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October 19, 1997

Al Leiter


Q. I know that you haven't changed your approach to the game or anything like that, but are you concerned about getting right into your aggressive style right away because of having struggled a little bit the last few times. The question is, I was wondering what your approach was going to be.

AL LEITER: To get the hitters out and hopefully score more runs. I know what you're saying. Basically, my style of pitching is being aggressive. And there's a fine line with being too aggressive and too hyper and not under control. And there's a lot of great left-handed pitchers out there that seem so under control and really don't get after it as far as effort, but I find myself, if I get falling back into trying to be a pitcher, so to speak, and hitting spots all the time, I don't feel like I'm letting the ball go. And sometimes this year with the inconsistency that I had, I was resorting back and forth to try and be hitting spots and trying to be a control pitcher. Everybody knows basically I throw a lot of fast balls, I come after the hitters, I like the inside part of the plate. I'm mainly a fastball, slider, and you have to do certain things to get Major League hitters out. This year I didn't resort to enough pitching, using both sides of the plate and feeling your way through. You start doing that, you aim the ball, you walk batters and you get yourself in trouble. So hopefully it will be one of my better games on Tuesday. I had some good moments this year, even though it wasn't the most consistent and best season I would have liked, but there were also a lot of good times that I can remember that I'll work off of. I feel good. Physically it's been frustrating for me, because I feel my stuff has been very good this year, as it was last year, which was a good season for me. And hopefully, I'll have my game on Tuesday.

Q. When you've been struggling for a while, does it prey on your mind, and how do you deal with the negative thoughts coming in?

AL LEITER: You try not to think about it. Then like I said, almost like you start trying to search and reach, and I've been working with Larry Rothschild, the pitching coach, off and on all year, and early in the season I had some problems physically with my knee and then my groin, and when you start thinking about other things, other than making pitches and getting hitters out, you're going to find you're going to be ineffective. My best way for me to try and not think of those negative thoughts is to keep it out of your mind. I bring back good videotapes of games I've thrown. Even though numerous times this year I pulled out the no-hitter I had, it's an internal feeling. It's not how fast the ball is going and the slider is going, it's the feeling internally that really makes the pitcher great, good and mediocre.

Q. When was the last time you pulled that no-hitter tape out?

AL LEITER: It's been a while. I would say not too long ago, probably some time in September. I've probably watched it a few times.

Q. Do you feel like last year you and Kevin were arguably -- you could argue that either one of you was the ace of the staff. You think about the attention paid to Kevin and Alex and now Livan, is it hard to go, hey, don't forget about me, after what you did last year?

AL LEITER: It is. I hate to say I jinxed myself, I did have a career year for me, and I got on the All-Star Team, I've lived down here as a Yankee in Spring Training, and everything that made this move so wonderful. At times it did. I was hoping that -- what I did with Kevin and I -- for whatever reason it hasn't been consistent. Alex comes in and 18 wins and he does terrific. And Livan is certainly a great pitcher. So what -- I did say something, and I hope it wasn't a taboo, I said I would trade a good season for a World Championship. And I think it's happening. But I really don't mind, especially this time of the year, it's great for Livan, it's great for baseball, and Kevin is his usual self. And I'll play second fiddle for a little while, but not too long.

Q. During the season we heard so much about the Atlanta Braves and the pitching staff and how good it was, have we just overlooked your staff? How is your staff? What is your view?

AL LEITER: My view, especially after we got Alex Fernandez, I remembered Alex with the White Sox. I like hard throwing, aggressive, snarling, we're coming-at-you type of staff. And we're not a finesse staff. I guess you could say I'm getting to a point where I think Atlanta's staff with Glavine and Maddox and Neagle, they're always under control, and they're not overpowering, and they pitch. Kevin tonight, you're going to see a guy who turns and fires it and has great stuff on it. Yeah, I thought our staff stuff-wise easily could compare to any staff in the League or baseball. But I didn't do my part.

Q. Getting back to that no-hitter a little bit. You were talking about the inner feeling, what was that feeling or that groove you got into mentally and physically that you've tried to match ever since then?

AL LEITER: I think the best thing that I can remember from that night was about the 6th or 7th inning. I didn't even realize where I was or that I was facing the Rockies line-up, and I was looking in. My concentration was focused on Charles Johnson, his glove and the fingers he was putting down. I didn't think about who was up. I think the last three innings I couldn't even tell you who the batters were, I was that focused. And it's really a terrific way to pitch. Because a lot of times when a pitcher struggles you start thinking about what the hitter can do and their strength, and you forget about your strength. You're so tuned in to trying to find the weakness of the hitter and you're not being on the offensive. That night I felt like I was totally clear of all negative thoughts and I was focused on what Al Leiter was able to do, and it was a no-hitter, which is a lot of luck.

Q. Looking back on it, did that propel you to that year you had?

AL LEITER: I do. The next start, the first batter Lance Johnson with the Mets, rolls one down to first baseline and gets a base hit. I'm sure Lance wasn't trying to do that. It's lucky, a no-hitter.

Q. First two rounds the way Jim sets rotation, you were in a secondary role, and that obviously has changed in this series, you have a chance to pitch in Game 7, how does that make you feel?

AL LEITER: Makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I have a shot at doing something here. And I have an opportunity to help this team in the World Series, to win a World Championship. I'm not thinking about the negative aspect that I was overlooked in the previous series, because that's the way it was. And quite frankly, I've been inconsistent enough not to deserve it. But I know what I'm capable of doing, and I feel very confident and comfortable against the Indian line-up and I'm going to go out and do what I know best and hopefully it's good enough to pitch a good ballgame.

Q. Is the start or the possibility of two starts in the World Series, do you look at it as a chance to make up for the bad parts of this year?

AL LEITER: No, because I feel like if I'm focused on that, and if it's not a good outing, then what, so it was a flop year? No. I'm really looking at this is a great opportunity. My last World Series in '93, I came out of the bullpen and pitched in three games. Winning Game 1 against the Phillies was terrific, but it was out of the bullpen. And here I'm getting a start. So I'm really treasuring this. There have been better players than me that have come down the pike and never made it to the World Series, and this will be my second and I'm really enjoying it.

Q. Al, can you describe what it's like throwing to Charles Johnson and how is it to have such a great defensive presence behind the plate?

AL LEITER: It's very important. Charles, obviously -- everybody knows he's a great catcher and every aspect of his game as a catcher is wonderful. A few things I like -- I like the fact he's a big target. He's a big man back there and covers a lot of plate. You don't just see this little glove and nothing behind it, other than a mask. So you get a big target. And obviously a fast runner or any runner at first base -- as a pitcher you take away from your concentration because of the hitter, because you think he's going to run, especially a fast guy, and not in the least do I, or I'm sure other pitchers, don't think about the guy at first, because he's amazing, he throws the ball -- he's got me and a lot of others out of trouble by throwing people out.

Q. You've had a lot of success in your career against Cleveland. Was that long ago enough now that it doesn't have meaning to you or does it have meaning?

AL LEITER: Yeah, it has meaning. In '95 when they went onto the World Series I threw a couple of my best games as a Toronto Blue Jay against a great line-up. I have a confident feeling against that team, and I've pitched in Jacob's Field, so I'm comfortable with that, but the full meaning of it, it's not complete because the line-up isn't the same. They had Belle and Baergo and Lofton and Sorrento and now Justice and Williams and Grissom and Bip.

Q. How do you view that line-up and what will be some of your gameplan against the tribe?

AL LEITER: The gameplan is to get them out. The gameplan is to get ahead and throw strikes and be able to use all my pitches. But really it's not that scientific. Every hitter has got some sort of weakness. Hitters know our strengths, hitters know what Al Leiter is going to do to get them out, just like Kevin Brown tonight. It's a matter of us executing pitches. They have a great scouting department and they give us information. If you can't execute to exploit a hitter's weakness, you're not going to do it. But I have a gameplan and it's just a matter of doing it.

Q. Does Robb Nen ever astound you with his power?

AL LEITER: I'm jealous. I wish I could throw 102. I think I wouldn't give up any hits, but Justice hits a 100-mile fastball and turns on it. So it shows the importance of location and change of speeds. The best arm strength I've ever been around, and I've been around some pretty good arms. And I don't know how he does it, I think it's just a gift from God and he's got it. It's great to see it. It's actually fun to sit there and watch that radar gun, here in the stands.

Q. Do you believe that reading, 102?

AL LEITER: Absolutely. I've never hit 102 on it. If you look all last night, Livan Hernandez was throwing 89 to 92 on the very same gun. Hershiser was 86 to 88. A few other guys, including Plunk, hit 94. You saw five or six Major League arms, and they didn't hit 100. With a slow gun, a fast gun, I don't care, it's fast, 102 is fast.

Q. The weather is supposed to turn pretty nasty in Cleveland, do you have any feeling about pitching in colder weather?

AL LEITER: Well, I haven't done it in a while. And in Toronto we had the dome, when it got chilly they closed it. But I grew up in New Jersey and on the shore in March and April it was cold, and I remember pitching many games in the snow. The biggest problem with the cold is the slick feeling on the ball. The ball become like cue balls. It's a matter of getting a grip. Obviously you're not sweating, so you can't get any moisture to get a good grip. And that is probably the only problem that I foresee. But as far as your muscles and whether you're going to be loose. Once you're warmed up, you're hot, it's not a problem.

Q. Your lack of success on the road this year, does that prey on your mind at all as you face this start?

AL LEITER: No, until you mentioned it (laughter.) I can't explain that, either, because I feel just as good. There is some comfort knowing you're on a comfortable mound and different mounds are all different shapes and sizes and angles and slopes. And your perception between looking at your catcher behind the plate, you get a feeling. And there's some places you feel better. Obviously I felt great here the last two years. But I'm not going to let that bother me. I've thrown -- I don't know -- how many games, I know one for sure at Jacob's that I did well. So I'm not going to think about that.

End of FastScripts….

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