and -- ability, I guess?

JOE TORRE: Yes, it is the rest factor and the fact that he has been pretty economical. Last night wasn't a plan to go two innings, but once you get a tie game in the 9th inning, he is going to pitch and you are going to limit him to two innings at that point. The reason has been-- well, like divisional series for instance, we play Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, so we have had the ability to go to him. I think if there is one advantage to playing every other day like that is that you can use your closer a little bit more.

Q. One of the issues on the Knoblauch play is whether or not umpires should more routinely seek help from each other as often happens in the NBA; would you like to see that?

JOE TORRE: You'd like to have them get it right for sure. We are playing four hours now and if there is a conference every time there is a play, whether it should be an out or not an out, I don't know how that would play out. But I think if there would be some kind of process that would allow the umpires to help each other in a lot of different plays, I have no objection to that. I think I have seen that in a lot of instances where you know, home runs have been overruled and foul balls have been overruled by somebody who may get a better look at it. It is hard for me to think that someone as close as the second base umpire would get help from someone who was three times the distance from there.

Q. How serious was Knoblauch's foot and was there ever any thought of him not playing tonight?

JOE TORRE: No. I think when we left here early this morning that he was a player. He got treatment last night, got X-rayed last night, everything was fine. When I came in today, he was laying on the table next to O'Neill, they were both in the lineup, but it was never a question. I had some question last night when the game ended. Gene Monahan just felt it was a bruise, especially after getting the X-rays back.

Q. Can you talk about how much lobbying you actually had to do to ensure that Pettitte stayed as a member of this team?

JOE TORRE: Well, it was just telling people what I thought, and the only thing I kept repeating was what he has done in postseason play and I guess the fact that I hadn't been in postseason play my whole career just up until a few years ago, I always put a lot of value on postseason performances. And when you are able to do what he has done for me in 1996 and even 1997, and in 1998 -- last year pitched the second game against Texas, if somebody is going to ask my opinion, I am going to tell them. As far as lobbying, George Steinbrenner pretty much left it to me to make that decision, and I appreciated the fact that he did that. But I just was very consistent with the way I felt about him in spite of his up-and-down first half.

Q. You came into the postseason, a lot of people were questioning the Yankees' pitching saying that was a vulnerable spot. Now you are in the second game of the ALCS just starting to use Cone, haven't used Stanton -- would you talk about how comfortable you are with the status of the Yankee pitching right now?

JOE TORRE: Well, the plus side is our starters have given us length. The downside to that is Nelson has pitched a little bit, Stanton hasn't, Mendoza, Watson, that is a problem because you don't know how sharp they are going to be when they are going to be called upon. I knew we were better than we were pitching the second half. We walked too many people in the second half. That was very uncharacteristic of our ballclub. I am very comfortable with our pitching now and Cone, it is 11, 12 days since he has pitched, so I don't know exactly how he is going to start out. I sense that he will get it together, but it usually takes him an inning or two to try to find his comfort zone in his release point. These guys are pitching right now the way they are capable of pitching. This is why I always felt good about our club is because the names you can put down there at the bottom of the lineup is the fact that they have had success and they know it is postseason.

Q. Going back to Mariano, is there something about what you see this year about him being stronger that makes you go back to him?

JOE TORRE: I don't like to use him for two innings, that is never a goal when we start a ballgame. You get into a ballgame and you get a little panic when you see that finish line and you know that he hasn't pitched in three days and you are tempted. But the economy he used has really been a big reason for that. I think once he realized that he didn't have to strike people out and Mel worked with him on the different types of fast balls that he throws, he has been a lot easier to go to consistently because he doesn't use many pitches. To me, 22 or 23 last night for two innings was pretty damn good. So again, I never go out there thinking two innings. But with an off day tomorrow and what happened in the Division Series with every other day scenario, it is easier to do it.

Q. The scoreless streak that Rivera has gone on, I think way back to July, have you seen anything like it considering the pressure he is under every night and is he the best in the business?

JOE TORRE: I haven't seen anything like it. He has been very consistent. I know I have had a number of successful closers that have pitched for me and Wetteland and Lee Smith and Tom Henke and guys like that, but he has been as consistent as any closer I have ever seen even pitching against me. It has been remarkable. I knock wood under the table, hopefully it continues because he is very simplistic about what he does. There is nothing fancy about what he does. He comes in and gets ready and goes after it even though he is slight, you look at him and you see Pedro Martinez too, build-wise neither one of them are very big, but there is a lot going on there. I have not seen anything like it and I hope I continue to say that.

Q. Last night's play perhaps puts the emphasis on Knoblauch's defense again. What have you thought about his play since towards the end of the season?

JOE TORRE: I look at Chuck Knoblauch. I know I was asked during the Division Series: Are you going to use defense for him in the late innings. I would never do that. I mean, Chuck Knoblauch is, to me, our second baseman and as I say, you take the whole package. I am very confident. I have watched him make tremendous plays and I have watched him make errors. But again because of the emphasis that I guess the attention he called to himself with that throwing thing, I don't think we think as much of the error that he made last night unless we had that to recall, to me. So I ignore it as far as I am concerned. He makes an error, he makes an error. He takes his ground balls, he takes all the things and he is my second baseman, so I don't really address it with him or think about it.

Q. The deeper you get into the postseason are you more inclined to go with Girardi just based on his experience?

JOE TORRE: Well, that would be the main thing that would have Girardi catching is his experience. Again, it is nothing against Jorge because Jorge is coming and he is going to be -- obviously he is our No. 1 catcher. Unfortunately at this juncture Joey seems to be catching more. But it is basically experience. Jorge has been catching Cone. Cone is probably the toughest one of the group to catch because he has to so many different looks and because he hadn't pitched for so long that is why I chose to go with Joe because Joe has caught him more. I spoke with Jorge before I put the lineup today to explain that to him. He was fine with it. It is just a thing that he is not quite there yet experience-wise, and you know, Joey has that experience.

Q. Going back to Rivera, when he had that trouble around the time of the Mets series, was that something that had to be corrected?

JOE TORRE: No, it was just a streak, a little slump. In fact, we had probably -- we go back to a pivotal call last night. I thought strike 3 on Franco, the game is over, we win the game on Saturday, as it turned out it was ball two or three or 1, whatever it was and next pitch was a single to right field. We lose the game. So, no, I don't think it was anything that had to be fixed. It was just a matter of hitting the bats.

End of FastScripts…

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